Purdue Pharma Accused Of Targeting Seniors For Oxy Sales

By Bryan Le 09/17/18

The lawsuit claims Purdue had salespeople downplay the harmful risks and side effects of OxyContin.

senior woman taking a pill

Oregon’s Department of Justice claims that pharmacy giant, Purdue Pharma, lied to the state and misled customers to drive sales.

Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma on Thursday, accusing the company of lying to the Oregon State Board of Pharmacy to obtain permission to sell in Oregon, as well as targeting senior citizens with its products.

The violations against a settlement with Oregon goes back 10 years, according to a June 27 filing. Rosenblum’s office is demanding Purdue submit to the terms of a 2007 settlement or risk legal consequences.

In the Thursday filing, Rosenblum’s office is demanding Purdue Pharma pay $1 million and abide by a prohibition against marketing to Oregon’s senior citizens.

According to the lawsuit, Purdue released misleading publications and had its salespeople downplay the harmful risks and side effects of OxyContin, and specifically targeted disabled and senior citizens.

Purdue also stands accused of lying in its application to renew its license to sell OxyContin in Oregon, erroneously claiming that the company had not faced state or federal punishment. In the past, they’ve been made to pay fines, and some of its top executives faced charges related to the company’s OxyContin marketing practices.

“Ten years later, it is clear Purdue has flouted the judgment and ignored the severe federal penalties,” reads the lawsuit.

Advocates for substance abuse prevention lauded the move, praising it as holding pharma companies accountable, to push them to cooperate in combating the opioid epidemic.

“My hope is that this action will help establish some accountability and bring them to the table to help solve this," said Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life. "They ought to be helping us and they haven't been.”

Representatives of Purdue, however, disagree with this assessment of the situation.

“We vigorously deny the state's allegations,” said Purdue spokesperson Robert Josephson, according to the Oregonian. “The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve. We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA. We look forward to presenting our substantial defenses regarding this lawsuit.”

Working to improve its image in the shadow of the opioid crisis, Purdue has eliminated 350 sales positions, closed its “speakers” program that paid doctors and other professionals to sing OxyContin’s praises, and reshuffled its efforts towards researching cancer-fighting drugs.

However, the opioid crisis has already damaged the state. Oregon saw a spike in opioid-related deaths in this past year, with Oregon’s Jackson County seeing a 70% increase in such deaths in just the first quarter of this year.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter