Did OxyContin Maker Fail to Heed Signs of Drug’s Growing Abuse?

ABC News

OxyContin, a powerful painkiller introduced on the market seven years ago, has proven a wonder drug for many sufferers of persistent pain.

But now, in the wake of conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh’s announcement that he’s “addicted” to prescription pain medications – among them, OxyContin, according to law enforcement officials – much of the nation is aware that the drug can take powerful hold of people who misuse it.

The front-page coverage of Limbaugh’s addiction comes as questions are already being raised in Congress about the company that makes OxyContin, Purdue Pharma Co. of Stamford, Conn.

“My concerns,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., “are they have pushed the envelope to the point that a lot of innocent people have just been devastated by this drug.”

New York Times reporter Barry Meier says in his upcoming book Pain Killer that Purdue Pharma failed early on to fully heed warnings its pain killer was becoming widely abused.

But when Congress began investigating, executives of Purdue Pharma testified under oath before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary that they did not learn that OxyContin was being widely abused until four years after it was introduced.

A company official said, “In February 2000 was the first time we became aware that something different was going on.”

Now that testimony is being called into questions by committee Chairman Wolf. “The company must have known,” Wolf says, “I mean they know how powerful a drug this can be, both for good and for evil. And so clearly the company had to know.”

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