OxyContin Maker, Executives Fined Millions For Misleading Public

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

A federal judge on Friday fined the maker of OxyContin and three executives $634.5 million for misleading the public about its risk of addiction.

Purdue Pharma makes OxyContin and other prescription pain medications, now well known for their addictive nature. The problem was not letting the public know soon enough.

Protestors held signs and read obituaries for people dead from drug abuse outside the federal courthouse in Virginia Friday where the sentences came down. Some we talked to say Eastern Kentucky has a reputation as the "painkiller capital of the world" and that's not a good thing. They say OxyContin has ruined lives and no punishment is good enough.

"It's had a terrible impact here," said Probation Supervisor Kassie Smith.

Some Eastern Kentuckians say OxyContin has changed the mountains.

"It's destroying the fabric of our culture here," said Hope in the Mountains Director Renee McCoy.

"We're losing so many young people to OxyContin," Smith said.

"It's just eating away at our families, little bit by little bit," McCoy said.

Both McCoy and Smith see the effects of OxyContin all over the region. McCoy works with addicts in drug treatment centers and Smith deals with the people in the court system. They say the damage is done, lives are ruined, and now they want to see the ones responsible, the drug makers, pay.

"When you have done wrong, you need to admit you have done wrong. There has to be some sort of amend making," McCoy said.

Officials with the drug company Purdue Pharma already pleaded guilty to defrauding the public of OxyContin's addictive nature, but some aren't sure if there is a suitable punishment.

"There's no dollar amount you can put on a life that's been lost," McCoy said.

They do want to see the company pay for more drug treatment centers and drug education programs in Appalachia.

"Well they manufactured the pills and sent them to this area," Smith said.

Which in their eyes, is now a crime.

Several Eastern Kentuckians say if the company Purdue Pharma has to pay millions of dollars, they're ready to fight for most of it to come here to Eastern Kentucky.

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