COMMENTS: Drug Pushers Dodge the Big House

OxyContin, the potent prescription painkiller, was chosen for ABC's lead when its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, was fined $634m for deliberate deceit. Brian Ross reported that the drug was originally "seen as a godsend for people with serious pain." Yet it was marketed by Purdue between 1996 and 2001 without mention of known risks of addiction and serious withdrawal symptoms. The upshot was that thousands of patients became addicted including celebrity OxyContin junkies Jack Osbourne, of the rock-n-roll reality TV Osbournes, and radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh.

The drug is still being legally prescribed. The Food & Drug Administration said "it can still be safe if used properly," according to NBC's Pete Williams. CBS' Bob Orr reported that 6m legal patients use OxyContin annually, amounting to $1bn in sales. Some 400 have died from an overdose. A black market developed for recreational use of the pill in snortable powdered form, with $2 pills worth $25 each, Orr added. While the corporation is paying the fine, its executives face no prison time. ABC's Ross told us that CEO Michael Friedman and two others pled guilty to misdemeanors.


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