Connecticut parents take on Sacklers after Purdue Pharma settlement


Members of the Sackler family who own OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma were condemned Thursday by drug survivors and relatives of opioid victims, including two Connecticut mothers, in an emotional toll-focused hearing devastating epidemic on families across the country.

During the remote bankruptcy court hearing, Norwalk resident Dede Yoder and Southington resident Liz Fitzgerald told the three Sacklers who took part in the proceedings that their family was largely responsible for the death by overdose of their sons who had previously taken OxyContin, Purdue’s based in Stamford. top-selling drug.

Such a hearing for relatives of the victims to confront the Sacklers has long been sought by many family members and also demanded by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who announced last week that the state would join a $6 billion nationwide settlement with Purdue and the Sacklers.

“My two sons, Matthew and Kyle, were helpless pawns who succumbed to defeat as you built your empire and sat on your throne of lies,” Fitzgerald said, addressing former president Richard Sackler. and chairman of Purdue, who attended the hearing. audio. “The pain this has caused our family is unbearable.”

Kyle was prescribed OxyContin when he was 16, after he was stabbed in the back in an attack outside his home. In 2013, he died aged 25 after taking heroin.

“We lost Kyle at the age of 25 after a nine-year battle with opioids to a drug you peddled, no different from the typical street drug dealer,” Fitzgerald said.

Matthew became addicted to OxyContin after being introduced to the drug by a friend who shared it with senior classmates in high school, his mother said. As his addiction escalated, he later turned to heroin. In 2017, Matthew Fitzgerald died at age 32 after taking fentanyl.

“Matthew has a beautiful daughter who lost her Uncle Kyle, and then four years later, instead of telling him bedtime stories and celebrating his accomplishments, she was left empty, alone and confused,” Fitzgerald said. “I told him all about you, Richard, and your family, and that you are the definition of greed.”

Yoder remembered his son, Chris, as outgoing and athletic who enjoyed sports like skateboarding, snowboarding, mountain biking, and tennis.

But she said he started struggling after he was prescribed OxyContin following surgery for knee injuries while in high school.

Over the next few years, Chris struggled with opioid addiction, which he tried to treat in a number of rehab programs, his mother said. In 2017, he died aged 21 after taking fentanyl and carfentanil.

“I have a hole in my heart that will always be there,” Yoder said. “I keep thinking how is it possible that a company like Purdue can get away with deceptively marketing such an addictive and dangerous drug, a drug that is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but continues to make billions of dollars in profit.”

While Richard Sackler attended via audio, his son, David, a former Purdue board member, and Theresa Sackler, another former board member and wife of late Purdue co-founder Mortimer Sackler , attended by video.

Theresa and David Sackler’s expressions remained largely neutral as a total of around two dozen people spoke on video about the pain of losing children after years of trying to get them adequate treatment, their own battles with addiction and the care of children with illnesses related to opioid exposure in the womb.

Under court rules, the Sacklers were not allowed to respond to victims who had been selected by attorneys for creditors in the case. Some victims approached the Sacklers from a New York law firm, while others were at home across the country.

Although they agreed to settle the lawsuits, the Sacklers have denied allegations by Connecticut and numerous other local and state governments that they orchestrated the deceptive marketing of OxyContin that fueled the opioid crisis. In Connecticut, 1,273 people died from an opioid overdose in 2020, up 13% from 2019.

“I am struck by the similarities of this epidemic with other major events that we face – the global pandemic, the war in Ukraine. We keep hearing about normal people living normal lives who are suddenly hit by disaster,” Yoder said. “But the difference is that this one, the opioid epidemic, is man-made. This one is the result of a marketing campaign that made one family very wealthy.

This article contains reports from The Associated Press.

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