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Dime Bags of Viagra: Follow Up, Pt. 2 – Oxycontin-tale

In Consumerism, Criminal Justice / Prison Reform, Culture of Corruption, International Public Health, Laws & Regulation, Misc., The War On Drugs on May 10, 2007 at 2:56 pm

A few months ago, I wrote a post on the increasing rate of prescription drug abuse in this country and around the world. The New York Times this morning reported that Purdue Pharma, the manufaturer of the strong painkiller Oxycontin, will pay a settlement of $600 Million as part of a plea deal for misleading the public on the risks of addiction associated with the drug.

Purdue Pharma heavily promoted OxyContin to doctors like general practitioners, who had often had little training in the treatment of serious pain or in recognizing signs of drug abuse in patients.

…Purdue Pharma acknowledged in the court proceeding today that “with the intent to defraud or mislead,” it marketed and promoted OxyContin as a drug that was less addictive, less subject to abuse and less likely to cause other narcotic side effects than other pain medications.

For instance, when the painkiller was first approved, F.D.A. officials allowed Purdue Pharma to state that the time-release of a narcotic like OxyContin “is believed to reduce” its potential to be abused.

But according to federal officials, Purdue sales representatives falsely told doctors that the statement, rather than simply being a theory, meant that OxyContin had a lower potential for addiction or abuse than drugs like Percocet. Among other things, company sales officials were allowed to draw their own fake scientific charts, which they then distributed to doctors, to support that misleading abuse-related claim, federal officials said.

The crime they pleaded guilty to is termed “misbranding”, basically putting a misleading label on a box of pills or allowing it to be prescribed for uses other than the one it was intended. What happens when you push an extremely powerful drug to unsuspecting doctors and patients without the correct safegaurds?

…both experienced drug abusers and novices, including teenagers, soon discovered that chewing an OxyContin tablet or crushing one and then snorting the powder or injecting it with a needle produced a high as powerful as heroin. By 2000, parts of the United States, particularly rural areas, began to see skyrocketing rates of addiction and crime related to use of the drug.

…Between 1995 and 2001, OxyContin brought in $2.8 billion in revenue for Purdue Pharma, a closely held company based in Stamford, Conn. At one point, the drug accounted for 90 percent of the company’s sales.

Just to recap, here, a major drug company was allowed to issue false documents and information to both government regulators and the public in order to make a large fortune by pushing a dangerous narcotic that resulted in an epidemic of abuse and crime; and all they have to do is pay out a mere 20% of their earnings to escape prosecution. This is not a case of “misbranding”. On the contrary, it is a blatant attempt to sell hazardous narcotics for profit, or, how do you say?…..ah yes…..DRUG DEALING.

Let’s say Purdue wasn’t a corporatoin, but rather a successful street-level drug dealer, or “private entrepreneur” as we classify them. Purdue obviously moved some serious weight in New York state, so he would be subject to the Rockefeller Drug laws, some of the harshest legislation passed against any crime, let alone the War on Drugs. Since, as the Times stated, Oxy is as powerful as Heroin, let’s say our man Purdue was pushin Heroin. What would be his sentence if he was arrested, tried, and convicted?:

Under the Rockefeller drug laws, the penalty for selling two ounces (approximately 56 grams) or more of heroin, morphine, “raw or prepared opium,” cocaine, or cannabis, including marijuana (these latter two being included in the statute even though they are not “narcotics” from a chemical standpoint), or possessing four ounces (approximately 128 grams) or more of the same substances, was made the same as that for second-degree murder: A minimum of 15 years to life in prison, and a maximum of 25 years to life in prison.

This is just for selling the shit, mind you. Purdue was a big time, national cat, so he also committed several other crimes in order to commit this one (trafficking, conspiracy, etc.) so at this point he’s looking at a few decades in Rikers. We prosecute drug dealers because they distribute harmful narcotics to our children and commit crimes in order to facilitate their business. If a pharmaceutical company is found guilty of the same actions on a larger scale, but given a fraction of the punishment, how is that possibly justice? If Purdue the dealer got off like Purdue the corporation, there would be community leaders and politicians falling over themselves to denounce our justice system, government, and godless society for perpetuating such an intolerable failure. What you wanna bet we hear anything close to this on Purdue Pharma?

The most disturbing fact of all of this is that the F.D.A., by standing idly by for 6 years, is more or less complicit in all of this. It’s true, they were provided with misleading information and all the rest, but you honestly mean to tell me that they can find a fatal chemical in Chinese pet food and be unaware as to the risks of a prescription pain medication? Glad to see our government is looking out for us a little less than our domestic animals.

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  1. It’s true…the double standard is disgusting. I’m linking to this article on my blog. Thanks for posting this.

  2. Uh, Rikers ain’t for people who have been sentenced. Decades in Attica or Sing-Sing or some other shithole, maybe, but not Rikers.

    Just a point of clarification.

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