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Nan Goldin, Pain/Sackler, Royal College of Art, London, 2017.
Nan Goldin, Pain/Sackler, Royal College of Art, London, 2017.

Activist Group P.A.I.N. Denounces Proposed Purdue Pharma Settlement

Activist Group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), led by artist Nan Goldin, has spoken out regarding a planned settlement between the Department of Justice and Purdue Pharma that would allow the latter’s controlling shareholders, eight members of the Sackler family, to retain their personal wealth and escape criminal liability in regard to the opioid epidemic, Hyperallergic reports.

Stamford, Connecticut–based Purdue is the target of thousands of lawsuits stemming from its aggressive marketing of OxyContin and other opioid painkillers, its downplaying of the drugs’ extremely addictive qualities, and its practice of awarding financial kickbacks to doctors who prescribed the drugs. According to the Guardian, the plea deal is expected to cost Purdue $8 billion, of which consumers are expected to receive a total of only $2.8 billion. It is likely that none of the money will be paid out anytime soon, as Purdue, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last September, does not have the funds necessary to fully repay creditors, let alone financial penalties. The Sackler family’s personal wealth is estimated at $13 billion, none of which would be forfeited under the proposed agreement. It is not yet known whether the proposed settlement releases the Sacklers named in the lawsuit from future criminal liability.

Denouncing the proposed settlement, the group in a statement called out presiding judge Robert A. Drain, described in an in-depth New Yorker article as providing “safe harbor” for the Sacklers, for allowing the family, whose coffers were enriched by billions of dollars in profits from opioids, to escape fiscal retribution. “Only billionaires like the Sacklers get to buy immunity. By continuing to shield the family from scrutiny, Judge Drain denies victims of the opioid crisis a chance to know how it was ignited,” said P.A.I.N. “Protecting the Sacklers from future civil or criminal litigation condemns Americans to a future of Big Pharma’s predatory schemes.”

Goldin founded P.A.I.N. in 2017 after becoming addicted to OxyContin following an injury. The group has successfully lobbied New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to refuse future donations from the family, and its actions led Paris’s Louvre to remove the Sackler name from its galleries.

Update [October 9, 10:30 AM]: The language in this article has been updated to better reflect that not all members of the “Sackler family” are associated with OxyContin. Jillian Sackler; her late husband, Arthur Sackler; and his heirs have not profited financially from OxyContin and are not named in the more than three thousand lawsuits brought against Purdue Pharma.