When Oxycontin was introduced to the world, the public was led to believe that it was some kind of addiction-proof miracle drug. In 1998, Purdue Pharma featured a video of seven chronic pain patients who used Oxycontin and could advocate that the drug had helped them regain normal function and enjoyment of everyday life.
The marketing campaign marked the beginning of the industry’s’ hard push for narcotic painkillers and would convince physicians and the public that opioid use was safe, effective, and normal for people with chronic pain. Now, as addictions to painkillers have skyrocketed and fatal overdoses have more than tripled in the past decade, the U.S. has declared prescription drug abuse as a national epidemic.
So what ever happened to these seven poster children of Oxycontin? A very interesting article by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Where Are They Now?”, explains what happened to the seven patients who spoke glowingly of their experiences with Oxycontin 14 years ago.
In the 1998 video, one patient, Johnny Sullivan, advocated for Oxycontin saying, “Never a drowsy moment here.” Ten years later after severe addiction to Oxycontin and other opioids, he died in a car crash after falling asleep at the wheel.
“Two of the seven patients were active opioid abusers when they died. A third became addicted, suffered greatly, and quit after realizing she was headed for an overdose. Three patients still say the drug helped them cope with their pain and improved their quality of life. A seventh patient declined to answer questions.” Read More…
Purdue’s marketing campaign was so misleading that they plead guilty in 2007 to a federal criminal count of misbranding the drug “with intent to defraud and mislead the public,” paid $635 million in penalties and remains on probation.
Fortune’s article “Oxycontin: Pursue Pharma’s painful medicine”, provides insight into the $3 billion dollar drug and how new legislation has forced the pharmaceutical industry to take action. Read More…
“Oxycontin’s bad reputation, however, has obscured a significant step. Last year Purdue began selling a reformulated version that should help reduce the worst form of abuse. The original drug had a time-release mechanism that could be defeated by crushing the pill and snorting it, smoking it, or adding water to the powder and injecting it for a heroin-like high. (Purdue’s claims that the time-release process reduced the addiction risk were crucial in making doctors feel comfortable prescribing a powerful addictive drug.) By contrast, the new version breaks into chunks rather than a powder; if water is added, the result is a gelatinous goop.”
While some progress is being made to defeat the Prescription drug epidemic, the story of the seven Oxycontin poster children is a sad example of how a powerful marketing campaign and money out-shined the harmful consequences of opioid use throughout the country.