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A new insight into OxyContin marketing

Massachusetts AG MAura HEaly answers questions from press
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. Photo: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The manufacturers of OxyContin not only engaged in a high-pressure, no-holds-barred marketing barrage, but also sought to shift the blame to the people who became addicted to their highly addictive drug, according to a new filing from Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.

Driving the news: The document adds new details to the emerging public image of Purdue Pharma and its former president, Richard Sackler.

  • "The launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white ..." Sackler said at a launch party for the drug, according to the filing.
  • That blizzard happened, thanks in part to aggressive marketing efforts and partnerships with prominent teaching hospitals.

Among the most damning accusations in the Massachusetts filing: Accusations that the Sackler family, faced with evidence of how powerfully addictive their product was, shifted the burden back to patients — reinforcing a stigma that public health officials are still trying to combat.

  • "We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals," Richard Sackler said in a 2001 email, according to the legal filing.

The other side: Purdue, in a statement to Boston's WBUR, accused Healey of trying to "vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis."

Go deeper: Purdue Pharma will no longer promote opioids to doctors