More than 194,000 people have died since 1999 from overdoses involving opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, reported the Los Angeles Times. Nearly 4,000 people start abusing those drugs every day, according to government statistics. The prescription drug epidemic is fueling a heroin crisis, shattering communities and taxing law enforcement officers who say they would benefit from having information such as that collected by Purdue Pharma.
A private, family-owned corporation, Purdue Pharma has earned more than $31 billion from OxyContin, the nation’s bestselling painkiller. Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to federal charges of misbranding OxyContin in what the company acknowledged was an attempt to mislead doctors about the risk of addiction. It was ordered to pay $635 million in fines and fees.
A Los Angeles Times investigation found that, for more than a decade, Purdue collected extensive evidence suggesting illegal trafficking of OxyContin and, in many cases, did not share it with law enforcement or cut off the flow of pills. A former Purdue executive, who monitored pharmacies for criminal activity, acknowledged that even when the company had evidence pharmacies were colluding with drug dealers, it did not stop supplying distributors selling to those stores.
Purdue knew about many suspicious doctors and pharmacies from prescribing records, pharmacy orders, field reports from sales representatives and, in some instances, its own surveillance operations, according to court and law enforcement records, which include internal Purdue documents, and interviews with current and former employees.
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