Court Documents Show Purdue’s Richard Sackler Did Not Want to Correct Misinformation About Strength of OxyContin

gavel pounding down on pile of pills

Court documents have shown how invested Richard Sackler was in the drive at Purdue Pharma to make OxyContin a success. A recent deposition that was unsealed has revealed just how far Sackler was willing to go to make that happen.

STAT News, in concert with ProPublica, reported that Purdue executives developed a plan to conceal just how powerful of an opioid treatment OxyContin actually is. The leadership team elected to not correct misinformation that doctors had regarding the strength of the drug, STAT said. The reason being, that false impression resulted in increased sales of the drug. According to the deposition that was unsealed, Purdue executives said they were “well aware of the view held by many physicians” that OxyContin was actually weaker than morphine – in fact, it’s much stronger.

The deposition was one made by Richard Sackler during legal proceedings in the state of Kentucky against Purdue Pharma, the company Sackler once helmed. Purdue had fought to keep the deposition sealed, STAT said. However, with multiple lawsuits brought against the company, STAT said that interest in the contents of the Sackler deposition has increased.

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Sackler’s deposition totaled 337 pages and includes his answers to questions about the company’s aggressive marketing tactics for the drug that became the poster-product for the country’s opioid crisis. In January, newly un-redacted court documents revealed that between 2008 and 2015, the Sackler family made more than $4 billion off the sale of OxyContin. In 2010 alone, the Sackler family received $877 million from OxyContin sales. The financial data was discovered in court documents that are part of a lawsuit filed against the company by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The Bay State lawsuit is one of many filed against Purdue and other opioid drugmakers over the costs governments have accrued in battling opioid addiction.

As can be seen, the Sacklers and Purdue reaped significant financial benefits off of the sale of OxyContin. In January, it was reported that Sackler, a former Purdue president, called for a “blizzard of prescriptions” during a launch party for OxyContin shortly after the drug had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sackler, according to reports, predicted that the number of paper prescriptions for OxyContin would be “deep, dense and white.”

“You won’t believe how committed I am to make OxyContin a huge success,” Sackler wrote in a May 29, 1999, email cited in one of the documents in a STAT report.

The information coming out of the various documents being unsealed in courthouses across the U.S. bolsters a 2018 report released by the U.S. Department of Justice that showed the company knew about “’significant’ abuse of OxyContin in the first years after the drug's introduction in 1996 and concealed that information.” The DOJ report said that Purdue executives knew the opioid pills were being crushed and snorted as abusers sought to get high faster.

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