Purdue Pharma (and Execs) Guilty in OxyContin Case
From today’s New York Times: Narcotic Maker Guilty of Deceit Over Marketing
The company that makes the painkiller OxyContin and three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court here 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 company, Purdue Pharma, 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.
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.
Note that the kind of deception that was a the centre of this case is the kind that jeopardizes the efficiency of (i.e., roughly, the social benefit to be had from) free markets. One has to wonder how much flack pharmaceutical companies would take with regard to, say, their pricing strategies, if they managed to keep their noses clean more generally and actually stuck to the rules that are supposed to define a free and competitive market. (For a more complete exploration of that type of question, I again recommend to you Joseph Heath’s paper “Business Ethics Without Stakeholders,” Business Ethics Quarterly, 2006, Vol 16 Iss 3.)
Update, November 2008:
For more recent developments on this story, see:
Bereaved Mom Sings Oxycontin Blues on Wikipedia