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Pierce writes: "But we'll settle for the people who run them."

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (photo: Getty)
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. (photo: Getty)

If Corporations Are People, Some of Them Should Go to Jail

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

01 February 19

But we'll settle for the people who run them.

p in the Commonwealth—God save it!—we have this attorney general named Maura Healey. She isn't the biggest person, but she's a former Boston College point guard who can still play. And she is not someone whose attention you want to draw, especially if you happen to be someone working scams that end up killing people and starting nationwide epidemics.

The Sackler family, which got rich developing and marketing Oxycontin, has drawn Healey's attention. From WBUR:

"I promise you that we will hold opioid makers accountable for the role they played in creating this crisis...we will do whatever it takes to hold this company accountable and get the justice our families so deserve," she said Wednesday during her inauguration — and she's making good on that promise.

In a complaint filed against the company that makes the opioid painkiller OxyContin, Healey alleges Purdue and its owners deceived Massachusetts doctors and patients in an effort to get more people to use its drugs — even though they knew the drugs are addictive and deadly. The complaint is the first to name individuals of the Sackler family, and alleges that they and Purdue executives directed misleading sales and marketing practices that influenced doctors to prescribe more opioids to vulnerable patients.

On January 15, Healey's office filed a massive amount of documents in support of its lawsuit. In those documents are statements and corporate communications pried out of Purdue Pharmaceuticals that clearly indicated that Richard Sackler, the company's former president, aggressively marketed the opioid, consequences be damned. From Boston Magazine:

The first came in 1997, when Sackler told a crowd at a launch party for OxyContin about Purdue’s plans to make the powerful painkiller a smash hit in hospitals around the country. “The launch of OxyContin tablets,” he allegedly said, “will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white.” Later, in his zeal to take over the market for pain drugs, the documents allege, Sackler sent an email with advice on how to deal with a pesky problem executives faced: addicts.“We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” he wrote, the documents show. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”

Get them hooked and then blame them for it. Crack dealers are more warm-blooded than these quotes make this guy out to be.

The documents detail efforts to court doctors and hospitals, including Tufts and Mass General, and the blind eye Purdue allegedly turned to over-prescribing and other issues that fueled the epidemic, which has led to the deaths of thousands in Massachusetts and around the country.

And, because you can count on thoroughgoing bastards to be, well, thorough, according to ProPublica, Purdue not only created and sustained a market for opioid addicts, it bought into the industry of curing them, too.

In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.

The interesting thing about this complaint is that it was lodged not merely against the company, but against the individuals who run it. This is the kind of thing of which we need a lot more. Corporations are people, too, my friend, and some of them should go to jail.

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