Purdue Pharmas Marketing and the Roots of the OxyContin Epidemic

In the late 1990s, Purdue Pharma's marketing campaign for OxyContin was the kick-off for the prescription drug industry's massive promotion of narcotic painkillers for the treatment of chronic pain. One of Purdue's marketing tools was a promotional video that showed how OxyContin had improved the lives of seven patients. The video was distributed directly to 15,000 doctors. Prior to the introduction of OxyContin, most doctors were reluctant to write prescriptions for narcotic drugs due to the risk of addiction and overdose. Despite Purdue Pharma's hard-sell, there was little medical evidence that these drugs could be used to effectively treat pain over the long term without leading to addiction for some patients. Purdue's campaign could be termed a success in terms of profits for drug-manufacturers, with sales of prescription painkillers increasing by 400 percent between 1999 and 2010. According to the Wall Street Journal, sales of OxyContin alone reached more than $2.8 billion in 2011. Other opioid medications like Percocet and Vicodin have also brought huge profits for their makers.…

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