BIG PHARMA: MARKETERS OF DEATH

Purdue Pharma makes pain medicines such as hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone. It is widely known for the production of drugs such as MS Contin, Oxycontin, and Ryzolt.

OxyContin, introduced in 1995, was Purdue Pharma’s breakthrough palliative for chronic pain. Under a marketing strategy that Arthur Sackler had pioneered decades earlier, the company aggressively pressed doctors to prescribe the drug, wooing them with free trips to pain-management seminars and paid speaking engagements. Sales soared.  The drug was marketed as “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night” when taken on a 12-hour schedule and as having lower abuse potential than immediate-release oxycodone because of its time-release properties, even though there was no scientific evidence backing that conclusion. In these early years, Purdue Pharma was aware of OxyContin abuse, including “reports that the pills were being crushed and snorted; stolen from pharmacies; and that some doctors were being charged with selling prescriptions,” according to the New York Times.  Over a hundred internal company memos between 1997 and 1999 included the words “street value,” “crush,” or “snort.”

At the start of 2000, widespread reports of OxyContin abuse surfaced.

In 2012, New England Journal of Medicine published a study that found that “76 percent of those seeking help for heroin addiction began by abusing pharmaceutical narcotics, primarily OxyContin” and drew a direct line between Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin and the subsequent heroin epidemic in the U.S.

In 2003, the Drug Enforcement Administration found that Purdue’s “aggressive methods” had “very much exacerbated OxyContin’s widespread abuse.”

A 2016 Los Angeles Times investigation reported that in many people OxyContin’s 12-hour schedule does not adequately control pain, resulting in withdrawal symptoms including intense craving for the drug. The journalists suggested that this problem gives “new insight into why so many people have become addicted.” Using Purdue documents and other records, they claim that Purdue was aware of this problem even before the drug went to market but “held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue because OxyContin’s market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration.”

OxyContin became a blockbuster drug. Purdue had increased its earnings from a few billion in 2007 to US $31 billion by 2016.   That had increased to US $35 billion by 2017.  According to a 2017 article in The New Yorker, Purdue Pharma is “owned by one of America’s richest families, with a collective net worth of thirteen billion dollars”

Purdue has been involved in measures against prescription drug abuse, particularly of Oxycontin, an addiction-causing prescription drug which is among the drugs most commonly cited in connection with overdose deaths.

In 2004, the West Virginia Attorney General sued Purdue for reimbursement of “excessive prescription costs” paid by the state. Saying that patients were taking more of the drug than they had been prescribed because the effects of the drug wore off hours before the 12-hour schedule, the state charged Purdue with deceptive marketing.

In May 2007, the company pleaded guilty to misleading the public about Oxycontin’s risk of addiction and agreed to pay US $600 million in one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in U.S. history. The company’s president (Michael Friedman), top lawyer (Howard R. Udell) and former chief medical officer (Paul D. Goldenheim) pleaded guilty as individuals to misbranding charges, a criminal violation and agreed to pay a total of US $34.5 million in fines.  Friedman, Udell and Goldenheim agreed to pay US $19 million, US $8 million and US $7.5 million, respectively. In addition three top executives were charged with a felony and sentenced to 400 hours of community service in drug treatment programs.

On October 4, 2007, Kentucky officials sued Purdue because of widespread Oxycontin abuse in Appalachia. A lawsuit filed by Kentucky then-Attorney General Greg Stumbo and Pike County officials demanded millions in compensation.  Eight years later, on December 23, 2015, Kentucky settled with Purdue for $24 million.

In January 2017 the city of Everett, Washington sued Purdue for not following legal agreements to track suspicious excess ordering or potential black market usage. False clinics created by unscrupulous doctors using homeless individuals as ‘patients’ to purchase oxycontin, then sell to the citizens of Everett was the factual basis of the suit. The black market sale of the drug out of legal pharmacies based in Los Angeles with distributions points in Everett is also part of the experience of the city. No intervention was made by Purdue to contact the DEA for years despite knowing of the practice and the overuse and sale of their product.

In May 2018, six states — Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas — filed lawsuits charging deceptive marketing practices, adding to 16 previously filed lawsuits by other U.S. states and Puerto Rico.  By January 2019, 36 states were suing Purdue Pharma. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey complains in her lawsuit that eight members of the Sackler family are “personally responsible” for the deception. She alleges they “micromanaged” a “deceptive sales campaign.”

 

If my articles interest you, please check out my website and books:

http://www.politicalnovel.com/articles/

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

If you appreciate my articles, please check out my books. I think you'll really enjoy them Just use the link below to go directly to my website.

www.politicalnovel.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *