10 May 2007

OxyContin fallout

OxyContin Maker, Executives Plead Guilty to Misleading Public

This is news to me. I hadn't been aware of this developing case at all, and not knowing the details I really shouldn't comment on it -- but that's never stopped me before. Since there was a guilty plea, I can only presume that there must have been wrongdoing of some sort -- corporate types tend to have good counsel and rarely roll over unless they're nicked fair and square. But as a physician, it strikes me as kind of odd. I mean, oxycodone in any form is a highly potent narcotic and of course is has significant addictive potential, especially once you get in the higher dose range. Any doctor who claims not to have known that is lying or criminally incompetent. The use or misuse of these drugs (and they do have very beneficial uses) is entirely the responsibility of the physicians who prescribed them. So again, I guess the company must have done something wrong, but it really is hard to conceive of any behavior on their part which would materially have mitigated that responsibility on the part of the prescribers.



  1. How do you know how addictive a drug is:
    A. Your own observations
    B. A combination of your training and knowledge of the chemical make up
    C. What the drug company tells you
    D. What independent studies tell you
    E. Other

    I'm asking because it sounded like you think it is weird that doctors would have been fooled by a deceptive description from the drug company, and I don't know where else doctors get their information.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. What? People sometimes take the drugs we prescribe and use them in a manner other than the way we intended? When did this start happening? I am now very disillusioned. I wonder also if Ritalin has some different long term effects if you crush it up and snort it? Was anyone warned about that?

    We all have responsibilities. Drug companies should be *realistic* about the drugs they sell and the way they promote them (and this means NOT letting the reps draw their own "scientific" charts). I hope most docs realize that drug reps will present their product in the best possible light and find alternative sources to corroborate claims. Oh yeah, and patients should listen to our directions and adhere to them. Wouldn't that be a nice world... (And there should be NO sarcasm allowed on the internet from now on, too hard to interpret)

  4. I completely agree, Shadowfax. While I'm never suprised by unscrupulous marketing or nebulous ethics of drug companies, I have never heard any rep insist oxycontin was not addictive. This is just weird. Drug companies do so much bad stuff, and we nail them for marketing an addictive narcotic? What other kind of narcotic is there? It's like nailing Al Capone for tax evasion.

  5. "I completely agree, Shadowfax. While I'm never suprised by unscrupulous marketing or nebulous ethics of drug companies, I have never heard any rep insist oxycontin was not addictive."

    I hate to be all lawyerly, but aren't there things other than insisting oxycontin was not addictive that would constitute misinformation? Maybe I try to find some details on my next break.

  6. Here's the FDA announcement of their investigation of Purdue Inc.


  7. dead link...

    This case did indeed seem to come out of nowhere.

  8. Purdue spokesman James Heins objected to any suggestion of ties between the plea agreement and the abuse of OxyContin.

    "We promoted the medicine only to health-care professionals, not to consumers," he said in a statement.

    Privately held Purdue learned from focus groups with physicians in 1995 that doctors were worried about the abuse potential of OxyContin. The company then gave false information to its sales representatives that the drug had less potential for addiction and abuse than other painkillers, the U.S. attorney said.

    Ken Jost of the Justice Department's Office of Consumer Litigation said this case should put pharmaceutical companies on notice that they won't be able to get away with breaking the law to make a profit.


    Alright, so the charge was not that they said it was not addictive, it was that they said it was less addictive. I am still curious about how physicians can know about the addictive properties of a medicine other than through the information provided.

  9. I must admit that because of drug companies and insurance companies, my faith in medical businesses and their "humanity" (versus their pursuit of the almighty Dollar) has been severely wounded. I have a crazy ex-sister-in-law who was hired as a rep by a drug company, and I remember thinking that she was so nutty that I couldn't believe they hired her. Now I can....


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.