By now, you’ve read that Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin, has pled guilty to multiple charges, and is now being hit with fines and criminal litigation that will cost billions. The business is being dissolved, and members of the Sackler family that controlled it are also being fined and may eventually be charged criminally despite already being removed from the company.
For those unaware of the problem, at the core it is opioids. A highly addictive class of painkiller, they have been the cause of untold emotional, financial, and familial strife. If that wasn’t bad enough, this company (and the Sackler family in particular), have contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
It would not be an overstatement to say that the opioid crisis is one of the most pressing health concerns of modern times.
It is this severity that makes what Purdue has done so galling. The relationship between a doctor and their patient is one of immense trust and privacy. Most people trust a prescription given to them by their doctor, but through financial incentives and dishonestly, this trust has been violated. The myriad list of crimes that are confirmed for Purdue includes the circumventing of existing laws and established norms. There are rules in place to stop drug companies from paying doctors to prescribe a certain drug—and both doctors and Purdue ignored them.
Additionally, software used by doctors was also used to promote prescribing opioids. At every level, even reporting to legal bodies, Purdue has shown an insistence on doctoring records, manipulating data, or misreporting findings to create a need and sell more opioids.
But, as we have established, there are repercussions now. Though criticized as not severe enough of a punishment, especially because of multiple methods used to avoid the full impact of the fines, Purdue is feeling the immense weight of litigation.
The impact is so great, in fact, that Purdue will not exist for much longer. The company is being dissolved into a public benefit company with a focus on reducing any further harm caused by Oxycontin specifically, and opioids in general. There’s even work being done on addiction medication to hopefully help offer a lifeline those still able to be saved from the grip addiction.
And, no, it isn’t enough, but this will act as a hard warning to any other companies out there profiting off people’s pain and their addiction.
While it is still possible for an individual to get ahold of these drugs, such widespread damage and destruction is only possible off the backs of companies making and marketing these products widely—and aggressively. Watching Purdue slowly collapse as a direct result of their criminal actions may not be nearly enough for opioid sufferers to feel some peace, but this is a start.
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