Opioid addiction is a serious problem in Columbia and Greene counties. But how serious a problem it is was thrown into sharp relief last week when state Attorney General Letitia James announced New York could receive up to $200 million in a historic settlement that, if approved, would require the Sackler family — owners of disgraced OxyContin company Purdue Pharma — to pay a record $4.5 billion and permanently close the company for their role in fueling an opioid epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of Americans over the last 20 years.
Members of the Sackler family have agreed to pay more than $4 billion of their own cash over nine years and entirely give up the opioid producing business as part of the proposed deal. Purdue’s assets will be relinquished as trusts to states and thousands of localities suing to recoup billions spent dealing with the crisis. The assets must be sold by 2024.
Let’s be clear about one thing: The Sacklers won’t be thrown out on the streets by this settlement. For years, state officials have dealt with delay after delay as Purdue and the Sackler family took full advantage of loopholes in the legal system and continued to earn enormous profits. While this went on, more and more families collapsed under the spell of opioids.
How about this amazing statistic: The number of Americans who have died an opioid-related death in the last 20 years is six times higher than the number of American deaths in battle since World War I, making the opioid epidemic deadlier than any modern foreign adversary.
The Sacklers have refused to apologize for their involvement in perpetuating the crisis. They hid behind attorneys. They were silent and they acted as if they were innocent, when in reality state officials knew their hands were dirty. Hundreds of thousands of people in every corner of New York state, including Greene and Columbia counties, have been touched by this epidemic. The families aggrieved by the loss of loved ones in this crisis deserve the full truth and a full apology, at a minimum.