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Captains of Pharma

It Could Be Different

By April 7, 2023No Comments

Over the course of the last week or two, my husband and I have been watching the eight-part Hulu documentary series Dopesick exploring how Purdue Pharma, privately owned by the Sackler family, pushed its deadly narcotic OxyContin resulting in the addiction and deaths of tens of thousands of people. The Sacklers and Purdue deployed a specious propaganda campaign mendaciously touting OxyContin as less addictive than other opioids and claiming an addiction rate of less than 1% for patients.

You have to watch Dopesick or read the book upon which the series is based to really understand how evil these people are and how far they went to ensure their family made billions at the expense of innocent human beings.

In addition to claiming Oxy was less addictive, the Sacklers/Purdue dishonestly portrayed their drug as not suffering from the normal spikes in blood concentrations common to other opioids which result in euphoria and the crash that follows leaving patients begging for more. They claimed the time release coating on pills of Oxy eliminated those spikes. They manipulated the scale on the graphs in their promotional materials to mislead salespeople and doctors into believing the lie that Oxy did not result in the peaks and valleys which lead to addiction.

Purdue funded and organized Astroturf expert groups on pain management that extolled the virtues of Oxy and its ability to manage moderate pain, paid doctors to push the drug, and incentivized salespeople with volume-driven bonuses. They funded Astroturf citizens groups to control the conversation in the communities that were devastated by the drug and when that failed, they attempted to buy their silence.

When we finished the docu-series I was left feeling quite demoralized because not one of the executives nor one member of the Sackler family that led the company ever went to jail – which is exactly where they belong. No individual was even charged with a felony despite all their lies and deception. Yes, the company filed for bankruptcy, yes, the Sacklers lost the company, and yes, the company paid billions in fines but the family still enjoys extraordinary wealth despite the carnage of their deceptive OxyContin campaign.

If you or I committed the crimes they committed we certainly would have been charged with a felony and landed in prison for a lengthy term but the Sacklers and their underlings are part of the ruling class who seem to inhabit a sphere above our laws.

They are part of the revolving door between government and industry. Top brass at federal health agencies regularly complete government appointments then transition to high paying positions at the very corporations they once regulated. Perhaps this is just the way the world works but a more cynical interpretation is this is how industry rewards those who “carry their water” – and buy their silence.

Read the rest of the article on Substack – Heretic with Leslie Manookian.