We manufacture prescription opioids. Patients’ needs and safety have guided our steps. That’s what Purdue Pharma’s full-page ad in Thursday’s New York Times said. It’s one lie after another. In an attempt to look like the good guy, and keep their revenue flowing, Purdue is trying to wash their hands of their part in creating the current opioid epidemic.
Let’s get a few things straight. Purdue Pharma pled guilty to “mislabeling” their deadly painkillers in 2007. They paid more than $600 million in damages. They are not good. They are reprehensible. Purdue is the central actor who orchestrated the opioid crisis, now causing hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths per year. It controls the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing of lethal drugs. In spite of multiple civil lawsuits calling for reform and reparations, Purdue puts profits before people’s lives. They’re not in this business to help people. They’re in it to make money. Period.
The ad says, How could we not help fight the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis? Funny, I’ve been wondering the same thing. How could they not help fight the crisis? Why didn’t they take up this banner in the 1990s, when their popular drug OxyContin hit the market? Now they are trying to look like “the good guy” to deflect blame from themselves — blame they deserve.
“They’re not in this business to help people. They’re in it to make money. Period.”
Purdue is trying to depict itself as fair, or even compassionate. Yet, 172 people lose their lives to opioid overdoses every day. Purdue Pharma makes these pills and they convinced doctors to prescribe them using false advertising tactics. They may be FDA-approved, but that doesn’t make them safe. It makes them easier to get, especially for people who don’t need them. Purdue has taken every possible step to get those medications into the hands of new users: even young children. Doing so, they are manufacturing a new generation of people who are dependent on opioids.
People don’t get addicted to opioids for no reason. They don’t get hooked on other painkillers, like aspirin or ibuprofen—which are actually more effective for treating pain. They get addicted to substances that are addictive. And those substances are huge money makers for companies like Purdue. In fact, Purdue is valued at over $13 billion, thanks to OxyContin. That’s not a coincidence. For Purdue to say they’ve taken meaningful action to reduce opioid abuse is not just a lie, but an insult, too.
This ad is a heartless jab at families of loss. Purdue knowingly misrepresented the deadly risks of their products, just to make more money. Their greed put hundreds of thousands of fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters six feet underground. It’s an insult to every parent who’s had to give their dying child CPR. It’s an insult to the person who’s administered Narcan to their best friend with shaking hands. It’s an insult to the pain patient who is subjected to the stigma of addiction when they have a legitimate need. It’s an insult to those of us who have been out here for decades pushing for real, tangible reform.
This is our fight, too, the ad says. No, it’s not Purdue’s fight. It never was. And honestly, if Purdue wants to do some good, it needs to do a lot more than pat itself on the back.
Although Purdue says, it’s done a lot to create abuse-deterrent medication, where does that leave the millions of Americans currently struggling with substance use disorder? Instead of upgrading their pills and continuing to focus on profits, maybe Purdue can do something that actually helps people. Pharmaceutical companies should be cleaning up their mess. They should be investing in research that explores new, non-medication-based pain care.
A full-page ad in the weekday New York Times costs tens of thousands of dollars. Purdue has paid hundreds of millions in settlements, and is being sued by several states for its negligent behavior. Purdue can definitely afford to put its money where its mouth is. So let’s see it.
Purdue, your ad is misleading, just like your messaging that led us into this crisis. You created, control, cause, and continue to profit from American deaths. How about you own your part in it? You can’t be the problem and the solution at the same time. Instead of ads, you need to get involved and work with people who are on the front lines, cleaning up the mess you created.
If you want to join this fight, you need to invest in people. Not your corporate bottom line.