Image courtesy of www.forbes.com
I don’t know about you, but Forbes magazine’s annual richest U.S families list is always an interesting read. Here I am quite content and happy being a “thousandaire” and I get to read about people and families who are able to add a few more zeros to the end of their fortune.
I couldn’t even imagine being that obscenely wealthy; well, maybe I could, but what I am imagining wouldn’t be very flattering.
At any rate, this year’s list are full of the usual names: Walton, Koch, Hearst, Dupont. This year, however, there is a new name on that list: Sackler.
The Sackler family, with an estimated net worth of $14 billion, largely flew under the radar and had supplanted storied families such as the Rockefellers, Mellons and Busches.
How did the Sackler family amass such a fortune? By making the producing arguably the most addictive and controversial drug of this century — OxyContin.
Who is the Sackler Family?
The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma as well as several other large drug companies that sell to Asia, Latin America, Europe and Canada. Since introducing the time-released version of oxycodone back in 1995, it has generated sales of approximately $35 billion and the company generates about $3 billion annually in profits – mostly from the sales of OxyContin.
Purdue Pharma was founded in 1952 by brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler – all whom were practicing psychiatrists. Initially, they sold products such as laxatives and earwax removers and had achieved moderate success. The company had stayed under the radar until the early 1990’s when they began to dabble in pain medications.
They had taken the painkiller oxycodone and added a time-release mechanism with the idea that it would discourage abuse and misuse. OxyContin was introduced in 1995 and was initially marketed towards cancer patients. After its launch, doctors had started prescribing the drug for a variety of pain management situations and by 2003 annual sales of the drug hit $1.5 billion.
The OxyContin Controversy
While the drug was created and touted as being abuse resistant, those who became addicted to the drug quickly realized they could simply crush the pills and thus break apart the time-release mechanism. When addiction rates and deaths results from the misuse of OxyContin began to dramatically surge, Purdue Pharma found themselves in trouble with the government.
According to a recent article published in Forbes magazine, the company paid $670 million in fines after pleading guilty to false advertising. While the company has reformulated OxyContin, Purdue Pharma is still facing lawsuits stemming from the drug’s previous formulation. Currently, a civil lawsuit by the state of Kentucky could reportedly yield damages in excess of $1 billion.
The Continuing Prescription Painkiller Problem
The abuse of OxyContin and other prescription painkillers has remained a major concern here in the United States and worldwide. According to information provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide with an estimated 2.1 million people in the United States suffering from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012.
Additionally, it is estimated that approximately 52 million people over the age of 12 have used prescription drugs non-medically at least once in their lifetime with 6.1 million people abusing prescription medications in the past month. With all of this information, the big question is whether the Sackler family is putting profits over people’s health and well-being.
While there is no doubt that OxyContin and other prescription painkillers are effective pain management tools when used in the short-term and carefully prescribed and monitored by medical staff, the continuing abuse of these drugs raises big questions in regards to finding safer pain management alternatives.
Prescription painkiller addiction continues to be a major concern in our country and throughout the world. If you or a loved one is struggling with painkiller addiction, it is important to find the resources and help you need to combat painkiller addiction.
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