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Purdue Pharma formally enters guilty plea in opioid case

Nov. 24 (UPI) -- Drugmaker Purdue Pharma formally entered its guilty plea Tuesday to federal charges accusing the company of fueling the United States' opioid crisis.

The deal was first agreed to in October, but Purdue board Chairman Steve Miller officially entered the plea during a virtual hearing before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo in New Jersey.

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"Having our plea accepted in federal court, and taking responsibility for past misconduct, is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value for creditors and advance our goal of providing financial resources and lifesaving medicines to address the opioid criss," the company said in a statement to CNN.

As part of the arrangement, Purdue agreed to pay more than $8 billion in fines and plead guilty to three felony counts -- including one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

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Prosecutors said the penalties are the largest ever imposed on a pharmaceutical company, and that Purdue will pay a criminal fine of $3.5 billion and $2 billion in criminal forfeiture.

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The drugmaker will also pay a $2.8 billion civil penalty and Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, will separately pay $225 million in damages.

The Justice Department announced the settlement after a lengthy investigation into how Purdue marketed the addictive painkiller OxyContin for years after its introduction in 1995. Since then, it's estimated that Purdue has made more than $35 billion in revenue from the blockbuster drug.

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The department said Purdue made the opioid crisis worse by aggressively marketing narcotic drugs and downplaying the risks of overdose and addiction. The crisis is believed responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of Americans over the last 25 years.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy last year as part of a deal valued at $10 billion that included $3 billion from the Sackler family to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits from various governments seeking to recoup taxpayer dollars lost to the epidemic.

Generic drugmaker Mallinckrodt filed for bankruptcy earlier this month and allocated $1.6 billion for opioid-related legal claims.

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The Purdue deal, however, does not include any prison time for company officials or members of the Sackler family.

The Sackler family also doesn't have to admit to any wrongdoing.

Don Jacobson contributed to this report.

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