Origins of the Opioid Epidemic: OxyContin Abuse in the US

Origins of the Opioid Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew of OxyContin Abuse in 1996 But Covered It Up
STORY JUNE 01, 2018

An explosive New York Times report has revealed that manufacturers of the drug OxyContin knew it was highly addictive as early as 1996, the first year after the drug hit the market.

The Times published a confidential Justice Department report this week showing that Purdue Pharma executives were told OxyContin was being crushed and snorted for its powerful narcotic, but still promoted it as less addictive than other opioid painkillers.

This report is especially damning because Purdue executives have testified before Congress that they were unaware of the drug’s growing abuse until years after it was on the market. Today, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. While President Trump claimed Tuesday that numbers relating to opioid addiction are “way down,” the latest statistics show there was an increase of opioid-related deaths and overdoses during Trump’s first year in office.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose deaths involving opioids rose to about 46,000 for the 12-month period that ended October 2017, up about 15 percent from October 2016.

The epidemic has been so widespread that life expectancy is falling in the United States for the first time in 50 years. We speak with Barry Meier, the reporter who broke this story for the Times, headlined “Origins of an Epidemic: Purdue Pharma Knew Its Opioids Were Widely Abused.” Meier was a reporter at The New York Times for nearly three decades and was the first journalist to shed a national spotlight on the abuse of OxyContin.

His book “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic” was published this week in an updated and expanded edition.

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