When Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin in 1995, the Food and Drug Administration permitted the company to make a unique claim for it: that its long acting formula would reduce its appeal to drug abusers who preferred short-acting opiates such as Percocet and Vicodin.
The exact opposite occurred and OxyContin became the most expensive and the most sought after drug on the black market. The New York Times obtained a copy of a confidential report from the Justice Department that indicates that shortly after the new drug was launched company officials were aware that the drug was being crushed, snorted, stolen from pharmacies and that doctors were being criminally charged for selling it to drug abusers.
A four year investigation found that despite being fully aware that OxyContin was one of the most abused drugs, the drug company failed to warn about its dangers, lied and continued to promote it as a drug less prone to abuse than any other prescription opioids. In 2006 the prosecutors recommended that 3 Purdue Pharma executives be indicted on felony charges. One of the charges was conspiracy to defraud the United States. That meant jail time for the 3 executives. At the time, Georges Bush was the president and Justice Department officials declined the recommendation. Instead, the case was settled in 2007.