Feb 22, 2019

Report: Purdue Pharma let doctors underestimate OxyContin's strength

Many physicians thought oxycodone is weaker than morphine. It's not. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Purdue Pharma intentionally decided not to correct doctors' misperceptions about the strength of OxyContin, according to a deposition obtained by ProPublica.

Why it matters: There's a mountain of evidence piling up, even in public, that suggests the Sackler family knew its product was highly addictive, but blew past any concerns about that fact in search of higher and higher profits, helping to create the opioid epidemic.

The deposition includes a 1997 email exchange between Michael Friedman, Purdue's top marketing executive, and Richard Sackler, whose family founded and controlled Purdue.

  • Friedman at one point noted that doctors were mistaken about the drug's potency. "We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone is weaker than morphine," he wrote. "I do not plan to do anything about that.”
  • “I agree with you,” Sackler replied.

A filing from Massachusetts' attorney general said the Sackler family knew people were becoming dependent on OxyContin, but had a plan in place to shift the blame onto those addicted patients.

Related: Former FDA commissioner David Kessler told "60 Minutes" that the agency shouldn't have allowed opioids to be marketed for long-term use.

  • "We don't know whether the drugs are safe and effective for chronic use," Kessler says. "The rigorous kind of scientific research the agency should be relying on is not there."
  • The interview airs Sunday.

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

Go deeper

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.