OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Y’all, billion dollar news today! The Justice Department just announced that Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyCotin, is pleading guilty to federal charges to the tune of $8 BILLION dollars.
Officials say they will plead guilty to three federal charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States of America and violating federal anti-kickback laws. Additionally, the plea deal will not release the executives or owners of the company from criminal liability, which means that criminal investigations are ongoing and those people may yet be held personally accountable.
This plea deal is the most high-profile example of President Trump’s plan to end America’s opioid crisis. When President Trump took office, America had seen nearly 64,000 drug overdoses deaths in 2016 and opioid overdoses accounted for almost 66% of those deaths (about 42,000 deaths). The Trump Administration partnered with the private sector to ensure success and secured billions dollars in funding to fight opioid abuse. The Administration also implemented the Safer Prescribing Plan to cut opioid prescriptions fills, secured major areas of drug smuggling, and worked to pass the SUPPORT Act, which is the largest legislative package in American history to address a single drug crisis. As part of their plan, the Trump Administration gave more than $1.8 billion dollars in funding to states to expand access to drug treatment and facilities and support “near real-time data on the drug overdose crisis.”
President Trump’s focus on fighting the opioid crisis is personal for President Trump, who saw his own brother struggle with addiction which ultimately contributed to his death. Seeing his own brother’s struggle with addiction shaped President Trump’s conviction to free Americans from debilitating drug addiction. As the Covid crisis continues to take center stage, critics have accused the President of letting the opioid crisis take a back seat. However, the President has often mentioned secondary effects for Covid lockdowns including struggles with mental health and drugs. He continues to show concern for the drug epidemic and has certainly not forgotten his fight against it.
With the announcement of this massive plea deal with Purdue Pharma, the American people can see that the Trump Administration has continued to fight the opioid crisis, albeit behind the scenes. The charges sought to hold the major pharmaceutical company responsible for more that 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000. Part of the plea deal stipulates that Purdue Pharma will admit to impeding the DEA by misrepresenting and falsifying information about drug avoidance programs and manufacturing quotas. They will also admit to using a speaking company as a front to pay doctors who write more prescriptions for the drug OxyCotin, as well as using software for electronic health records to influence pain medication prescriptions.
Purdue is set to be transformed into a public benefit company that will be governed by a trust that considers the American public health. The breakdown of the $8 billion includes $225 million directly payed to the government as part of a larger $2 billion criminal forfeiture, $3.54 billion criminal fine (which will probably be lost to bankruptcy), and an undisclosed amount to directly aid in medical treatment programs and facilities.