Billionaire Drug Executive Who Helped Create Opioid Crisis To Sell Patented Treatment

Henrietta Strickland
September 9, 2018

Purdue Pharma is the subject of many lawsuits for allegedly fueling the opioid epidemic.

Purdue Pharma, separately, is also taking steps to address opioid addiction, contributing $3.4 million to a company working on a low-priced naloxone nasal spray (a cheaper opioid overdose antidote).

Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, was one of the six inventors awarded a patent for a treatment for opioid-use disorder.

The drug, a reformulation of buprenorphine, is essentially just a milder opioid that can blunt the symptoms of withdrawal while a person is being weaned off - competing variants of which are already generating almost $900 million in USA sales.

Dr Sackler's patent was granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office in January.

Purdue has denied the allegations in the lawsuits, which also target a range of other opioid painkiller manufacturers and distributors.

The patent, first reported by The Financial Times, is for a new and faster-acting form of buprenorphine.

The patent relates to a drug which is a reformulation of buprenorphine, a milder opioid that can boring the symptoms of withdrawal from the stronger narcotic.

Sackler was deposed as part of a lawsuit that was settled in 2015, regarding the company's marketing of the highly addictive OcyContin, and what the company knew about its addictive properties during that time.

It's definitely a positive that treatments are being made readily available but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth that the company largely responsible for the crisis is now set to profit off the misery they have caused for millions of opioid addicts and their families. The Sackler family, which controls Purdue, was personally named in a lawsuit in June in which the MA attorney general accused them of a "deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids".

A Purdue spokesman declined to answer questions about the patent, calling the FT report "a story built on speculation".

The description in the patent warns that people who are addicted to drugs sometimes commit crimes to feed their habit, which is why it says improved forms of medication-assisted treatment are needed.

The CDC doesn't yet have data on the number of deaths from opioid overdose for 2017, but the government agency reported that 2016 recorded 42,000 deaths from the national epidemic, which is more opioid overdose deaths than any other year on record.

Earlier this week, the $13 billion dollar company donated $3.4 million to boost access to an antidote for people who have overdosed on opioids.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

Discuss This Article

FOLLOW OUR NEWSPAPER