Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, the powerful prescription painkiller that experts say helped touch off an opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, Justice Department officials told The Associated Press.
The company will plead guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws, the officials said. The resolution will be detailed in a bankruptcy court filing in federal court.
The deal does not release any of the company’s executives or owners — members of the wealthy Sackler family — from criminal liability. A criminal investigation is ongoing.
The officials were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The settlement is the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000.
The settlement comes less than two weeks before a presidential election where the opioid epidemic has taken a political back seat to the coronavirus pandemic and other issues. But the deal does give President Donald Trump’s administration an example of action on the addiction crisis, which he promised early in his term.
As part of the resolution, Purdue will admit that it impeded the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely representing that it had maintained an effective program to avoid drug diversion and by reporting misleading information to the agency to boost the company’s manufacturing quotas, the officials said.
A Justice Department official said Purdue had been representing to the DEA that it had “robust controls” to avoid opioid diversion but instead had been “disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up.”
Purdue will also admit to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors, through a speaking program, to induce them to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioids and for using electronic health records software to influence the prescription of pain medication, according to the officials.
Purdue will make a direct payment to the government of $225 million, which is part of a larger $2 billion criminal forfeiture. In addition to that forfeiture, Purdue also faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine, though that money probably will not be fully collected because it will be taken through a bankruptcy, which includes a large number of other creditors. Purdue will also agree to $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability.