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The marketing of OxyContin®: A cautionary tale

David S Egilman, Gregory B. Collins, Julie Falender, Naomie Shembo, Ciara Keegan, Sunil Tohan

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2019.043


This paper provides a review of Purdue Pharma, LP’s development and marketing of the long-acting oral narcotic OxyContin®. Within five years of the drug’s launch, OxyContin® became the number-one prescribed Schedule II narcotic in the United States. This commercial success was in part the result of a marketing campaign that promoted questionably “distinctive” benefits and minimised the very real dangers of OxyContin®, which include abuse, addiction, overdose, and death. The marketing was based on scientifically invalid or unproven claims of safety and efficacy, inappropriate, off-label marketing, and inadequate warnings. When the FDA belatedly asked for changes to some of the marketing language, Purdue exploited these changes to further marketing objectives and misled healthcare practitioners. This case highlights questions of industry and governmental/regulatory accountability and responsibility for the production, marketing and sale of pharmaceutical products that increase risk while driving enhanced profits.

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