Purdue Gave Healthcare Software Firm Illegal Kickback To Increase Oxycontin Sales
Court documents show that healthcare software firm Practice Fusion received an illegal $1 million kickback from “an unnamed opioid maker” in exchange for helping the opioid maker sell opioid medications. Reuters recently reported that Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma is that opioid maker. NPR also reported that Purdue is said opioid maker.
Practice Fusion’s software helped doctors electronically access patient records. The software’s pop-up menus asked about patients’ pain levels and included drop-down menus which listed options for treatment. Opioid pain pills and referrals to pain specialists were listed as options in these drop-down menus. These options were apparently placed in the software in exchange for the $1 million kickback from Purdue. Practice Fusion agreed to pay a $145 million fine to the Justice Department for the illegal kickback.
Oxycontin Lawsuits Continue To Grow
Purdue is currently facing over 2,000 lawsuits. The lawsuits claim Purdue engaged in illegal marketing which intentionally and knowingly understated Oxycontin’s ability to create addiction in patients. A June 30, 2020 deadline was recently set by a federal judge for filing Oxycontin claims against Purdue.
Court documents show that Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the family which controls and founded Purdue, and ex-Purdue CEO Michael Friedman felt that correcting doctors’ false impressions that Oxycontin was weaker than morphine would be bad for Oxycontin sales.
“It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine… We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that,” Friedman wrote to Sackler in an email.
“I agree with you,” Sackler responded.
Purdue Pharma Pleaded Guilty
Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court to understating Oxycontin’s addiction risk ten years later. The plea included an admission they failed to tell doctors it was stronger than morphine.
The U.S. Department of Justice document detailing the plea says Purdue falsely promoted and marketed Oxycontin as less subject to diversion and abuse, less addictive and less likely to cause withdrawal and tolerance than other medications, despite knowing Oxycontin had an abuse potential similar to morphine’s and was at least as addictive as other pain medications.
Court documents also show that Sackler sought to blame opioid addicts for their own addictions.
“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Sackler wrote. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”