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Three Things Revealed by Tennessee's Lawsuit against Oxycontin-Maker Purdue Pharma

A lawsuit filed on behalf of Tennessee taxpayers against Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma in May reveals company records that lay bare how a giant of Big Pharma intentionally fueled the opioid epidemicto snare profits.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III filed in Knox County Circuit Court in May a lawsuit against the drug-maker under seal. Purdue fought to keep it that way – until attorney Rick Hollow intervened on behalf of the News Sentinel and the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. The lawsuit was made public Thursday.

It contains records from inside Purdue, including “call notes” from sales representatives and an interview with a retiree of the drug maker. Here are three key discoveries Slatery’s office made when it required Purdue to turn over those records as part of a prior lawsuit settlement:

1. Pill pushing force

Purdue’s own records show company founders and executives pressed its sales team to push Tennessee doctors to prescribe deadly dosages of Oxycontin on a long-term basis while lying to doctors about the dangers.

Purdue’s sales force made over 100 calls to Tennessee doctors every day for years and even after Purdue promised the state it would stop pushing the highly addictive and dangerous drug.

2. False narratives, advocacy groups

Purdue leaders lied to the medical community, politicians and the public not only about the dangers of Oxycontin but created a false narrative – that long-term use of opioids didn’t create addicts but instead caused “pseudo addictive” symptoms.

3. Advocating for addiction

The groups sought to convince the public they had a right to opioids. Tennessee’s legislature was pushed by one of those advocacy groups to pass a law requiring doctors to prescribe opioids if a patient insisted.

Purdue also used fake advocacy literature, such as pamphlets, videos and social media, to convince the public that long-term use of opioids led to a higher “quality of life.”

The firm sent doctors fake literature with similar claims but added material on how Oxycontin – Purdue’s financial rainmaker – was better for patients than other opioids on the market.

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