Skip to content

SHAHEEN to FDA: What Can Be Done to Stop Drug Companies Culpable in Opioid Crisis from Creating Permanent Patients?

**Shaheen’s letter calls out “perverse incentives” after court documents reveal that Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, considered substance use disorder treatment “an attractive market”** 

**SHAHEEN: “Pharmaceutical companies must never be financially incentivized to market both the cause and the treatment of addiction”**

(Washington, DC)—U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Scott Gottlieb yesterday requesting information on how his agency is preventing pharmaceutical companies that are culpable in creating the opioid crisis from turning individuals who suffer from substance use disorders into permanent patients in order to maximize profits. Senator Shaheen’s letter follows the release of court documents that show that the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which manufactures the addictive painkiller OxyContin, was considering trying to further profit off of the opioid crisis by introducing products into the treatment market, creating what Shaheen calls “perverse incentives.” In the lawsuit, the State of Massachusetts claims that Purdue Pharma covered up the addictive risks of OxyContin and aggressively pushed the drug onto the market, which included targeting “high-prescribing” doctors.

“I find it deeply disturbing that Purdue Pharma saw the victims of the opioid epidemic as a growth market, rather than individuals who desperately need healing,” said Shaheen. “Pharmaceutical companies should never be financially incentivized to market both the cause and the treatment of addiction.”

Senator Shaheen’s letter reads in part, “Purdue Pharma envisioned a cynical prescription drug sales strategy under which a patient begins with pain treatment via the company’s prescription opioids, falls into opioid addiction and then receives opioid addiction treatment that utilizes a related drug in the company’s portfolio. In developing this plan, the Purdue Pharma staff described opioid addiction treatment as “an attractive market” and even went so far as to calculate the compound annual growth of opioid addiction to assess the potential market for reaping additional profits off of patients who were addicted to opioids.”

Her letter goes on to ask Commissioner Gottlieb to provide information on how many pharmaceutical companies that produce opioid painkillers are pursuing FDA approval for opioid addiction treatment, and what the FDA is doing to protect the public.

Shaheen’s letter can be read in its entirety here.