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How Sackler Family, Purdue Pharma Targeted Veterans

In Massachusetts, veterans are three times more likely than others who take prescription painkillers to die from an overdose. A new court filing in an ongoing lawsuit between the state and the pharmaceutical company and its stakeholders says that this statistic may have been by design.

Discovery in a Massachusetts lawsuit against the private company Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, and their stakeholders, the infamous Sackler family, has uncovered documents that appear to show how they specifically developed a marketing campaign to target veterans for Oxycontin sales, hoping to increase their usage dramatically.

The unredacted complaint filed against the pharmaceutical manufacturer, as well as a total of eight members of the Sackler family, unveils a targeted marketing campaign facilitated through a self-help book for service members. Similar to an infomercial, the “survival guide” targeted newly home veterans, telling them if they were in pain, they should request opioid prescriptions. The “guide” assured readers that the pills were non-addictive unless substance abuse ran in the family.

The lawsuit says that the Sackler family and Purdue had a three-prong approach to hooking our armed forces on the drug, as well as other vulnerable populations:

“First, Purdue deceived Massachusetts doctors and patients to get more people on its dangerous drugs. Purdue targeted vulnerable people who could be introduced to its opioids, including elderly patients, veterans, and people who had never taken opioids before.”

“Second, Purdue misled them to take higher and more dangerous doses.”

“Third, Purdue deceived them to stay on its drugs for longer and more harmful periods of time.”

The state alleges that the survival guide was just the first step in targeting veterans for a drug they knew was highly addictive.

Attorney General Maura Healey wrote in the lawsuit that the campaign launched by Purdue and the Sacklers to target veterans was incredibly successful but came at a “terrible cost” for the service members, many of whom return home from deployments overseas and have difficulty adjusting. More than 20% of veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have issues with substance abuse, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.