There is a museum in the vicinity of Harvard Yard that houses pieces of Art from the Eastern and Western worlds pre-1200 AD. The museum is named for its collector, a known Philanthropist who made 14 Billion dollars off of one product. He is famous for a quote,
“I’ve often said I approached collecting as a Biologist. I want enough data to be able to draw valid conclusions. Art is a passion pursued with discipline. Science is a discipline pursued with passion. You have to really pursue the object, you don’t just sit there and have the objects come to you. You want to be a great collector, you better think of the fact that you’re gonna commit yourself to a real passionate treasure hunt.”
Recognize it? Ok let’s try this one,
“The drug isn’t the problem the user is the problem.”
Still drawing a blank? The museum is named after Arthur Sackler, owner of Purdue Fredericks, later Purdue Pharma, the company that introduced the world to OxyContin.
To be fair, Sackler wasn’t alive when Oxycontin was released in 1994. But he would have been proud to know that his background in Medical Advertising, in which he created “new and innovative ways to ways to make ill people into regular customers”, was passed on to his younger Brother Richard after his death. As the owner of MS Contin, a slow release Opiod (slow delivery due to its shell, Contin =Continuous) used largely for end-of-life care and in Cancer Patients, Richard Sackler of Purdue was painfully aware that the patent was soon running out and they would need a “Blockbuster” drug (take a second to absorb that concept) to recover their revenue stream. They came up with taking the much stronger opioid Oxcodone and blending it with the slow release Contin to create a more powerful and long lasting pain killer. Herein lay the dilemma; the market for End of Life and Cancer Care didn’t provide a large enough customer base for a long enough period of time. So they improvised.
Purdue shamelessly hired a Doctor within the FDA, spent 3 days in a rented room and wrote a blatantly deceptive application for approval that they were assured by their FDA indider would easily pass. The application included false research and outright lies about the lack of danger of long term dependency and addiction.
It passed. Thus began the crime of the Century. After their marketing campaing, perhaps more appropriately dubbed “push”, in which slick Pharmaceutical reps with uncapped bonus plans incentivised reluctant Dr.’s through any means, legal or otherwise to get the new drug to be described to a wider demographic for ailments as innocuous as knee pain. There is not enough room on this page to list the unfunny comedy of errors that occurred as Purdue relentlessly pushed this product through any means, misinformation campaigns or greasing the palms of all-too-willing Congressman (who looked away as their own districts were collapsing under the weight of the epidemic) happy to lie to their constituents and peers about the extent of the problem. It is a truly disgusting story of Corporate Greed, Political power through dirty money donations, manipulation of Government regulations and the frightening power of the media as evidenced by “America’s mayor”, Rudy Giuliani taking Purdue’s filthy money to make commercials praising Purdue’s commitment to assist those Americans who suffer from chronic pain.
It worked. Tragically well. At its high point 125 million Americans had a prescription for Oxycontin. That is half of the estimated population of this country. If you weren’t in pain, there were plenty of Doctors in Ferrari’s that could set you up in their “pill mills”. Even CVS got in on the game.
20 years later 500,000 Americans had died of overdoses. For reference, as many Americans die EACH YEAR of Opiod overdoses as perished in the entire Vietnam Conflict.
So let’s look at a segment of Richard Sackler’s quote again,
“You have to really pursue the object, you don’t just sit there and have the objects come to you. You want to be a great collector, you better think of the fact that you’re gonna commit yourself to a real passionate treasure hunt.“
Purdue didn’t wait for them to come to him, they went on a real passionate treasure hunt. 14 Billion dollars worth of treasure.