Not Enough Bullets

After misrepresenting the risks and addictive properties of Oxycontin and launching a destructive hard sell campaign, Purdue Pharma is now looking to get FDA approval of a drug that will allow them to profit from the disaster that they created:

Notorious OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma—which has been widely criticized for deceptively marketing its highly addictive painkiller and for its role in spurring the current nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose deaths—is moving ahead with a new, potent drug, one said to be an antidote to opioid overdoses.

The company announced this week that the US Food and Drug Administration has granted fast-track status to its investigational drug nalmefene hydrochloride (HCl), an injectable, emergency treatment intended to rescue people suspected of having an opioid overdose. Purdue suggests that nalmefene HCl’s effects last longer than the similar emergency opioid antagonist naloxone. As such, the company hopes nalmefene HCl will out-compete naloxone at reversing overdoses from the most highly potent opioid, namely fentanyl, which is currently driving the alarming numbers of opioid overdose deaths. The FDA’s fast-track status will speed the development and regulatory review of the drug.


Amid the crisis, Purdue has been fiercely condemned for initially downplaying the addictiveness of OxyContin, which it began aggressively marketing in the mid-1990s, earning the company billions of dollars in sales. In 2007, the company and three executives pleaded guilty in federal court to criminal charges that they deceived doctors, patients, and regulators over the addictiveness of the drug. Since then, Purdue has been pummeled by lawsuits blaming the company for helping to spur the rise in opioid abuse and overdoses. The company has vigorously defended itself against the claims but is now considering filing for bankruptcy, which would soften the blow of litigation and judgments.


Still, according to internal discussions at Purdue that were made public in a lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Purdue and members of the wealthy Sackler family that owns the company had carefully researched the money-making potential of treatments aimed at reversing the epidemic.

An un-redacted section of the lawsuit describes a secret plan called Project Tango, which explored Purdue’s expansion into selling treatment options. The lawsuit states that Purdue and a member of the Sackler family determined that the millions of people who had become addicted to opioids were a prime business opportunity. Purdue staff wrote in internal documents quoted in the lawsuit that “It is an attractive market. Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.” 

Seriously, there is not a hole deep enough for these people.

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