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Purdue, Purdon't

View profile for Victoria Chivers
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One of the most recent dramas on everyone’s lips is the Netflix series ‘Painkiller’. It is a bit difficult to discuss it without spoiling the plot so DISCLAIMER…SPOILERS…

‘Painkiller’ is about the origin of the opioid crises in the United States. It follows the American pharmaceutical company (Purdu Pharma) and their creation, marketing and selling of the painkiller ‘OxyContin’. Without going into too much detail, the actions of Purdu Pharma led to criminal charges including defrauding health agencies and making illegal payments to doctors encouraging over-prescription. Their actions effected millions of people and resulted in patient overdoes and addictions, subsequently straining medical resources and public health.

Fast forward to 2020 and Purdue (unsurprisingly) pled guilty to the criminal charges regarding the marketing of Oxycontin.

But the Sackler family and the executives that ran Purdue continued to deny all personal responsibility for the crisis. Figures suggest that they faced over 3,000 personal lawsuits.

Purdue filed for Bankruptcy and a plan was put together. However, the Sacklers stated that they would reject a settlement unless they were protected from future legal action. Despite reservations the plan was agreed, and Purdue Pharma settled to pay $4.5 bn over the next decade towards the outstanding legal cases.

Many believe that such an outcome is atrocious and those individuals behind Purdu should be held responsible.

Of course, in the UK any limited company is seen as a separate legal entity. A company can be sued or sue, hold its own property and be liable for the debts it incurs. This does mean that there is usually limited liability for the shareholders.

Although, do not forget, that the ‘corporate veil’ can be lifted in certain circumstances. For example, if a company becomes insolvent then in some situations the Court may hold shareholders or directors liable and order for them to personally pay off outstanding debts (e.g. in the situation of wrongful trading).

The actions of the Sackler family and Purdu are extreme, but the point remains…it is important that you know your duties and rights as a Director and/or Shareholder. If you are considering incorporating your business or need any advice generally regarding Shareholder and Directors Duties, then please contact the Commercial Litigation team at Biscoes on 0800 413 463 or email