Did Rudy Giuliani Help Purdue Continue Selling OxyContin?

By Kelly Burch 05/24/18

A plea deal reportedly crafted by the former NY mayor has been making headlines amid his recent return to the spotlight.

Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is now President Trump’s lawyer, was responsible for crafting a deal for Purdue Pharma that allowed the company to continue selling OxyContin, even after being criminally prosecuted for its deceptive sales practices surrounding the drug. 

In 2007, Purdue accepted a plea deal where the company acknowledged marketing OxyContin to doctors with “intent to defraud or mislead,” according to a report in The Guardian.

This criminal conviction would normally mean that the company would be barred from doing business with the federal government. In that case, people who had insurance through Medicaid, Medicare and the Veterans Administration health system wouldn’t have had access to OxyContin or other drugs manufactured by Purdue. 

However, Giuliani, who was representing Purdue legally and reportedly contacted Washington insiders on the company’s behalf, was able to secure a key concession in the deal: the conviction would name Purdue Frederick, a parent company, and thus Purdue Pharma would be free to continue doing business with the federal government.  

This opened the door for the company to sell OxyContin to millions of federally insured individuals. 

U.S. Attorney John Brownlee, who led the investigation, said that he believed that he did not have the right to restrict the market for the opioid pain reliever. 

“I didn’t feel as a lawyer I could be in a position to bar anyone from getting OxyContin. Faced with that decision, I was just simply not prepared to take it off the market. I didn’t feel like that was my role,” he said. “My role was to address prior criminal conduct. Hold them accountable. Fine them. Make sure the public knew what they did.”

However, he said that he expected that federal regulators would be watching Purdue Pharma more carefully after the conviction, something he doesn’t feel happened. 

Giuliani got other benefits for Purdue in the deal: the fine of $640 million was a small fraction of the company’s profits from OxyContin and no Purdue executives were jailed in connection with the criminal charge. The conviction only covered Purdue’s practices up until 2001, despite the fact that the deceptive marketing continued for years.

Giuliani was able to get the company immunity from further prosecution for the years between 2001 and 2007.  

Brownlee stands by the plea deal, but said he is surprised that Purdue and other drug manufacturers haven’t seen more criminal prosecution in connection with the opioid epidemic.

“I think convicting the company, the fines and all of that had its impact. I guess as I sit here now, I’m a little surprised that it’s the only one of its kind. That with the nature of the abuse and the nature of the problem, that as we sit here that there’s no other out there,” he said.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.