PIKEVILLE, Ky. — STAT’s multiyear legal battle to unseal secret Purdue Pharma files in a Kentucky court has produced dozens of documents that lay bare new details about the company’s marketing strategy and the role of Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the family that founded and controls Purdue, in making OxyContin a top-selling pain pill.

Starting in the early 1990s, the internal emails and other documents describe Purdue’s preparation for the opioid’s launch in 1996, its plans for targeting OxyContin to non-cancer patients with chronic pain, and how the company aggressively fought off threats to its blockbuster’s sales, even as the opioid epidemic took hold.

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  • Chilling timeline; great (and dogged) reporting. Like the tobacco or gun salesmen, Purdue clearly valued profits more than people. Combined with the NY Times big feature today about the impact of opioids — particularly OxyContin — on one rural Ohio high school’s 2000 graduating class, or the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Pulitzer-prize winning diary of a month’s worth of opioid overdoses and death in its region, this picture of heedless greed requires our citizens and our governments to act, to punish the wrongdoers and to ensure nothing like this can happen again. Kudos for the coverage.

  • Thank you for your thorough research – a chilling tale indeed! No doubt the power that Pharma has over physicians is a concern. But, what ever happened to the physicians obligation to making decisions based on the evidence – or in this case, the lack of it?? In this day and age, with our smartphones handy and accessible health research databases, surely it is possible to do some “fact checking”!

    We must do better at holding our health providers accountable.

    Yours in health,

    • Tanya, you are right on the money. Physicians oth is first do no harm. They do have an obligation to practice evidence based medicine. Truth is many phyicians did neither. They have played a huge role in the epidemic and should be held accountable.

    • I wonder if you people will call for accountability with the same vigor when it comes to untreated pain causing unnecessary suffering during end of life, cancer, and palliative care

  • Thank you for shining a light on Pharma practices that drive profits at the expense of patient’s health. I agree with naming names. It is important to identify and hold accountable individuals behind such efforts. Too often responsible individuals hide behind corporate identities and escape justice. While monetary judgments are necessary to provide revenue to at least partially offset harm, they rarely if ever disincentivise repeat performances. When wrong-doing can be documented, it is important to make civil penalties strong enough to negate any advantage, to publicly shame and apply criminal penalties to remove the guilty from the seats of power. There needs to be a tiger on the side of patient justice to restore balance.

    In this upside down world of “fake news”, I applaud your courageous effort.



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