OxyContin, Purdue Pharma’s brand name for the generic oxycodone, is a powerful opiate used for pain management that has been available on the US market since 1996. Primarily approved as a solution for moderate to severe cancer related pain, over half of the approximately $1 billion annual sales of the drug are for other types of pain management, including arthritis, muscle pains, and similar conditions.
OxyContin is a Schedule II narcotic, the most tightly controlled type of drug available in the US market. Drugs are classified as Schedule II substances when they have a high potential for abuse, addiction, and diversion, meaning that medications are likely to be diverted to the black market or prescriptions are likely to be attained using deceptive tactics.
With an addiction potential described as similar to morphine, the potential for abuse of OxyContin is great, and many patients legitimately prescribed OxyContin for pain management have developed addictions as a result of even short-term use.
Oxycontin was responsible for at least 120 reported deaths as of 2001, and in April 2002, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) announced that OxyContin was the suspected cause of at least 464 deaths in the past two years. The actual number of fatalities is estimated to be far higher.
In 2001, five years after OxyContin was introduced on the US market, the FDA began requiring that the manufacturer include black box warnings on OxyContin, as a result of its serious potential for abuse and addiction.
The FDA has also twice taken action against Purdue Pharma for illegal practices in marketing OxyContin, as a result of the company’s practice of marketing the drug inappropriately, thus increasing its potential for abuse and for criminal diversion.
Illegal Marketing Alleged
The same year, the Attorney General of West Virginia filed suit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharmaceuticals, accusing the company of “highly coercive and inappropriate tactics” in marketing this drug to physicians, and alleging that the company was marketing the drug for uses that heightened the risks for abuse.
OxyContin is recommended only for cases of moderate to severe pain requiring continuous relief for an extended period of time, such as for terminal cancer patients. It is not recommended for short-term or infrequent pain relief.
In the lawsuit, West Virginia alleged that Purdue Pharma violated the West Virginia Consumer Protection Act and the West Virginia Antitrust Act, and created a public nuisance due to its illegal and inappropriate marketing of OxyContin as a treatment for mild pain. In May 2000, for example, the company was officially reprimanded for marketing OxyContin as an effective pain control therapy for arthritis.
What You Can Do
If you or someone you love was injured as a result of prescribed OxyContin, you have a right to be compensated for the injuries you’ve suffered. There is mounting evidence that Purdue Pharma has persistently and knowingly marketed this drug inappropriately, and this behavior has put the lives and well-being of untold numbers of patients at great risk.
If you believe that you or someone in your family is among those who have been injured as a result of this decision, you owe it to yourself and your family to contact an experience pharmaceutical injury attorney immediately. He or she will review your case with you and advise you how you can best preserve your rights and seek the compensation you need and deserve.