Purdue Pharma Wants to Make Money Off of Crisis It Created

Written by BlackbirdGo September 28, 2018
The History

Disclaimer: Keep out of reach of children. For use only by adults 21 years of age and older.

Purdue Pharma, the company behind the rampant opioid epidemic in the United States, was just granted a patent for a new form of buprenorphine -- a medication that is considered “essential” by the World Health Organization in fighting (wait for it) opioid addiction. This new patent is for buprenorphine, which is already available in a pill, in a wafer form that dissolves quickly. The hope is to lessen the likelihood of abuse because it is lower dose than other opioids like OxyContin (Purdue Pharma’s cash cow), additionally they are harder to transport and divert to the black market because they dissolve.

Purdue Pharma made their mark on the world with the invention and heavy marketing of Oxycontin, the first extended-release opioid available on the market in 1996. They were approved by the FDA under the assumption that extended-release would not be as desirable to folks who abuse opioids for their intoxicating effects. Unfortunately, that was not the case. In fact, it was the exact opposite. A confidential document from the Department of Justice reveals that Purdue Pharma was aware of “significant” abuse of Oxycontin and concealed this information for years.

In fact, several high-ranking officials were supposed to be indicted for their misconduct and for promoting the overprescription of OxyContin which lead to thousands of deaths in America, yet they settled with the federal government in one of the largest settlements of its kind -- more than $600 million dollars. Chump change for the owners of Purdue Pharma the Sackler family.

Despite the obvious signs of significant abuse of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma continued their aggressive marketing of the drug. It wasn’t until earlier this year, more than 20 years since the first indications of high levels of abuse and Oxycontin’s high street value, that Purdue Pharma laid off their sales teams as they promised to no longer market the powerful pharmaceutical directly to physicians. Unfortunately, this decision came too late as more than 60,000 Americans in 2016 and millions of Americans have been affected by the effects of Oxycontin over the last two decades.

The development of this new wafer by Purdue Pharma is particularly sinister as the Sackler family, founders and benefactors of Purdue Pharma, have already built a fortune off of the opioid epidemic. This wafer, who features Robert Sackler on the patent, was developed to treat the exact problem that was perpetuated by the Sackler family in the first place. They are positioned to make money by treating the very issue they created.

To make matters even more interesting, Purdue Pharma is currently involved in more than 25 different lawsuits with different states that are accusing Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family of intentionally decieving the public in their marketing and their role in the opioid epidemic in America. Those 25 states join hundreds of cities, towns, and counties across the United States who are bringing charges against Purdue Pharma for their misconduct.

The Trump Administration has already claimed to place the opioid crisis as a national priority. In fact last fall, the White House released a statement calling the opioid crisis a “public health emergency” and that he would direct the full power of his administration to battling this epidemic. However, almost a year later, little has been done to change the conversation about opioid abuse or the level of overdoses happening in the United States. Counterproductively, the Trump administration has taken a War on Drugs era position on cannabis -- a huge disappointment considering that states that relaxed their cannabis laws saw a 14% decrease in opioid perscriptions after legalization or decriminalization according to recent studies. Cannabis is definitely not the end-all be-all answer to the opioid epidemic, however it is something worth exploring -- particularly as no one has ever overdosed on cannabis. Ever.

Overall, an unsurprising move for the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. If anyone was going to find a way to monetize the hardships of the millions of Americans affected by opioid abuse, it was going to be Purdue Pharma.