Cummings, DeSaulnier Seek Documents Relating to Sackler Family’s Role in Fueling the Opioid Crisis

Mar 21, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC (Mar. 21, 2019)— Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Craig Landau, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Purdue Pharma, requesting documents relating to reports that members of the Sackler family—who purchased Purdue Pharma in 1952 and continue to own a controlling share of the company—sought to drive up sales of OxyContin and other addictive painkillers while simultaneously expanding the market for medications to treat addiction—even after the company settled criminal charges that it had misled regulators, doctors, and patients about OxyContin’s potential for misuse.

“The United States is in the midst of its greatest public health crisis in decades,” Cummings and DeSaulnier wrote.  “Due in part to the aggressive over-prescribing of opioids like OxyContin, millions of Americans are in the grip of drug addiction.”

In today’s letter, Cummings and DeSaulnier pointed to information made public earlier this year suggesting that members of the Sackler family were complicit in Purdue’s efforts to market OxyContin as less prone to abuse and addiction than other prescription opioids, despite knowing about “significant” abuse shortly after the painkiller’s introduction in 1996.  

Cummings and DeSaulnier also raised concerns about reports that Purdue pressured the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand the designation on OxyContin’s labeling to cover “daily, around-the-clock, long-term” use, despite a lack of scientific justification.

According to internal company documents, members of the Sackler family were also involved in efforts to expand the company’s business to include treatments for substance use disorders.

For example, in January 2018, a Purdue subsidiary obtained a patent for a new form of buprenorphine, a drug used in medication-assisted treatment to ease withdrawal symptoms.  The patent lists Richard Sackler as one of six inventors.

Just last week, Purdue announced that FDA had granted Fast Track designation for its new opioid overdose reversal drug, nalmefene hydrochloride.


Click here to read today’s letter.



116th Congress