Purdue Pharma, which produces prescription painkillers linked to the opioid epidemic in the United States, on Tuesday pleaded guilty to conspiracies to defraud the US and violate the anti-kickback statute, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said.
Purdue Pharma formally admitted to three federal felony offences as part of a plea deal signed in October.
The DoJ said the company paid an illegal kickback to Practice Fusion, an electronic medical records vendor, to create alerts that incentivized doctors to prescribe more of its highly addictive opioids such as OxyContin, even when it wasn’t medically necessary or appropriate.
Purdue Pharma paid Practice Fusion nearly 1 million dollars for these alerts.
“Today’s guilty pleas … send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that illegal behavior will have serious consequences,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement.
“Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers,” said Rachael Honig, first assistant US attorney for the District of New Jersey.
The DoJ said that, under the terms of the plea agreement, Purdue agreed to the imposition of “the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer,” adding up to some 8.3 billion dollars between fines and forfeitures.
The amount actually paid will however likely be far less as Purdue declared bankruptcy last year, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Members of the Sackler family, who owned Purdue Pharma, have additionally agreed to pay 225 million dollars in a civil settlement, the DoJ said.
The resolution does not prohibit future civil or criminal penalties against company executives or employees.