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Mike Simon
Mike Simon
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OxyContin Maker, Executives Plead Guilty

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On May 10, in Abingdon, Virginia, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin and three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the drug’s risk of addiction. Purdue Pharma, LP, its president, top lawyer, and former chief medical officer will pay $634.5 million in fines for claiming the drug was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications.

OxyContin, or oxycodone, is a time released painkiller designed to be swallowed whole and digested over 12 hours. If crushed and swallowed, snorted, or injected, the pills can produce a heroin-like high. In 2002, the Drug Enforcement Administration said OxyContin caused 146 deaths and contributed to another 318.

The fines will be distributed to state and federal law enforcement agencies, the federal government, federal and state Medicaid programs, a Virginia prescription monitoring program, and the individuals who had sued the company.