The Sackler family, owners of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which produces the highly addictive pain medication Oxycontin, hired a consulting firm to target “high-prescribing” doctors to increase sales. In Massachusetts, one physician wrote an additional 167 prescriptions after sales representatives from Purdue Pharma’s increased visits, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma paid members of the Sackler family more than $4 billion from 2008 to 2016 and accuses the Sacklers of personally profiting off the harm and death of those taking Oxycontin.
Settled lawsuits totaled $2.7 million but this didn’t stop the company from spending $121.6 million on increased marketing efforts to physicians. They approved public marketing plans to label people hurt by their drugs as “junkies” or “criminals”, an attempt to divert blame when emerging statistics and studies showed the addictive potential.
Purdue publicly denies their addictive opioids, but internally acknowledged it and devised plans for profit. A board member, Kathe Sackler, pitched “Project Tango”, a plan to provide a drug, Suboxone, to treat those addicted to Oxycontin. A staff wrote, “It is an attractive market. Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.” They predicted 40% – 60% of patients buying Suboxone would relapse the first time and have to buy it again, increasing revenue.
Purdue Pharma released a statement claiming the lawsuit is “part of a continuing effort to single out Purdue, blame it for the entire opioid crisis, and try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system.”
Image Source: CBS News