'Forever broken': 2 Massachusetts women testify before Sackler family members

People including Cheryl Juaire, second from left, of Marlborough, Mass., protest in front of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University on April 12. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
People including Cheryl Juaire, second from left, of Marlborough, Mass., protest in front of the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University on April 12, 2019. (Josh Reynolds/AP)

Cheryl Juaire and Kimberly Krawczyk have waited years for their chance to address the family they blame for devastating their lives and creating the nation's opioid crisis. During an emotional virtual court hearing on Thursday, they got that opportunity.

Juaire and Krawczyk, both from Massachusetts, were among the more than two dozen people from 19 states who spoke during the roughly two hour hearing in U.S Bankruptcy Court.

The session was intended to provide victims and survivors of the crisis a chance to confront members of the Sackler family, owners of Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma, about the toll that addiction has taken on their lives.

Juaire, of Marlborough, said she's "serving a life sentence of grieving child loss" after  her two sons, Corey and Sean, died of opioid overdoses. Corey died in 2011 and Sean died last year.

Her family is "split by loss," she said, and asked why the Sacklers didn't do more to help after Purdue pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of misbranding Oxycontin and misleading regulators and others about the drug's risk of addiction.

"How much money is enough?" Juaire asked during the hearing. "If your family had any remorse at all you could have changed the trajectory of this crisis by taking your money back in 2007 and using it to abate this crisis, which we are doing now — 15 years later and a half a million of our children dead."

Krawczyk told the Sacklers that she is "forever broken" after her brother Michael died of an overdose in 2012. Krawczyk said her brother's death followed years of struggling with addiction, telling the Sacklers it was "years of tragedy your family put into motion."

Being in recovery herself, Krawczyk said she also wanted to offer a message of hope to those who are still dealing with addiction.

"I am a woman in long-term recovery," Krawczyk said. "Recovery is possible. But many people on this call, and their people, never got that opportunity."

Appearing via audio at Thursday's hearing was Richard Sackler, the former Purdue president and board chair. Attending on video were Theresa Sackler, wife of the late Mortimer Sackler, and David Sackler, Richard Sackler's son.

This was the first formal opportunity during Purdue's lengthy bankruptcy proceedings for victims to address the Sacklers directly. U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain presided Thursday; he accepted the court mediator's recommendation that victims be heard in court. At times, more than 300 people were listening to Thursday's hearing.

Juaire is on the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors reviewing Purdue's settlement from the bankruptcy proceedings. She has formed the group "Team Sharing" which helps other mothers who have lost children to overdoses. Krawczyk works with the Massachusetts Organization for Addiction Recovery (MOAR).

“The families who lost everything to the Sacklers’ greed have always been the most powerful advocates for stopping their crimes, saving lives, and exposing the truth," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in a statement. "Their testimony today leaves a record that will last forever and should make us all commit to bring harm reduction, treatment, and recovery to everyone in need.”

The current proposed settlement agreement with Purdue Pharma calls for members of the Sackler family to contribute up to $6 billion over 17 years to fight the opioid crisis. Of that, $750 million would go directly to victims or their survivors. Massachusetts is expected to receive $110 million in the settlement.

The Sacklers are protected from further civil lawsuits under this settlement, but several of those who testified Thursday asked government officials to pursue criminal charges against the family.


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Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



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