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Purdue Pharma Executives Wanted to Get into Anti-Addiction Market

— February 11, 2019

Lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family had planned to get into the anti-addiction market. The company boosted sales of OxyContin while discussing these plans so its executives could profit on both ends.

In a twist, previously undisclosed lawsuit allegations against Purdue Pharma include claims that the Sackler family behind the success of the large drug manufacturer had actually planned to capitalize on the anti-addiction market while pushing profits of its addictive “bread and butter” drug, OxyContin.  In this way, the company planned to maximize sells of the opioid.

A court document filed in Massachusetts suggests that the Sacklers were not satisfied with the booming sales of its most popular product and looked into what it would take to expand into a secondary market created by these sales – treatment of those it was getting hopelessly hooked on OxyContin.

In internal correspondence dated as far back as 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how “the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are naturally linked” and that the company should “expand across the pain and addiction spectrum.”   The sections of the filing were redacted in the lawsuit brought about by the Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey.  A member of the Sackler clan joined discussions around this potentially viable venture and asked Purdue’s staff to give the matter their “immediate attention.”  These passages remain blacked out at the company’s request.

Purdue Pharma Executives Wanted to Get into Anti-Addiction Market
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Portions of the state’s lengthy complaint that have already made public indicate the Sacklers pushed for “higher doses of OxyContin, guided efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the drug’s addictive capacity, and blamed misuse on patients.”  It states further, “Concerns about doctors improperly prescribing the drug, and patients becoming addicted, were swept aside in an aggressive effort to drive OxyContin sales ever higher.”

“The payments were the motivation for the Sacklers’ misconduct,” the complaint reads. “And the payments were deliberate decisions to benefit from deception in Massachusetts, at great cost to patients and families.”

In the late ‘90s, Dr. Richard Sackler, a son of Purdue co-founder Raymond Sackler, instructed executives in an email that OxyContin was not only “therapeutic” but would also “enhance personal performance,” much like the drug Viagra.  Then, fifteen years later, he complained that a Google alert he set up for OxyContin news was giving him too information about its dangers.  “Why are all the alerts about negatives and not one about the positives of OxyContin tablets?” he asked.

Purdue acknowledged it was considering acquiring the rights to sell anti-addiction drugs.  However, the company criticized Massachusetts for “casting in a negative light” its discussions surrounding potential acquisition of an anti-addiction treatment that was already on the market, “even though the company never actually made the acquisition.”

Purdue also pointed out that OxyContin is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It said that most opioid overdoses “now result from heroin and illicit fentanyl.”

“The Sacklers spent millions to keep the loyalty of people who knew the truth,” the complaint also alleges.

In 2008, Richard Sackler advised his family members that it was important to select a new chief executive who was loyal to the family. “People who will shift their loyalties rapidly under stress and temptation can become a liability from the owners’ viewpoint,” he allegedly said. A defendant in the Massachusetts lawsuit, Richard Sackler served in a number of different positions at Purdue.  He eventually was named president in 1999 and then co-chairman of the board in 2003.


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Lawsuit: Opioid maker considered move into addiction drugs

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