Following Purdue Pharma and the Oxycontin Trail

Back in December NPR had an interesting story on Purdue pharmaceuticals, describing how e-mails had been discovered among the family owners that clearly indicated their purposeful actions despite having been made aware of the impact of opioids on addiction through a prior large corporate fine. Not all come to addiction in the same way, but we could largely say that heroin has been made more available as the opioid crisis has unfolded.

Now a book by Patrick Radden Keefe exposes how the Sackler family, owners of Purdue, built an estimated $14 billion as their company flooded the market with OxyContin, a painkiller they knew to be addictive. The book, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, published by Doubleday, does not provide breaking news, but describes how lawsuits against the company forced the release of damning internal documents.

There’s a certain social justice in telling this story. It highlights that since 1999, opioids have killed about 500,000 Americans and made addicts of millions of others. The book also describes how Purdue filed for bankruptcy in 2019, because by then, Keefe writes, the family had pulled out its money. Addicts had already long been using heroin and fentanyl when their access to Oxy ran dry.

My hope is that my own story, told in Star Boy, will help address stigma and how addictions impact all of us—across all demographics.