Purdue Pharma is one of the largest opioid makers in the country and the subject of countless lawsuits in the past few years. They’ve received scrutiny over their choices to market and push Oxycontin on the doctors, and in February, they promised to stop actively marketing the drug. Now, this opioid maker is making efforts to help the people that are now addicted to their drugs. But is it just another PR campaign to mitigate the company’s bad reputation?
Critics say that all of this is “too little, too late.” Thousands have died from what even lawmakers say are irresponsible and maybe even illegal practices to push the drug. However, the dire consequences of opioid addiction make it so many localities can’t discriminate between funds. For many people addicted to opioids across the US, there simply isn’t enough help available. The federal government’s Opioid Commission is considered pretty much a “bust”, with lots of recommendations and few monetary resources to implement them. Many states are spending too much money simply on saving lives with tools such as the opioid-antagonist Naloxone. Budgets are tight in areas where the most vulnerable are finding addiction pervasive.
What Purdue Has Done to Help Fight Addiction
· to give free naloxone overdose-antidote kits and training to front-line officers. Total, the second phase of this program will allow total funding of the program up to $850,000 since its inception.
· They have funded pill disposal boxes in pharmacies, clinics and police stations in various states, including North Caroline.
· They have run a radio campaign in Connecticut warning of the dangers of opioid abuse.
· Lawsuits they have lost have inadvertently funded treatment for addiction in places like West Virginia, where the opioid epidemic is still raging. (This is inadvertant funding, but the settlements for lawsuits still help cities and states.)
Why People Aren’t Buying it
· OxyContin sales dropped in recent years, from $2.8 billion in 2012 to $1.7 billion in 2017, with many competitive drugs on the market, especially generic drugs.
· Purdue almost exclusively sells and manufactures various opioid drugs. They have only promised to quit marketing Oxycontin.
· Alongside running ads warning about opioid abuse, they also have been marketing a new medicine to treat opioid-induced constipation, which is just another drug in their line of products.
· In 2007, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading doctors and patients about OxyContin’s risk of addiction and potential for abuse. They agreed to pay $600 million in fines, but did not stop marketing the drug until there was a nationwide outcry as the opioid crisis progressed.
· The company press releases never use the words “addicted” or “addictive” in any statements or literature, preferring to use the words “use” and “abuse”, which minimizes the opioid crisis.
Purdue is far from the only bad actor in the addiction crisis, but they are certainly the most well-known and litigated against. There are lawsuits on the state level, county level, and city level across the country. Most recently, last week, Greenville County, South Carolina filed suit against several opioid manufacturers, including Perdue. The lawsuit accuses pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors of participating in a “scheme to change prescriber habits and public perception.”