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Purdue knew about illicit OxyContin sales and did not report it to authorities, says special LA Times report
A blockbuster investigative report in the Los Angeles Times recently says Purdue Pharma knew about illegal sales of its opioid painkiller OxyContin to Los Angeles drug dealers, and failed to report it to authorities.
The highly addictive and potentially lethal painkiller OxyContin, essentially legal heroin, was sold to a distributor who supplied crooked L.A. pharmacies, who in turn funneled thousands of bogus prescriptions through crooked clinics to the underworld drug trade, the Los Angeles Times report says.
Internal memos and documents obtained by the Times reveal that Purdue officials were informed of the situation by staff members who track shipments. But memos were ignored and millions of OxyContin pills continued to be shipped to the distributors who supplied the bogus clinics.
“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,” the Los Angeles Times article says.
Deadliest drug epidemic in history
This particular situation, the paper says, began in 2008, after OxyContin had been on the market for roughly 12 years. OxyContin addictions and overdoses already had soared across the country to historically unprecedented levels for any prescription drug. OxyContin was the causative factor in the deadliest epidemic of prescription drug addiction in history. By 2008 it had swept across America for over a decade, leaving tens of thousands of Americans damaged or dead in its wake.
Listen to this excerpt that begins the Los Angeles Times report:
“In the waning days of summer in 2008, a convicted felon and his business partner leased office space on a seedy block near MacArthur Park. They set up a waiting room, hired an elderly physician and gave the place a name that sounded like an ordinary clinic: Lake Medical.
“During a single week in September 2008, Eleanor Santiago of Lake Medical, issued orders for 1,500 pills, more than entire pharmacies sold in a month. (Court exhibit)
“The doctor began prescribing the opioid painkiller OxyContin – in extraordinary quantities. In a single week in September, she issued orders for 1,500 pills, more than entire pharmacies sold in a month. In October, it was 11,000 pills. By December, she had prescribed more than 73,000, with a street value of nearly $6 million.”
The article continues by describing a little of what was going on at Purdue Pharma:
“’Shouldn’t the DEA be contacted about this?” the sales manager, Michele Ringler, told company officials in a 2009 email. Later that evening, she added, “I feel very certain this is an organized drug ring…’
“Purdue did not shut off the supply of highly addictive OxyContin and did not tell authorities what it knew about Lake Medical until several years later when the clinic was out of business and its leaders indicted.
“By that time, 1.1 million pills had spilled into the hands of Armenian mobsters, the Crips gang and other criminals.”
Pharma is obligated to report
A top DEA official responsible for pharma regulations told the Los Angles Times he wasn’t made aware of the scope of evidence that had been collected by Purdue and not forwarded to the DEA. “They have an obligation, a legal one but also a moral one,” he said.
Under federal law, drugmakers are required to alert the DEA to suspicious orders. The company can reject orders that it suspects are going to the black market.
It’s absolutely chilling to think that criminals could be this brazen and this get away with it for so long. But the truth is, bogus clinics, called “pill mills” were selling countless millions of prescription opioids – not just OxyContin but all the other popular brands – to anyone who walked in the door with a handful of cash. It was happening all across the country. And no one really believes that all the pharmaceutical companies involved knew nothing about it.
Here in Florida, pill mills were the most numerous of any state in the nation until new laws and a crackdown by law enforcement closed hundreds of them. How bad was it? One Florida doctor sold more prescription opioids than all the other doctors in the entire United States put together.
Today, prescription painkillers continue to ravage the nation. But heroin and a host of synthetic street drugs are pushing the devastation begun by OxyContin to new heights. Recently, the opioid painkiller fentanyl – 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin and morphine – is also part of the deadly drug overdose landscape.
New attitudes and legislation hold promise
New legislation awaiting the signature of President Obama offers a more sensible approach to addiction, expanded treatment and more preventive education, and holds promise for a better future.
To Purdue’s credit, they introduced a new abuse-deterrent version of OxyContin a few years ago that’s more difficult for addicts to abuse. And the company has taken the lead in the abuse deterrent field that has changed the landscape for all makers of prescription opioids.
Looking forward from our unique viewpoint here at Novus, we see a lot of hope for folks looking for a way to get their lives back, to once again live happily drug free. Don’t hesitate to give Novus a call if you need help getting your life back or someone you care for needs the same kind of help.
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