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The company that makes the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and three current and former executives of Purdue Pharma, the company that markets OxyContin pled guilty in Federal Court to criminal charges that they misled doctors, federal regulators and patients as to the addictive nature as to the prescription drug, OxyContin. OxyContin is a powerful, long-acting narcotic that provides relief of severe pain for periods up to 12 hours.

When OxyContin was first released on the market, its manufacturer claimed that its time-release formulation would pose a lower threat of abuse and addiction than other painkillers including Percocet or Vicodin. This claim became part of an aggressive marketing campaign to get doctors like general family practitioners with little training in pain management and/or addiction behavior to begin prescribing the drug.

The scheme worked. By 1996, annual sales of OxyContin had reached $1,000,000,000.00. Unfortunately with increasing sales came evidence of increasing addiction and overdoses.

Federal officials said that internal Purdue Pharma documents show that company officials recognized even before the drug was marketed that they would face stiff resistance from doctors who were concerned about the potential of a high-powered narcotic like OxyContin to be abused by patients or cause addiction.

As a result, company officials developed a fraudulent marketing campaign designed to promote OxyContin as a time-released drug that was less prone to such problems. The crucial ingredient in OxyContin is oxycodone, a narcotic that has been used for many years. But unlike other medications like Percocet that contain oxycodone along with other ingredients, OxyContin is pure oxycodone, with a large amount in each tablet because of the time-release design.

The drug has proven to be valuable in treating serious, long-lasting pain.

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