Camden County accuses Purdue Pharma of racketeering in lawsuit

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

“When you ignite a fire, you must bear responsibility to extinguish it,” charged David Mayer, the mayor of Gloucester Township, at a news conference in Camden.

That’s why local officials support Camden County’s lawsuit accusing a long list of opioid makers and distributors of racketeering, particularly Purdue Pharma, which manufactured the highly addictive opioid OxyContin, specifically, Purdue’s private owners, the Sackler family — Richard, Mortimer and Raymond — who made more than an estimated $30 billion from it.

” … and in our minds, are no different from members of a drug cartel, that distribute drugs illegally or the drug pushers on our streets, who push heroin and fentanyl on a daily basis. Just so we’re clear, the members of the Sackler family are the lowest form of humans you can possibly imagine. They have earned billions of dollars over the years at the expense of the American public …” said Louis Cappelli Jr., Camden County’s freeholder director.

The lawsuit, filed under New Jersey’s racketeering statute, alleges the Sacklers “ … executed an epic scheme to deceive doctors [and the public at large] into believing that opioids can be prescribed for long periods of time with little to no risk of addiction; a blatantly false premise … resulting in billions of dollars for Purdue and its top executives …” and that “ … the Sackler Family’s fraudulent and deceptive marketing scheme was joined and/or adopted by each of the Defendants, as well as those who acted in concert with them.”

The lawsuit also names no less than eight drugmakers, three distributors and four drugstore retailers, and calls the operation a criminal enterprise ” … that marketed and shipped millions of highly addictive narcotics throughout the nation including Camden County, New Jersey,” said Cappelli Jr.

“I don’t know how they sleep at night, I really don’t. Look at the devastation they’ve caused,” said Patty DiRenzo.

DiRenzo’s son, Sal, died of an overdose in 2010. His name’s on a wall of Camden County opioid victims. His mom says people struggling with addictions still need help.

“Nothing’s changed. What are we doing?” she asked. “I would hope it’d help in a way … they’d give money for funding. We need beds. We need detoxes and we need beds.”

The Christie administration also filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and Insys, which markets a form of fentanyl, seeking money to pay for addiction treatment and education programs. The city of Paterson’s sued Purdue Pharma, too.

The company’s response to Camden’s lawsuit states: “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense … We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge …”

In full page ads, Purdue said it will fight to end the opioid crisis, but Camden County wants cash to cover the epidemic’s ongoing damages.

“You caused this health crisis and the death of our loved ones, and children, and you must now pay for it,” said DiRenzo.

“We’re so desperate in trying to provide services to our residents, and at the same time, we have such a lack of funds and support from the federal government. Now’s the time to go after those who created this situation,” said Cappelli Jr.

The suit was filed in Camden County Superior Court. It doesn’t request a specific award amount.