The manufacturer of the potent painkiller OxyContin and three current and former executives at the company yesterday pleaded guilty to falsely marketing the drug in a way that played down its addictive properties and led to scores of people becoming addicted, prosecutors said.
The Purdue Frederick Co. and its chief executive, top lawyer, and former medical chief agreed to pay a total of $635 million to resolve charges filed by the U.S. attorney in the Western District of Virginia, who called OxyContin “one of our nation’s greatest prescription-drug failures.”
Even in the face of warnings from health-care professionals, the media and members of its own sales force . . . Purdue continued to push a fraudulent marketing campaign,” U.S. Attorney John L. Brownlee said.
The drugmaker knew as early as 1995 that health professionals feared the addictive potential of OxyContin, an opium derivative, but looked the other way, according to court papers. From 1996 to 2001, Purdue claimed that the “miracle drug” was safer than rival medications despite repeated studies that suggested patients had developed a risk of abuse and had serious trouble withdrawing from OxyContin. Purdue collected $2.8 billion through sales of OxyContin during that time, court papers said.