Feb 3, 2020
The billionaire Sackler family, pushers of the highly addictive opioid pain killer OxyContin, has been aggressively expanding its operation in the global market. Its biggest target is China.
Sacklers’ U.S. company, Purdue Pharma, made $35 billion igniting this country’s opioid epidemic, which has claimed about 400,000 lives since 1999 and left millions severely addicted. Meanwhile, the Sacklers’ net worth skyrocketed to a cool $13 billion.
After more than 2600 lawsuits, the company was finally forced to admit responsibility. Plaintiffs exposed how Purdue misinformed patients and doctors about the risk of addiction and overdose by making that risk appear minimal. To escape financial liability, in September 2019 Purdue utilized corporate America’s most popular “get out of jail free” card—chapter 11 bankruptcy.
But the Sacklers had already been setting their sights on China, where they expected less resistance and even greater profit. There, Mundipharma, another Sackler-controlled company, relied even more heavily on fraudulent practices to hoodwink patients suffering from serious illnesses.
They saw opportunity in the growing numbers suffering from cancer, and sought to substantially popularize pain treatment. This required cultural adjustment, as the population was already skeptical of pain treatments given China’s history of widespread opium addiction, a product of British imperialism during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Mundipharma transported to China the same murderous marketing strategy employed in the U.S. Sales teams went into overdrive with methods reflecting a level of unscrupulous greed that is off the charts. They used recycled sales materials from the U.S., filled with the same unconscionable lies—and new ones. They even fabricated a story that OxyContin was the only pain-killing drug that met World Health Organization guidelines.
Using bribery and backhanded deals, sales representatives were given near-unlimited access to hospitals where some stole lab coats to pose as doctors, allowing them to speak to cancer patients about their treatment. Management even directed employees to reproduce patient and prescription records to target specific doctors and patients for increased sales. Bribery of doctors included paid speaking engagements, cash payments through third parties, lavish dinners and expense-paid vacations.
Oblivious to the carnage of innocent lives lost and destroyed, the Sacklers delighted in the massive profits they were raking in. Between 2012 and 2018, sales of Mundipharma oxycodone rose by five times at nearly 700 Chinese hospitals. Between 2014–2017, OxyContin gained 60% of what company executives refer to as China’s “cancer pain market.”
While tragic loss of life and addiction continue unabated, the Sacklers’ profit was the bottom line. Under capitalism, murderous methods are the way to amass a multi-billion-dollar family fortune.