Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin and lesser known MS Contin, is facing scrutiny after several recent articles exposed information from a Justice Department investigation into the company. The investigation focused on evidence that showed Purdue’s legal council and executives were aware of the addictive nature of their drugs, including their popularity with drug seekers. Despite knowing their drugs were being misused, the company continued a false marketing campaign that promoted the drug as safer than other opioids because it was less likely to be abused or cause addiction. The company still maintains that they weren’t aware of users abusing their drugs until Maine’s attorney general issued an alert about the drug in 2000, despite federal investigators finding proof that company salespeople were aware as early as 1997, just a year after the release of OxyContin.
The federal investigation ended in 2007 with Purdue Pharma pleading guilty to a felony charge of deceptive advertising and 3 top executives pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges. The company paid $635 million in fines to the government, while the execs did community service and avoided jail time. According to many familiar with the case, Purdue’s executives were given a proverbial hall pass, missing a potentially huge opportunity to throw a roadblock in the now public health crisis that is America’s opioid crisis. Many have called drug company executives behind opioids at the center of the crisis “suited drug pushers,” no better than street drug dealers. Others have said that if they were a minority in street clothes selling these drugs, they’d be locked up. Instead, drug company executives who knowingly market these drugs and force their sales reps to push them on doctors with false claims of safety and less addictive formulations are skating by, continuing to receive large bonuses and stock options while fueling the ongoing drug crisis.
Internal Emails Reveal Awareness of OxyContin’s Street Reputation