Pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy charges related to the company’s marketing of OxyContin and other opioid products, admitting its tactics contributed to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
On October 21 Purdue announced it had entered into an agreement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) to resolve multi-year investigations into its marketing practices for opioids. The DOJ similarly announced that Purdue had agreed to plead guilty to one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the US and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and to two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.
On Tuesday Purdue pleaded guilty during a video hearing before a federal judge to the charges announced by the DOJ in October. As part of the plea, Purdue admitted conspiracy to defraud the US by impeding the lawful function of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from May 2007 through March 2017. At that time, Purdue represented to the DEA that it had an anti-diversion program when it continued to market opioids to over 100 health care providers who were diverting opioids. Purdue also aided and abetted violations of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by dispensing opioids without legitimate medical purpose and without lawful prescription.
Purdue agreed to the largest penalties imposed on a pharmaceutical manufacturer, which includes a criminal fine of $3.5 billion and $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. Purdue also agreed to a civil settlement that provides the US with a bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.
The Southern District of New York bankruptcy court approved the financial terms of the resolution on November 17. As part of the resolution, Purdue will cease its current operations and “emerge from bankruptcy as a public benefit company (PBC) or entity with a similar mission designed for the benefit of the American public.” Its proceeds will be directed toward opioid abatement programs.