HOW TO BE A DRUG DEALER WITHOUT GETTING BUSTED
No, I am not really going to tell you how to break the law and get away with it, but Purdue Pharma certainly knows how to deal an extremely dangerous drug, which has been abused by millions in this country, without going to jail. I’m talking about the pain killer OxyContin. OxyContin is believed by experts to have been the synthetic opioid that triggered the serious epidemic of opioid abuse sweeping this country. No longer confined to certain areas of this country, the opioid epidemic is everywhere.
You might be familiar with OxyContin, maybe it was prescribed to you for pain, maybe you are even addicted to it. It is estimated that over the last 20 years, more than 7 million Americans have been or are now addicted to OxyContin and there are 2.1 million people in this country presently addicted to opioid painkillers; many of these addictions started with legitimate prescriptions for pain. OxyContin and similar opioids have killed almost 200,000 people in this country since 1999. I’ve previously discussed this terrible opioid epidemic, but how did this happen?
This brings me back to Purdue Pharma, whom we might rightly call a legal drug dealer. Now there is nothing illegal about developing and marketing an effective painkiller. The problem with Purdue Pharma and OxyContin is that according to an extensive investigation by the Los Angeles Times, Purdue Pharma intentionally misrepresented the drug and marketed OxyContin on these misrepresentations in order to garner and increase sales.
When OxyContin was introduced 20 years ago, it was aggressively marketed as a new wonder painkiller that provided “smooth and sustained pain control” for 12 hours. This was a big deal for people suffering severe pain as the painkillers available at the time did not last as long and prevented those suffering from pain from getting a full night’s sleep. Problem was, Purdue Pharma’s claims weren’t true and Purdue Pharma knew that. In fact, Purdue Pharma knew that even before it put the drug on the market. But like any good drug dealer, Purdue Pharma only cared about revenue and within four years of its introduction OxyContin’s sales grew from $48 million to almost $1.1 billion (1996-2000).
For many people, OxyContin’s effects wore off long before the promised 12 hours. When patients complained, Purdue Pharma told doctors to prescribe stronger doses. This, in and of itself, created a greater risk that the patient would overdose and possibly die from that overdose. Indeed, it is estimated that over half the long-term OxyContin users are on what is termed by public health officials as “dangerously high.”
And here’s the problem: OxyContin users must take ever-more stronger doses to get relief, setting up a cycle of addiction. Even if the pain is gone, the addiction remains. One leading neuropharmacologist called OxyContin “the perfect recipe for addiction.” The tragedy is that many opioid addicts are innocent victims. Perhaps they had been in a serious accident that resulted in a painful condition, maybe they have a degenerative disease that cause severe pain; there are as many reasons for opioid addiction as there are addicts.
How does this fit into a criminal law blog? Opioid addiction contributes to all sorts of crime in this country: from driving under the influence of crime to theft to secure the drug to well, drug dealing itself and so many other crimes. Addicts even get arrested for what is called “doctor shopping” as they go from one doctor to the next in attempts to secure enough prescriptions to feed their ever-increasing need for the drug. Opioid addicts, whether their addiction started for innocent reasons or because they were seeking a high, often end up in a criminal defense attorney’s office.
I have only briefly touched on the history of the opioid epidemic in this country and Purdue Pharma’s role in that epidemic. The Los Angeles Times investigation and exposé is fascinating, if also tragic, reading for those who want to learn more.
Criminal defense attorney William Weinberg is available to consult with you regarding any criminal matter. You can reach him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.