A confidential Justice Department report obtained by The New York Times shows drug maker Purdue Pharma knew about “significant” OxyContin abuse in its first years on the market, but claimed it wasn’t aware of widespread misuse until long after it was released. Following a four-year investigation, the DOJ found that Purdue got reports that the pills were “being crushed and snorted; stolen from pharmacies; and that some doctors were being charged with selling prescriptions[.]” Internal notes from the company show it knew about Oxy getting snorted and sold on the streets as early as 1997. DOJ prosecutors wrote in the 2006 report that Purdue continued to market Oxy as “less prone to abuse and addiction than other prescription opioids” while knowing about the reports of abuse. They also recommended that Purdue executives be “indicted on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States,” but top DOJ staff during the George W. Bush administration “did not support the move” and settled with the pharmaceutical company in 2007. The documents come as the growing opioid epidemic has gotten worse in the United States, with the prescription opioid overdose death rate rising more than 10 percent in 2016.
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