Former Rep Claims Purdue Offered Incentives to Sell More OxyContin
In 2007, Purdue Pharma reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, agreeing to a fine of $630 million for downplaying the dangers of the opioid OxyContin. To sell more of the drug, the company claimed the drug’s slow-release formula did not generate a state of euphoria and, therefore, was less addicting than competing opioids. It faced felony deception charges leading to the payout.
However, the deception apparently didn’t end there. In fact, while sales of Oxycontin went down around the time of the settlement, they spiked again right after, suggesting that even after settling the drug maker pushed for OxyContin sales.
A former Purdue sales representative, Carol Panara, recently revealed that she had felt her former employer never offered them the full picture when it came to the effects of its opioid money-maker. “I think they misrepresented to the public. I think they miss represented to their sales people,” said Panara. “It was always in the back of my mind that maybe the company had not told us the whole truth when they hired us, when we interviewed, when we went through training…That was one of the – if not, the worst – current decision in my life.”
Panara, who resigned in 2013, showed reporters how Purdue’s bonus system gave them an incentive to sell higher doses of OxyContin to physicians for a broader range of ailments. She said the strategy was, “Sell as much as you can. The idea being that we’re trying to…expand our reach beyond just pain doctors.”
What’s more, Panara claimed that once the addiction rate began to increase, they were instructed sell the idea to tell doctors that sometimes patients would appear addicted to the drug, but actually just need more of it because they were still in pain. Purdue created a term for this – “pseudoaddiction.” The only way to resolve this mental state was to prescribe a higher dose of OxyContin. Panara said they did not have any studies to present to clients backing up this theory or supporting the higher sell. A follow-up study published in Current Addiction Reports in 2015 found “no empirical evidence” to support “pseudoaddiction” as a diagnosis.
Purdue is facing major legal issues once again as 24 states and more than 400 cities and counties have filed suit against it and many fellow manufacturers of opioids, accusing them of driving the nation’s addiction crisis which has led to the death of more than 200,000 people. In response to the predicament it’s in, Purdue laid off its entire sales team.
“A big lie’s really easy to explain. You know, you just come up with a ridiculous term, like pseudoaddiction,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, who is of the AG’s suing Purdue, said. “I reject any notion that there’s science behind pseudoaddiction.”
In response to questions regarding its marketing practices, Purdue released the following statement: “Purdue is confident that its past marketing and sales of its prescription opioid medications have been consistent with the information contained in the FDA-approved label as the agency oversees the risks and benefits of prescription medications. Additionally, FDA has, and continues to, rigorously assess the science and medical practice around appropriate treatment of chronic pain, while simultaneously working hard to ensure that our society suffers less from the scourges of prescription opioid abuse and addiction. Purdue is committed to working collaboratively with all those impacted by this public health crisis to help stem the tide of opioid-related deaths and addiction.”