Stamford-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin who has been hit with a multitude of lawsuits, has come up with several major ad campaigns intended to show its commitment to combatting opioid abuse. However, many public officials and industry experts are saying the company needs to do much more to prove its commitment to the fight.
“It strikes me as very hypocritical that these companies that have made billions off selling opioids and have been involved in the overmarketing of these drugs for years now say they want to be part of the solution,” said Dr. Jeff Gordon, the former president of the Connecticut State Medical Society. “However, if they are being serious, I welcome them now coming on board. But one has to be very realistic about what their past is.”
Last month, Purdue ran full-page ad campaigns across major print and digital platforms in The Hill, The New York Times, Politico, Roll Call, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Hearst Connecticut Media’s daily newspapers stating the company has made the opioids it manufactures more difficult to abuse. The ads also indicate it is working on manufacturing non-opioid pain medications and has distributed to prescribers and pharmacists federal prescribing guidelines.
The campaigns also acknowledge there are too many prescription opioid pills in patients’ homes, and Purdue expresses support for initiatives limiting the length of initial opioid prescriptions. Purdue is also supposedly calling for physicians to check prescription drug monitoring programs before writing prescriptions. “No one solution will end the crisis, but multiple, overlapping efforts will. We want everyone engaged to know you have a partner in Purdue Pharma,” the ad says. “This is our fight, too.”
Similar costly ad campaigns are scheduled to run in the first quarter of 2018, according to Purdue officials.
“It’s an advertising technique that is trying to reframe their image in the community and their association with the opioid crisis,” said Debbie Danowski, an associate professor of communications and media arts at Sacred Heart University. “From what I can see in this ad, it’s kind of a lot of talk and not any real concrete action. Imagine the number of people they could be helping by using the money they’re spending on those ads on treatment centers for those who have become addicted to their drugs.”
Among other recent campaigns, the company partnered last fall with The Governor’s Prevention Partnership to launch a series of spots about the opioid crisis on iHeartRadio stations. In addition to a base of $50,000 Purdue contributed last year to the Partnership, the company paid approximately $250,000 for the public service spots.
“We’ve done our due diligence and have been in a relationship with them for 20 years,” Jill Spineti, president and CEO of The Governor’s Prevention Partnership, said. “We know they use a scientific approach to prevention. They’ve put a lot of resources into prevention to do the right thing.”
However, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said he isn’t impressed by Purdue’s full-page ads. He cited his disappointment in the company’s response to the lawsuit he filed in May 2017. “They can put as many ads as they want to out there, but that’s not dealing with the problem,” DeWine said. “They’ve refused our invitation to come forward and talk. I find that really speaks for itself. Why don’t we take this opportunity to start talking and try to reach an agreement, so that Purdue Pharma can be part of the solution instead of just being the creator of the problem?”