Oxy-outrage

By The West Virginia Record | May 18, 2007

Lawyers, publicity-craving politicians (like our own state attorney general) plus drug addicts who, for their reckless and criminal behavior, now have a handy excuse.

Lawyers, publicity-craving politicians (like our own state attorney general) plus drug addicts who, for their reckless and criminal behavior, now have a handy excuse.

They're the undisputed winners in the running legal war over the pain killer OxyContin.

The losers include the estimated 30 million Americans suffering from acute or chronic pain -- the ones who believe OxyContin is a godsend -- as well as the rest of us. That's lest we ever get sick and want or need the breakthrough innovation of drug makers like its inventor, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma.

To be sure, thanks to travesties of personal responsibility like this one, there will be less of it to go around.

After hundreds of civil lawsuits and a steady stream of jabs by demagoguing state officials -- they've routinely blamed the company when strung-out drug addicts rob pharmacies so they can steal OxyContin pills -- Purdue Pharma has cried uncle. Way ahead on points but way behind on legal fees, it finally decided to forfeit its decade-long wrestling match with sharks like Darrell McGraw so as to make them all go away.

Last week, the company succumbed to the horde of bullying state and federal prosecutors, agreeing to pay its critics another $634.5 million and to "admit" that it was "mislabeling" OxyContin.

We don't fault company executives for doing whatever it took to put this behind them and get back to business. But given the facts of the matter, it's hard to view their confession as anything but coerced.

Consider the substance of the this "crime." OxyContin's explicit directions called for swallowing a single pill, so its active agents would be digested slowly, over 12 hours. That's exactly how it was marketed to doctors, patients and the like. The "mislabeling" took place because Purdue Pharma failed to adequately warn junkies of the heroin-like high they would receive if they disregarded those directions, crushing the pill and snorting it instead.

Get that? Our self-proclaimed protectors just strung up a maker of life-saving drugs for not doing enough to warn criminals -- those intent on forging OxyContin prescriptions or looting CVS -- of the perils of misusing its product.

What's next? A class action against America's airplane glue makers?

That Purdue Pharma is getting the blame for others' proactive, illegal use of its legal drug is an outrage. It's a crying shame that our state leaders played a central role in propagating such a grave injustice. The precedent is set; we should all be wary.

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