OxyContin Maker Closed,
Fined $8 Billion

Purdue Pharmaceuticals
a Purdue Pharma building

Many have argued that Purdue Pharmaceuticals started the opioid epidemic. And while the opioid crisis is ongoing and involves more than just one bad actor, Purdue was the first pharmaceutical company to massively increase the production, promotion, distribution, and sale of OxyContin, its frontrunner prescription opioid pain reliever—and all while claiming the drug was not addictive.

Given that thousands of Americans have lost their lives due to the opioid crisis, it would seem fitting that Purdue Pharma and its founders would be held criminally accountable for their actions. It would make sense that Purdue and its leadership would have to make up the damage done and repair the extreme harm caused by the thousands of lives lost at the hands of Purdue’s prescription drugs.

But while the lawsuit resulted in lost fortune, no one went to jail or will live out their lives in poverty as a result of one of the largest deceptive advertising campaigns ever produced.

The Lawsuit

On October 21st, 2020, Purdue Pharma pled guilty and agreed to pay $8 billion and close down the company. However, the company does not have $8 billion in cash, so the company will be dissolved as part of the settlement. Its assets will be used to create a so-called “public benefit company.” This new trust will supposedly be designed in the “best interests of the American people,” yet it will continue to produce OxyContin. The new company will also make medications that are supposed to “help” people who are addicted to opioids, but which really just gives them another medication to become dependent on.

Part of Purdue’s crimes included paying kickbacks to doctors when MDs prescribed more of Purdue’s opiate meds (and not a competitor’s meds). Purdue also heavily marketed OxyContin to the public, lying to the American people by telling them that OxyContin was not addictive when Purdue spokespersons knew very well that OxyContin was very addictive. Its new strategy seems to be to provide another drug to ease the symptoms of its first drug. At least that’s what the marketing says, but this would be nothing new from Purdue Pharma.

What’s Been Lost? The Cost and the Extent of the Opioid Crisis

Prescription drugs
Photo by DNY59/iStockPhoto.com

Addiction to prescription painkillers is a big part of what set off the opiate epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 750,000 people have died from an overdose on drugs since 1999. About two-thirds of those deaths involved an opioid, with tens of thousands of opioid deaths involving prescription opioids. And in 2018, opioid overdoses killed 47,000 Americans, with about 15,000 of those deaths involving prescription opioids.

It’s Not Over—The Opioid Epidemic Is Still Ongoing

The opioid epidemic has been ongoing for over two decades, and it is far from over. The over-prescription of opioid painkillers is still very much a current issue. And what’s worse, the crisis has evolved into an epidemic that involves prescription opioid painkillers, heroin, fentanyl, and synthetic opioids made in clandestine drug labs.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people who use opioid painkillers non-medically are 19 times more likely to experiment with heroin than those who do not misuse prescription opioids. About 86 percent of heroin users admit to using opioid pain relievers non-medically before going on to heroin use.

The opioid epidemic has evolved, with the year 2019 having the highest number of overdose deaths yet. According to the CDC, about 74,000 people died from overdoses in 2019, much of those deaths being directly caused by opioid use.

States Bringing Lawsuits Disappointed by Decision

As soon as the settlement was reached, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong released a statement on the matter, highlighting just how severely off-target the settlement was, just how much it fell short of what’s really needed. “This settlement provides a mere mirage of justice for the victims of Purdue’s callous misconduct. The federal government had the power here to put the Sacklers in jail, and they didn’t. Instead, they took fines and penalties that Purdue likely will never fully pay. Every dollar paid here is one dollar less for states like Connecticut trying to maximize money from Purdue and the Sacklers to abate the opioid epidemic. Preserving Purdue’s ability to continue selling opioids as a public benefit corporation is simply unacceptable.”

“This settlement provides a mere mirage of justice for the victims of Purdue’s callous misconduct. The federal government had the power here to put the Sacklers in jail, and they didn’t.”

The Connecticut Attorney General’s critical point is that, in many ways, Purdue Pharmaceuticals and the Sackler family that runs the company caused the opioid epidemic. Their efforts to push OxyContin into the hands of the American people in the late 1990s and early 2000s set off a chain of events of overprescribing, millions of innocent Americans becoming addicted, and thousands dying from overdoses. That is what happened as a direct result of Purdue’s actions.

Connecticut has been litigating against Purdue since 2018. The most recent litigation involves Attorney General William Tong joining a coalition of attorneys general to call upon the Department of Justice to revise the most recent settlement that preserves Purdue’s ability to continue OxyContin sales to the public as a “public trust corporation.”

Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers should not be able to shirk responsibility for the loss of life they’ve caused.

The Need for Prevention and Real Treatment

The American people need prevention tools and real, effective drug treatment. The Purdue Pharma settlement is going to give them replacement medications and more OxyContin instead.

That is simply unacceptable.

Prevention efforts are best utilized in education, teaching people why they should stay away from drugs, teaching them what about drugs makes them harmful and dangerous. The more people are informed about the real risks and dangers of drug use, the less likely they are to experiment.

Treatment efforts are best utilized in the form of residential rehabilitation. Replacement drugs trade one drug for another, never really getting at the root of the problem. Residential drug rehabs, on the other hand, help people effectively tackle the underlying issues that caused the person to seek out drugs in the first place.

Narconon can help people previously thought lost to the opioid crisis. Call today to learn how.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.