By JESSICA MCBRIDE
Special to The Post
Physicians were plied with plush toys,
fishing hats, and CDs with songs like "Get in
the Swing with OxyContin."
They were flown to Sun Belt resorts for
national pain management and speaker con-
ferences, the tab picked up by Purdue
Pharma, the Connecticut company that had
just introduced a powerful new opioid pill on
the market named OxyContin.
In the five years after the drug's launch in
1995, Purdue held 40 conferences and paid
for 5,000 physicians, pharmacists and nurses
to go, according to a journal article by physi-
cian Art Van Zee. The message: Forget fears
about prescribing opioids to a more general
pain population. This isn't heroin. This pill
has a unique time-release mechanism that
means it's not very addictive at all.
OxyContin sales grew from $48 million to
$1.1 billion in those years.
Pharmaceutical companies — not just
Purdue — spend billions each year on pro-
motion (OxyContin is far from the only opi-
oid on the market — there are also Vicodin,
methadone, and fentanyl, for starters.) But
Purdue took marketing to new levels.
The problem is, it wasn't all true.
"It was devious. It was ruthless. It was
just a big lie," says Peter Jackson, whose
daughter, Emily, 18, died after ingesting
OxyContin prescribed for an uncle who had
passed away of cancer. He now runs a
national advocacy group against prescrip-
"They were systematically lying to doc-
tors for many years, coming up with bogus
graphs and all kinds of things," said
Jackson. "The track record of sales for
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Fishing hats and CDs:
How Big Pharma
marketed a new drug
MILWAUKEE COUNTY'S WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
SEPTEMBER 26, 2014
Analgesic qualities were focus,
not possible addiction
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