Ex-Purdue Pharma CEO Richard Sackler Called Opioid Addicts ‘Scum,’ ‘Criminals’ in Emails

The man whose company makes Oxycontin once referred to people addicted to his product as “scum of the earth,” “criminals” and victimizers.

Opioid maker Purdue Pharma is being sued by a number of states — and has already settled with several for record amounts — for its role in the ongoing opioid epidemic facing the U.S. that has led to thousands of deaths in recent years.


In newly released emails introduced as evidence in the state of Connecticut’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, former CEO Richard Sackler took verbal shots to people hooked on the opioid his company produced and allegedly upsold to doctors.


In a 2001 email to a friend, Sackler wrote that referring to drug addicts that his company allegedly created as such “will guarantee that I become the poster child for liberals who want to distribute the blame to someone else.”


“Abusers die, hell that is the choice they made,” Sackler’s friend replied to him.

“Abusers aren’t victims; they are the victimizers,” Sackler responded.

Sackler’s attorney told ABC News that the emails were taken out of context.


Sackler “has apologized for using insensitive language that doesn’t reflect what he actually did,” attorney David Bernick said. “These emails were written two decades ago following news reports about criminal activity involving prescription opioids, such as drug store robberies. Dr. Sackler was expressing his worry that this news coverage would stigmatize an essential FDA-approved medication that doctors feel is critical for treating their patients in pain. The same concern from 20 years ago exists today.”


In a March deposition, Sackler said he knew more about addiction now and his views had evolved.


“Richard Sackler’s outrageous comments show an utter disregard for human life,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said.


“These emails are far more than a momentary lapse in judgment between friends — they encapsulate the depraved indifference to human suffering that infected Purdue’s entire business model.”

“Purdue and defendant members of the Sackler family knew people were dying, but they continued to push their opioids in blind pursuit of profit. Purdue and the Sacklers must be held accountable,” said Tong.


Tong’s lawsuit claims that Purdue Pharma transferred hundreds of millions of dollars to Sackler and members of his family in order to avoid liability.


Connecticut, and other states, are seeking restitution from the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma.