Raimondo’s Opioid Link: “Family That Built an Empire of Pain” is Major Donor

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


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Raimondo refuses to return thousands of donations from Jonathan Sackler

Thousands of Rhode Islanders have died in the past few years as a result of opioid addiction. The state of Rhode Island recently announced it is suing a number of drug companies tied to the marketing of opioids for aggressively marketing the drugs and creating a cycle of dependency.

A top executive of the most notorious company — the company who invented oxycontin — has donated repeatedly to Governor Gina Raimondo and she is not returning any of the donations.

The company, Purdue Pharma, has been the focus of a number of exposés, including a major New Yorker investigation entitled, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain,"

"The Sackler dynasty’s ruthless marketing of painkillers has generated billions of dollars—and millions of addicts," wrote Patrick Radden Keefe for the publication. 

Jonathan Sackler, the Purdue Pharma scion, has donated seven $1,000 contributions to Raimondo. And, Raimondo's political action committee, Gina PAC, collected another $1,000 from Sackler.

Raimondo claims that Sackler’s have no impact on her policies. “Campaign donations have no impact on Governor Raimondo's decision making,” said Emily Samsel, spokesperson for Raimondo’s re-election campaign.

Rhode Island Suing Purdue Pharma

The state of Rhode Island is one of a group of states suing Purdue. Rhode Island’s suit alleges, “In 2015, Purdue reaped an estimated $2.4 billion in revenue, virtually all of it from opioids. Since its launch in 1996, OxyContin alone has generated $35 billion in sales.”

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Jonathan Sackler, PHOTO: Sacred Heart University

“Within Rhode Island, the age-adjusted overdose rate in 2015 of 28.2 per 100,000 people ranks fifth in the nation. From 2014-2015, Rhode Island experienced a 24% one-year change in overdose deaths, the third highest change in America. The rate of deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl ranked third in the nation in 2015. From 2011 to 2016, as well, Rhode Island saw a 303% increase in overdose fatalities,” claims the lawsuit.

And, the State of Rhode Island alleges that, “Purdue not only marketed opioids for chronic pain conditions, but also targeted primary care physicians (along with nurse practitioners and physician assistants), who were most likely to see patients with chronic pain conditions and least likely to have the training and experience to evaluate both Defendants' marketing and patients' pain conditions.”

Raimondo was praising the State of Rhode Island’s lawsuit which was filed in May. “The opioid and addiction crisis is the most urgent health care crisis of our time,” Raimondo claimed.

“This crisis has touched every single Rhode Island community, and I’ve met too many parents who have lost children to an overdose after getting addicted to prescribed painkillers. I applaud Attorney General Kilmartin for taking on opioid manufacturers and distributors,” said Raimondo.

The state’s lawsuit also names The Purdue Frederick Company, Insys Therapeutics; and distributors McKesson Corporation d/b/a McKesson Drug Company Cardinal Health, and the AmerisourceBergen Drug Company.

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CDC: RI v U.S. death rates

While the lawsuit claims that Rhode Island has been hit harder than almost any other states, Raimondo’s campaign claims her administration has been successful in combatting opioids, “Because of Governor Raimondo's work, Rhode Island has become a national model for states addressing the national opioid crisis. We have seen a modest decline in overdose deaths -- but even one death is too many and the Governor remains focused on saving lives and promoting treatment, prevention and recovery.”

National and Global Focus on Purdue Pharma

The wealth and influence of the Sackler family have a wide reach.

“[T]he Sacklers are now one of America’s richest families, with a collective net worth of thirteen billion dollars—more than the Rockefellers or the Mellons. The bulk of the Sacklers’ fortune has been accumulated only in recent decades, yet the source of their wealth is to most people as obscure as that of the robber barons,” wrote the New Yorker.

“But OxyContin is a controversial drug. Its sole active ingredient is oxycodone, a chemical cousin of heroin which is up to twice as powerful as morphine. In the past, doctors had been reluctant to prescribe strong opioids—as synthetic drugs derived from opium are known—except for acute cancer pain and end-of-life palliative care, because of a long-standing, and well-founded, fear about the addictive properties of these drugs. ‘Few drugs are as dangerous as the opioids,’ David Kessler, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, told me.”


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