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Purdue Pharma Agrees to Pay $600 Million Fine for Misbranding Oxycontin

US-based Purdue Pharma, makers of painkiller OxyContin agreed to pay $600 million in fines and other payments to resolve the criminal charge of misbranding the product , one of the largest amounts ever paid by a drug company in such a case.

Three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty Thursday to criminal charges that it had misled doctors and patients when it claimed the drug was less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics.

The three executives, including its president and its top lawyer, also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of misbranding the drug. Together, they agreed to pay $34.5 million in fines.

The hearing included statements by numerous people who said their lives were changed forever by the addiction potential of OxyContin, a trade name for a long-acting form of the painkiller oxycodone.

OxyContin is a powerful, long-acting narcotic that provides relief of serious pain for up to 12 hours.

Initially, Purdue Pharma contended that OxyContin, because of its time-release formulation, posed a lower threat of abuse and addiction to patients than traditional, faster-acting painkillers like Percocet or Vicodin.

That claim became the linchpin of an aggressive marketing campaign that helped the company sell over $1 billion worth of OxyContin a year.

Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Connecticut, heavily promoted OxyContin to doctors like general practitioners, who often had little training in treating serious pain or in recognizing signs of drug abuse.

But experienced drug abusers and novices, including teenagers, soon discovered that chewing an OxyContin tablet or crushing one and then snorting the powder, or injecting it with a needle produced a high as powerful as heroin.

OxyContin is a pure, high-strength version of a long-used narcotic, oxycodone. By 2000, parts of the United States, particularly rural areas, began to see soaring ra
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