Most of us have heard about OxyContin, one of the best-selling prescription medications of all time and one of the most abused drugs in history.
What most of us don’t know is that Purdue Pharma LP, the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical company that makes the drug, is on the brink of finally being held accountable for some of the devastation caused by OxyContin — and that lawsuit is happening right here in Pike County, Kentucky.Purdue has never gone to trial on a case of OxyContin abuse; it has won dismissals in more than 400 personal injury lawsuits related to the drug and defeated more than 10 class action attempts.
How OxyContin WorksOxyContin is a powerful opioid that works to alleviate pain, and the 12 hours of relief it offers on a time-released basis means patients can take far fewer pills each day. The active ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone, a common substance in pain medications. After the drug hit the market in 1995, addicts quickly discovered that crushing the pills defeated the time-release system and they could then snort or inject the drug for an intense, immediate high. Its widespread abuse in rural America led to its nickname: “Hillbilly Heroin.”
The Effects in Pike County, KYThe state of Kentucky has accused Purdue of purposefully creating a large-scale addiction by training its salespeople to falsely portray OxyContin as difficult to abuse, even though its own study found a drug abuser could extract most of the oxycodone from a tablet by crushing it. The devastation to our part of the state became obvious when Purdue hired a consultant to survey Pike County residents in 2013 to try to gauge whether it would be possible to seat an impartial jury. Almost 40 percent of the people surveyed said they knew someone who ran into criminal trouble because of an OxyContin addiction. One-third said they knew someone who overdosed or was seriously hurt taking the drug, and 29 percent said they knew someone who died.
Nine out of 10 agreed that OxyContin had a “devastating effect” on the community.As it fights the Kentucky case, Purdue must also prepare to defend itself in California and in Illinois against lawsuits with other pharmaceutical companies which allege a 20-year campaign by the industry to persuade doctors to make painkillers commonplace by obscuring the risks and misrepresenting their efficacy.