From Luncheons to Lap Dances: Trials of Top Painkiller Pushers Reveal Decades of Corruption
“Realize that everything connects to everything else” Shakespeare told us. As deep as it sounds, ol’ Billy was really just talking about karma.
Another more recently deceased wordsmith by the name of Kurt Cobain breaks it down even more simply, “If you're really a mean person you're going to come back as a fly and eat poop.”
In a just world, these quotes would be tatted backwards on the foreheads of every person responsible for leading our country into the devastating opioid crisis that is ravaging communities from coast to coast, so that they would be forced to read them every time they dared look in the mirror.
In a perfectly just world, those mirrors would be in prison cells.
In reality, however, companies like Purdue Pharma, Insys, and others have been reaping massive revenues from highly addictive and deadly products like OxyContin and Fentanyl for well over a decade with little or no repercussions . . . until now, perhaps.
By pouring millions of dollars into empty suit politicians, Big Pharma has bought a seemingly impervious shield so strong that even statistics such as the fact that Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than they are from an automobile accident cannot get through to our lawmakers.
But now, however, the attacks have started coming from the inside, and it appears that the shield may be slipping just enough for the sword of justice to do its thing.
In a report released late last year by the CDC, they revealed that drug overdose deaths between 2011 and 2016 jumped by 54%, with Fentanyl rising from the 10th most deadly drug in 2011 to the top spot in 2016.
Oxycodone, on the other hand, actually fell during that same period from causing 13.5% of overdose deaths in 2011 to 9.7% in 2016. Manufacturers like Purdue Pharma quickly point to this statistic these days to somehow pretend that killing a few thousand less people each year deserves a pat on the back instead of handcuffs all around.
The reality is, the company pled guilty to a felony charge of “misbranding” its deadly product and back in 2007 was forced to fork over around $630 million in fines to the U.S. Department of Justice. Originally, felony charges were brought against four Purdue executives which could have sent them all to prison.
The half-billion dollar settlement to the feds erased that threat.
Money in the front door, money in the back door for Uncle Sam.
During that investigation, prosecutors discovered that the heads of Purdue Pharma knew about the addictive side effects of the drug as far back as the mid-1990’s. What we are learning now, from whistleblowers on the inside, is that addiction was always seen as a selling point that needed a good marketing plan, not as a threat to society that needed a solution.
At the end of June in 2018, Purdue Pharma laid off its entire sales staff.
Whatever their motive was, it attracted a spotlight to the controversial company and that’s when the leaks began.
Former sales reps told stories of being trained to deceive clients and encourage as many sales as possible. That might sound like Capitalism 101 to you, but when you’re dealing a deadly drug a bit more discretion would be diligent.
After getting their $600 million haircut for making claims that OxyContin “did not cause a 'buzz' or euphoria... and could be used to 'weed out' addicts”, disgruntled employees now tell of a new tactic to push the product – “pseudoaddiction”
Members of the Purdue Pharma sales team are stating that they were trained to “educate” doctors and clients that while a patient may look or seem addicted to opiates, they are actually suffering from more pain so you know the answer, doc – MORE PILLS!
Purdue Pharma is owned by eight members of the influential Sackler family. When faced with overwhelming evidence of the death and destruction caused by the product rooted in his family’s wealth, then-President Richard Sackler wrote in a confidential email, "we have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem."
Now “Dick Sack” as his college buddies probably called him, and seven of his Sackler family members are being sued by the Attorney General of Massachusetts, the 36th such state (along with hundreds of cities and counties across the country) to file suit against Purdue Pharma and the people behind it.
In response to the lawsuit in Massachusetts, Purdue’s legal team fired back in a statement reading:
In a rush to vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than 2 percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis, the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl, which are the leading cause of overdose deaths in Massachusetts.
Did they just say “…rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis…” that they created?
They go on to cite their various approvals and protections from the federal government, who their lobbyists purchased for pennies on the painkiller dollar years ago.
What really pisses us off if when they boast about Schedule II status on the Controlled Substances Act, touting the government’s claim that these drugs are “safe and effective for their intended use”
Meanwhile, the cannabis plant – responsible for exactly ZERO overdose deaths between 2011 BC and 2019 AD remains a Schedule I drug if it contains more than .3% THC.
Private practice doctors are losing their licenses in parts of this country for trying medical marijuana for themselves and VA docs can’t even approach the subject with our nation’s veterans! But we digress . . .
Purdue says they have spent the past decade engineering the first “FDA-approved opioid with abuse deterrent properties”. We certainly applaud that effort. The fact remains that they wrote the playbook for fraud and corruption in their industry and now their destructive influence has become as dangerous an epidemic as these immoral products.
One such company that has been running the same offense is Insys, makers of Subsys, the newest Fentanyl-based FDA-approved prescription painkiller decimating our population.
On Monday in Boston the first criminal trial of an executive tied to the marketing and sale of Fentanyl began. Right out of the gates, we were treated to the juicy reports that Insys execs were lining the pockets of doctors nationwide to encourage them to push their addictive and potentially deadly Fentanyl-laced oral spray to patients whether they needed it or not.
Subsys was granted FDA approval as a supplemental medication for cancer patients dealing with chemo-associated pain, but is commonly pushed by toady doctors for a myriad of questionable “qualifying conditions”.
Oh, it gets juicier . . .
The trial already revealed that the Regional Sales Director at Insys Therapeutics Inc., a former stripper because of course she was, would bribe pill-mill doctors with actual lapdances at corporate events.
The ex-stripper was allegedly wooing a client by “sitting on his lap, kind of bouncing around. He had his hands sort of inappropriately all over her chest.”
Purdue Pharma clients are like, “Wait, all we got were outrageous speaking fees and kickbacks!”
In all, seven Insys execs including their billionaire founder John Kapoor have been hit with charges ranging from racketeering, to mail fraud, to wire fraud conspiracy.
What, no murder?
Stats say that well over 300,000 people died of drug overdose between 2011 and 2016.
Fentanyl is said to be responsible for 28.8% of those.
Don’t worry, we’ll do the math – that’s roughly 87,000 deaths.
Taking another page from the Purdue Playbook, Insys has attacked its accusers and tried to pay off the Justice Department last fall with a promise to pay $150 million*
*no reports on how many handjobs were offered
These highly entitled execs are right about one thing: Even if both massive companies were wiped out, the opioid problem would not be solved overnight . . . but goddamn, the next soulless rich asshole who considers a similar path may think twice, and that’s a good start. Let them eat poop.