Purdue Pharma was well-aware about OxyContin’s “significant” abuse within the first few years of its introduction in 1996, but still continued to keep this fact under the wraps, revealed a confidential report shared recently by the United States Department of Justice.
According to the Justice Department, the company officials had received several reports that clearly pointed out as to how the pills were being abused by crushing and snorting. The reports also carried information about theft from pharmacies and doctors handing out prescriptions in exchange for money. Surprisingly, they continued to market it as a drug which was less prone to abuse and addiction compared to other drugs.
Opioid OxyContin was introduced by Purdue Pharma to help people manage pain, but ever since its launch, the drug has been one of the most commonly abused drugs in the U.S. Responsible for taking multiple lives every year, the manufacturers of this lethal drug have for long pleaded ignorance about its growing abuse.
The drug approved for launch by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) during late 1995, allowed the manufacturer to promote the product with a claim that its long-term formulation would dissuade users from getting addicted to it. This was owing to the FDA’s belief that the drug users would favor shorter-acting painkillers for a quicker “hit.” But owing to the hunger for higher profits and improved sales, the manufacturer chose to tweak the FDA’s words a bit and promoted it as a product with little-to-no risk of abuse and addiction. But none of the two turned out to be true. Firstly, the long-duration painkiller implied a heavier concentration of narcotic into each pill, which in turn, made it more appealing to the users.
Purdue Pharma’s general counsel Howard R. Udell and other company executives presented evidence before the Congress and elsewhere that the drug maker was not wary of OxyContin’s growing abuse until early 2000, when the United States attorney in Maine issued an alert. However, in 2007, the company was found guilty of misbranding and was forced to pay $635 million fine. By that time, the company had already made billions of dollars and in a way was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. These lives could have been saved, had the then George W. Bush’s administration supported the move of charging three of the company’s top executives with felonies and not settle for just a “misbranding” case.
Need to improve vigilance on activities of drug manufacturers
Over the past two decades, prescription opioid overdose has taken more than 200,000 lives. Several lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers and distributors have also been filed during these years for selling potent painkillers without disseminating proper information.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses killed 63,632 Americans in 2016, of which nearly 66 percent involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Therefore, the need of the hour is to spread awareness about the dangers associated with these drugs and help people know about the significance of leading an addiction-free life. If someone is already to an opioid or some other form of drug, it is important for him/her to get in touch with an addiction help center and attain sobriety.