11/14/2017

OxyContin: Another Story Of Government Failure

Melissa MacKenzie, American Spectator

The New Yorker’s  Patrick Radden Keefe tries to blame a drug company for the current opiate epidemic. His piece nicely illustrates the government’s malfeasance, but Keefe puts the blame elsewhere. Tucked in the middle of the report, though, is this paragraph:

Richard Sackler worked tirelessly to make OxyContin a blockbuster, telling colleagues how devoted he was to the drug’s success. The F.D.A. approved OxyContin in 1995, for use in treating moderate to severe pain. Purdue had conducted no clinical studies on how addictive or prone to abuse the drug might be. But the F.D.A., in an unusual step, approved a package insert for OxyContin which announced that the drug was safer than rival painkillers, because the patented delayed-absorption mechanism “is believed to reduce the abuse liability.” David Kessler, who ran the F.D.A. at the time, told me that he was “not involved in the approval.” The F.D.A. examiner who oversaw the process, Dr. Curtis Wright, left the agency shortly afterward. Within two years, he had taken a job at Purdue.

So, the Food and Drug Administration, tasked with proving the safety and efficacy of medication, was either bought off by the drug company or failed in their due diligence.

The FDA’s purpose is to protect consumers and yet Radden portrays the FDA as the victim of the company.

The doctors who prescribed these powerful painkillers were victims, too.

The drug company, which produced an extremely powerful pain medication, deserves blame for doing its job–making and marketing a useful drug. It is useful in some rare cases. It is just extraordinarily powerful.

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