How a Lie Winds Up in a Lawsuit
The Los Angeles Times published an incorrect article that included false conclusions about the 12-hour effectiveness of OxyContin. As a result, those allegations became part of the false narrative.
May 5, 2016: LA Times falsely claims OxyContin does not provide 12-hour relief:
“… OxyContin’s stunning success masked a fundamental problem: The drug wears off hours early in many people, a Los Angeles Times investigation found… and when it doesn’t last, patients can experience excruciating symptoms of withdrawal…”
However, FDA consistently supports safety and efficacy of 12-hour dosing:
- 1995 FDA approved label: “OxyContin tablets are designed to provide controlled delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours.”
- 2001 FDA approved label: “The controlled-release nature of the formulation allows OxyContin to be effectively administered every 12 hours.”
- 2008 FDA reply to citizen petition regarding 12-hour dosing: “The labeling for OxyContin recommends q12h dosing because the clinical trials used to support approval used that dosing paradigm… consistent with a 12-hour dosing interval.”
- “Based on our own analysis, we have found that dosing OxyContin at higher frequencies than q12h is not shown to be associated with an increased proportion of adverse events.”
- The Los Angeles Times story mentions that the petition was filed but ignores and omits that the petition was rejected.
- 2010 FDA approved label: “OxyContin is designed to provide delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours.”
- 2018 FDA approved label: “OxyContin is designed to provide delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours.”
- Current FDA approved label: “OxyContin is designed to provide delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours.”
Over Next Three Years: False Claim Republished in at Least 19 Different Publications
May 6, 2019: False claim in State of Connecticut Lawsuit
Paragraph 73: “… Purdue’s ER/LA opioids were falsely marketed as 12-hour relief. In truth, the level of pain relief diminishes before 12 hours – a phenomenon known as end of dose failure. End of dose failure is a dangerous condition precipitating withdrawal symptoms.”
False Allegations Misquoting Dr. Richard Sackler’s Emails
“Richard Sackler instructed Purdue’s executives that OxyContin tablets provide more than merely ‘therapeutic’ value and instead ‘enhance personal performance,’ like Viagra.”
This is false. The cited underlying 1998 email makes clear that Dr. Richard Sackler was not instructing executives about anything or commenting on how OxyContin could be used. In fact, Dr. Sackler was challenging executives to think about new products that would enhance the quality of life, such as a memory enhancing drug.
“… a federal prosecutor reported 59 deaths from OxyContin in a single state. The Sacklers knew that the reports underestimated the destruction. Richard Sackler wrote to Purdue executives: “This is not too bad. It could have been far worse.”
This is false. Dr. Richard Sackler’s email was not responding to a report of deaths but to the tone of a very long, surprisingly balanced 2001 New York Times article titled “Cancer Painkillers are Being Abused.” The article said nothing about deaths until midway through the article, which was directly followed by a quote from a Purdue physician disputing the relevant number—thus, making the article balanced.
“When Time magazine published an article about OxyContin deaths in New England, Purdue employees told Richard Sackler they were concerned. Richard responded with a message to his staff. He wrote that Time’s coverage of people who lost their lives to OxyContin was not ‘balanced,’ and the deaths were the fault of ‘the drug addicts,’ instead of Purdue.”
This is false. Dr. Richard Sackler’s message made no reference to death, as shown in the cited documents, either in words or in substance.
Court Filings by “Non-Consenting” States Continue to Include Falsehoods
“OxyContin became the best-selling opioid in the nation. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of heroin abusers started down the path of addiction and abuse through the use of prescription opioids.”
OxyContin was never more than 4% of the total opioid prescription market, quite far from being the “best-selling” medicine.
In fact, the study was about abuse, not simply legitimate opioid use with a prescription (as the court filing misleadingly suggests).