OxyContin Makers and Exec Fined $634 million


The maker of the powerful and highly addictive painkiller, OxyContin, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, and three of its executives, were ordered to pay a $634.5 million fine for misleading the public about the drug’s risk of addiction. U.S. District Judge James Jones fined Purdue, its top lawyer, former president and former chief medical officer after a hearing on July 20, 2007. At that hearing, several people testified that their lives were changed forever by addiction to the narcotic.

OxyContin is the trade name for a long-acting form of the drug oxycodone and is designed to be swallowed whole and digested over the course of 12 hours. However, when the pills are crushed, they can produce a heroin-like high when the pill is swallowed, snorted or injected. From 1996-2001, the number of OxyContin-related deaths increased fivefold while the number of OxyContin prescriptions increased 20-fold. In 2002, the drug has contributed to almost 500 deaths.

All parties pleaded guilty in May to telling doctors that OxyContin was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications. Judge Jones has placed the drug company on probation for five years and each of the executives on probation for three years. The three were also ordered to perform 400 hours of substance abuse-related community service.

Survivors of victims who have died from OxyContin use want the Food and Drug Administration to reclassify OxyContin for use only for severe pain as now, the drug can be prescribed for moderate pain.