Through an array of promotional materials, including literature, brochures, videotapes, and Web content, #Purdue proudly asserted that the potential for addiction was very small, at one point stating it to be “less than 1%.”
The time-release conceit even worked on the #FDA, which stated that “Delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug.” Armed with the time-release formula and misleading statistics about the risk of addiction, Purdue positioned the drug as a relatively safe choice for CNCP patients. Sales representatives told some doctors that the drug didn’t even produce a buzz, according to USA Today. (This for a pill that has since drawn frequent comparisons to heroin in terms of analgesia, euphoria, and the propensity for #addiction.)
No state has been more devastated by the nationwide opiate problem than Kentucky. Much of the eastern part of the state and the Appalachians has watched as men, women, and teenagers fell victim to the potent pain pills. There were several different gateways—back injuries, operations, parents’ medicine cabinets—but all of them led to an implacable addiction that rivals that of the hardest street drugs. And that’s the rub. Because there was simply so much OxyContin available for over a decade, it trickled down from pharmacies and hospitals and became a street drug, coveted by teens and fiends and sold by dealers at a premium (prices often shot up well over $1 a milligram, pricing the popular 80mg tablets at over $100 for a single pill).
Whatever the gray areas on OxyContin’s many paths to perdition, the statistics on the first decade of this century bear out a staggering epidemic. From 1999 to 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors’ offices quadrupled. In the exact same time span, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers also quadrupled, rising to almost 17,000.