Health

OxyContin makers secretly ran massive knockoff opioid firm

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The embattled makers of OxyContin — who are facing a New York lawsuit for hoodwinking patients and fueling the opioid crisis — own a second secret firm that churns out a generic version of the highly addictive drug, according to a bombshell report.

Richard Sackler and his billionaire family, which owns the Oxy-making Purdue Pharma, also runs Rhodes Pharma in Rhode Island — one of the biggest producers of generic opioids, which had never before been linked to the family, the Financial Times revealed.

“I feel they misled the public, they misled doctors and they mislead their sales people,” Carol Panara, a former pharmaceutical salesperson at Purdue told the paper.

The Sacklers — whose name graces wings of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim — opened the second firm just four months after Purdue plead guilty to misleading doctors over how easily patients can get hooked on OxyContin in 2007, former employees told the paper.

But not only did the Sacklers fail to scale back their marketing of OxyContin after the plea, they further cashed in on the pill crisis — by launching the second firm and selling more of the drug under a different name, the sources told the paper.

Rhodes was set up as a “landing pad” in case the under-fire drug maker needed a clean start amid the 2007 criminal charges, a former senior manager at Purdue told the paper.

Together, both firms accounted for 14.4 million opioid prescriptions in 2016. Rhodes Pharma also makes other highly addictive opiates such as morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone, according to the FDA.

Beginning in the 1990s, Purdue pressed doctors to prescribe the drug and wooed them with free trips and seminars under a marketing strategy adopted by Brooklyn-born Arthur Sackler, the brother of Raymond Sackler, who developed OxyContin.

The Sacklers, including Arthur’s daughter Elizabeth Sackler — who is on the Board of Trustees at the Brooklyn Museum — have a collective net worth of $13 billion.

Last month, New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed the lawsuit against Purdue in Suffolk County Supreme Court, demanding the drugmaker hand over cash to fund education programs and treatment for the thousands of New Yorkers who have become hooked on opioids.

The discovery of the second opioid firm will likely play a key role in its ongoing court cases, lawyers told the Financial Times.

In a statement to the Financial Times, Purdue said it is “striving to do better” by ceasing all promotion of opioids.

More than 3,000 New Yorkers died of opioid overdoses in 2016.

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