The admission in federal court brought a formal end to a major investigation that resulted in a multibillion-dollar settlement between the drug maker and the government.
WASHINGTON — Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty on Tuesday to criminal charges that it misled the federal government about sales of its blockbuster painkiller OxyContin, the prescription opioid that helped fuel a national addiction crisis. The admission brought a formal end to an extensive federal investigation that led to a multibillion-dollar settlement between the company and the Justice Department.
“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, the deputy attorney general, said in a statement. “Today’s convictions underscore the department’s commitment to its multipronged strategy for defeating the opioid crisis.”
Purdue’s chairman, Steve Miller, acknowledged in a remotely conducted hearing in federal court in New Jersey that in order to meet sales goals, the company told the Drug Enforcement Administration that it had created a program to prevent OxyContin from being sold on the black market, even though it was marketing the drug to more than 100 doctors suspected of illegally prescribing OxyContin.
Purdue also pleaded guilty to paying illegal kickbacks to doctors who prescribed OxyContin and to an electronic health records company, Practice Fusion, for targeting physicians with alerts that were intended to increase opioid prescriptions. Practice Fusion has paid $145 million in fines for taking those kickbacks.
Doctors overprescribing OxyContin, along with illicit distribution of the drug, have contributed to the deaths of more than 450,000 Americans since 1999.
The plea brought to a close the federal government’s case against Purdue, which has filed for bankruptcy protection to handle the wave of litigation it faces.
The company agreed last month to plead guilty to criminal charges and face criminal and civil penalties of about $8.3 billion as part of the settlement with the Justice Department. A federal bankruptcy judge in New York approved the deal last week.
Source: The New York Times