Guilty Pleas From OxyContin Makers

May 10, 2007 12:17pm

The manufacturer of OxyContin and three current and former executives pled guilty today for illegally misbranding its top-selling painkiller, OxyContin, in an effort to mislead and defraud physicians and patients. The Purdue Frederick Company, the parent company of the manufacturer Purdue Pharma, has also agreed to pay more than $600 million in criminal and civil penalties. Purdue acknowledged that it illegally marketed and promoted OxyContin by falsely claiming that it was less addictive and less subject to abuse, according to the U.S. Attorney of the Western District in Virginia John Brownlee. Introduced almost 10 years ago, OxyContin quickly became a godsend for people suffering from persistent pain. But on the streets, people also learned that by chewing or snorting it, they could get a quick and powerful high. Addiction rates across the country began to soar. "Purdue’s claims that OxyContin was less addictive and less subject to abuse and diversion were false, and Purdue knew its claims were false," said Brownlee. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. "The result of their misrepresentation and crimes sparked one of our nation’s greatest prescription drug failures," according to Brownlee. Purdue released a statement today saying that while the company did plead guilty to misbranding, they cautioned that "misbranding does not mean that the FDA-approved prescribing information for OxyContin was incorrect." The FDA had allowed Purdue to claim that OxyContin was less likely to be abused, but after a flood of news reports and complaints from law enforcement officials about deaths and widespread abuse, Purdue agreed to stop marketing the drug as less likely to be abused and issued a nationwide alert to doctors. Purdue’s CEO Michael Friedman, general counsel Howard Udell and former chief medical officer Paul Goldenheim pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of misbranding, and they collectively agreed to pay $34.5 million in penalties. According to the U.S. attorney, Purdue trained its sales representatives to "falsely inform health care providers" about the ease with which OxyContin could be abused. "OxyContin was the child of marketeers and the bottom line financial decision making," said Brownlee.

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