ABINGDON, Va. - Purdue Pharma L.P., the maker of OxyContin, and three of its executives were ordered Friday to pay a $634.5 million fine for misleading the public about the painkiller’s risk of addiction.
U.S. District Judge James Jones levied the fine on Purdue, its top lawyer and former president and former chief medical officer after a hearing that lasted about three-and-a-half hours. The hearing included statements by numerous people who said their lives were changed forever by addiction to OxyContin, a trade name for a long-acting form of the painkiller oxycodone.
Designed to be swallowed whole and digested over 12 hours, the pills can produce a heroin-like high if crushed and then swallowed, snorted or injected.
Note to the plaintiffs' bar: If smoking cigarettes is viewed by most juries as constituting assumption of risk, I shudder to contemplate crushing and snorting of oxycontin pills.
Which isn't to say this fine was improper or undeserved.
But there is real pain out there (as I know all too well), and a need for effective, safe medications (and attentive, compassionate physicians) to treat it. Our national paranoia about drug use can and does go overboard, too often resulting in untreated or undertreated real pain.