Durbin: Big Pharma Must Be Held Accountable For Fueling The Opioid Crisis

In speech on the Senate floor, Durbin slams Purdue Pharma for seeking to escape accountability through bankruptcy

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor slamming the pharmaceutical industry for igniting the opioid overdose epidemic and profiting off the suffering of Americans. In his remarks, Durbin spoke about his efforts to rein in opioid overproduction after Big Pharma flooded communities in the United States with 100 billion painkillers between 2006 and 2014.  In 2018, Durbin passed a bipartisan bill to strengthen the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) oversight of the opioid production levels for drug manufacturers, which has led DEA to lower opioid quotas by an average of 60 percent over the last five years.

“In Illinois [in 2020], 3,500 of our neighbors died of an overdose – a 27 percent spike from the year before. How did we get here? And who’s is responsible for this? There is one clear culprit: the pharmaceutical industry,” said Durbin. “For years, opioid manufacturers deliberately mischaracterized the risks of their drugs…This epidemic wasn’t created by some infectious virus. It was created by corporate greed. In the words of Richard Sackler, of Purdue Pharma, his company chose to flood our streets with ‘a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.’ It ended up [with] … 500,000 American families burying their loved ones.”

Durbin went on to discuss the importance of holding Big Pharma accountable for fueling the crisis. He acknowledged the bipartisan group of state attorneys general who announced a framework of a litigation settlement last month involving Johnson & Johnson and the nation’s three largest drug distributers. The framework proposes that the companies would pay a total of $26 billion over 18 years to resolve the suits, in addition to certain changes to their business practices. Durbin highlighted the importance of learning from the diversion of funds from the 1998 tobacco master settlement, by dedicating any opioid settlement funding to addressing the current overdose crisis and fortifying our public health system for the future.

Durbin spoke further about his cosponsorship of a new bill with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the Nondebtor Release Prohibition Act, which would ensure that those who engaged in malfeasance cannot escape liability by going through bankruptcy proceedings.

“Legal proceedings continue for several other key industry stakeholders that have yet to be held accountable—that includes the Sackler Family of Purdue and Oxycontin infamy. The Sacklers are trying to engineer a legal scheme to escape liability through the bankruptcy court…avoiding future lawsuits while paying $4.5 billion while protecting their vast fortunes estimated at over $11 billion. That’s why Senator Warren and I recently teamed up to introduce the Nondebtor Release Prohibition Act, which would prevent the non-consensual release of liability through bankruptcy proceedings…We must demand that the worst corporate actors are held accountable for their role in this crisis,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.