Mired in lawsuits, Oxycontin manufacturer Perdue Pharma is quick to deflect blame when it comes to the opioid crisis. Marketing tactics such as paying doctors to do little more than discuss the drug with their colleagues and pushing the drug to ER physicians were all legal, according to the company. But is this reality, or are these the pleadings of a company that is watching its ship sink?
The truth is more complicated than that; it turns out. The FDA and Purdue Pharma have a close relationship, although until recently, the FDA may not have realized it. Purdue Pharma operatives were consulted when the FDA created policies that affect the entire nation, often getting the government agency to agree to policies and procedures that limit the manufacturer’s liability. However, the FDA officials didn’t realize that Perdue was paying the people they were consulting with to continue promoting Oxycontin.
These operatives were the people consulted when the FDA refused to put limits on how doctors prescribe Oxycontin, meaning that doctors were free to specify whatever dosage and quantity they saw fit. On the other side of the fence, Perdue Pharma representatives repeatedly assured doctors that Oxycontin was a relatively safe and addiction-free drug. Not only did they cause doctors to believe these assertations, they often profited from Perdue, as well. Offered speaking positions at conferences and being paid to go to fancy dinners were just a few practices that Perdue put into motion in the past ten years.
Purdue says that everything they have done was ethical and legal. While the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing tried to get the FDA to regulate Oxycontin in 2012, they ultimately failed. Purdue is merely following FDA guidelines in how it markets the deadly opioid.
The FDA also gave its approval to the use of prescribing “guidelines” drafted by a group funded by Perdue, called the American Pain Society, ignoring legitimate doctor-founded groups such as Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, who requested stronger guidelines be established for the prescribing of opioids.
“FDA rejected these proposed restrictions,” a court document from Perdue Pharma in a recent lawsuit from Tennessee explained, “Despite FDA’s conclusion that opioid medications should continue to be available for the treatment of chronic pain, the state brings this lawsuit.”
The state says that Perdue Pharma was deceptive in their marketing practices, and helped create the opioid epidemic that is raging today.