In letters to Justice Dept., FDA and FTC, lawmaker points to allegations that the OxyContin manufacturer misrepresented longevity of drug’s pain-relieving properties, potentially leading to greater risk of addiction
Washington (May 27, 2016) – As the prescription drug and heroin epidemic continues unabated across the country, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today called on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations that Purdue Pharma made false claims about the longevity of OxyContin’s pain-relieving properties. A recent Los Angeles Times report reveals that Purdue may have marketed the opioid painkiller OxyContin for twelve-hour pain relief, knowing that it wears off much sooner and exposing patients to an increased risk of dependency and addiction. In 2007, Purdue Frederick pled guilty to misleading federal regulators and the public when they illegally marketed and promoted OxyContin with claims that it was less addictive and less subject to abuse and diversion. Purdue agreed to pay more than $600 million in civil fines, penalties and forfeitures. In his letter, Senator Markey also calls on the Justice Department to take legal action if its investigation finds allegations relating to its claims on longevity have continued to cause harm. Senator Markey also sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking the agencies to investigate these claims of false and deceptive practices and to take immediate action to warn prescribers and patients about the dangers of these longevity claims. Drug overdoses, fueled by prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin, are now the leading cause of death in the United States, resulting in more than 30,000 deaths nationwide in 2014. In 2015, Massachusetts suffered more than 1,300 opioid overdose deaths.
“OxyContin’s leading role in this epidemic is well-established, caused in large part by Purdue’s aggressive – and illegal – marketing efforts,” writes Senator Markey in the letter to the Department of Justice. “If Purdue’s wrongdoing has continued and resulted in further damage to the United States, the Department of Justice should seek additional compensation.”
Senator Markey has been a Congressional leader on combatting the opioid epidemic. He has introduced several pieces of legislation to fund and expand opioid addiction prevention and treatment programs, as well as legislation mandating education on safe prescribing for any prescriber of opioid medication. He succeeded in getting the FDA to agree to his request to reassess the way it considers the risks of addiction and misuse when it evaluates the safety of new opioids.