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A mother reacts to the bankruptcy deal involving Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin


Shortly after Kara Trainor's son, Riley, was born, he began opioid withdrawal. Trainor remembers his screams, screams that, quote, "will haunt you for the rest of your life," and she shared the story of that time in a virtual court hearing last year with members of the Sackler family. The Sacklers own Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the opioid OxyContin, the drug Trainor herself became addicted to after an OxyContin prescription when she was 21. Well, Trainor and other victims in the country's ongoing opioid crisis sued the Sacklers and will now receive some compensation after a court ruling yesterday. In return, the Sackler family will be protected from future lawsuits. Kara Trainor is now in recovery, working as a certified peer and recovery coach and community health worker. She helped negotiate the deal. Kara Trainor, welcome.

KARA TRAINOR: Hi, good to be here.

KELLY: Glad to have you with us. May I begin by asking about your son, Riley? He's 12 now, is that right?

TRAINOR: Yes, he is.

KELLY: How's he doing?

TRAINOR: He's not doing well. He is autistic. He is having a lot of problems with behavior. And his clinicians have said that his case is somewhat complex, maybe due to the NAS. We're not quite sure.

KELLY: The NAS, tell me what that is.

TRAINOR: Neonatal abstinence syndrome.

KELLY: OK, the withdrawal.


KELLY: Talk to me about how you view this deal because it's controversial. You helped negotiate it. Do you feel justice has been served?

TRAINOR: I can only speak to my own lived experience. And like I said to David Sackler that day in March, I forgive you. I forgive your family. I have to do that because I can't afford to be sitting in any type of resentment - I can't - for my own recovery. And to me, the settlement is closure. You know, 20 years of my life is gone, you know, struggling or trying to recover and getting into recovery. And I feel as if this is the time to close the door - take the money, do good works with it, and finally say goodbye to a terrible chapter of our lives.

KELLY: To follow up on what you said to David Sackler and to the Sackler family - you're talking about getting to speak to them as part of this bankruptcy process - is there anything you would wish to say to the Sacklers today?

TRAINOR: I still have the same message. Our family's done. We forgive you. We've moved on. We have to.

KELLY: I so admire your attitude. I'm in awe of it. As you know, there are plenty of critics who say the Sacklers are getting off too easy. To insert the details of this, the Sacklers will pay between 5 and 6 billion - billion with a B - from their personal fortunes that will still leave them very rich. What would you say to people who believe that there should be something more, that there should be punitive measures?

TRAINOR: Absolutely. And I can't even imagine - people have lost children and people that can never move on. I totally get that. And I see that space and that grieving. And my words to them would be, you know, I love you, too. Like, we're not enemies, you know? It's just, what I'm doing for my own family and my own recovery. I know that sitting in my hate - like, the hatred - was putting, you know, needles in my arm or a crack pipe and then eventually a bottle of alcohol. I was killing myself in my hate. And so for my own self, for me to be well, I have to let go. I have to face those feelings, and I got to let go. And I had to. I just don't have any time or energy anymore to keep looking at it. I want to look forward. I truly do.

KELLY: So look forward with me to the other part of the money because most of the parties in this suit are government - state and local governments. Do you have thoughts on what you would like to see them do with the money that they will eventually receive?

TRAINOR: Harm reduction, harm reduction, harm reduction. I think that we need to start meeting people where they're at. There's so much reform that needs to go on. I also really would love to see some more funding to go for maternal addiction treatment centers or to the mothers because we don't see that very much. You know, we have a lot of moms out there that are pregnant that are struggling. I know that different hospitals here in Michigan are doing a pilot program with pregnant women, you know, that will follow them, you know, 12 weeks after birth. And we need to see more of that in more of the funding that goes to the moms. Because at the end of the day, if you help the mom, the outcome for the child is a lot better.

KELLY: Kara Trainor, mom of Riley. She helped negotiate the bankruptcy deal announced yesterday involving Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Thank you. I wish you well.

TRAINOR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Karen Zamora
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.