An FDA official who led the approval of OxyContin got a $400,000 gig at Purdue Pharma a year later, a new book reveals

Empire of Pain purdue pharma opioid sackler oxycontin
“Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe

  • An FDA director who oversaw the approval of OxyContin got a $400K gig at Purdue Pharma a year later.
  • A new book by Patrick Radden Keefe reported on these claims and on the billionaire Sackler family.
  • A Sackler family lawyer told Insider Keefe refused to meet with them during his reporting process.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US regulator who oversaw the approval of the highly-addictive opioid OxyContin got a six-figure gig at the drug’s manufacturer a year later, a new book claims.

Curtis Wright, once a director at the US Food and Drug Administration who oversaw evaluation for pain medication, got a position with a first-year compensation package of $400,000 at Purdue Pharma a year after he led the approval of OxyContin, according to the book “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” by Patrick Radden Keefe.

Purdue Pharma’s sale of OxyContin, a formulation of the narcotic oxycodone that was said to slow down the release of the strong painkiller when taken as prescribed, has been associated with the rise of the opioid crisis, according to a trillion-dollar lawsuit filed by nearly all US states.

OxyContin was the “most prescribed brand name narcotic medication” for treating moderate to severe pain by 2001, according to a report by the US Government Accountability Office. Deaths from prescription opioid overdose quadrupled between 1999 to 2019, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 247,000 deaths from prescription opioid overdose over the last two decades.

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Keefe’s book explores the lives of the billionaire Sackler family who founded Purdue Pharma and profited off of the sale of OxyContin. Forbes estimates the Sackler family’s net worth at $10.8 billion, as of December 2020.

“This author has refused to correct errors in his past reporting and also blatantly violated journalistic ethics by refusing to meet with representatives for the Sackler family during the reporting of his book,” Daniel S. Connolly, an attorney for the Raymond Sackler family, said in a statement to Insider. “Documents being released in Purdue’s bankruptcy now demonstrate that Sackler family members who served on Purdue’s board of directors acted ethically and lawfully.”

The FDA approved OxyContin in December 1995, originally believing the controlled-release formulation of OxyContin would result in “less abuse potential,” according to the agency’s website. The agency amended the label in 2001, giving OxyContin a “black box” warning it adds on drug with the highest possible abuse potential, per the FDA website.

Keefe wrote Wright had confessed in a sworn deposition that he “might” have written the portion of the FDA package insert that said OxyContin was “believed to reduce the abuse liability of the drug.” Keefe added that Wright would instruct Purdue Pharma to mail him documents at his home office, and conducted reviews of clinical study reports regarding the safety of OxyContin with the help of Purdue Pharma employees.

After Wright left the FDA he spent a year at another company before joining Purdue, according to the book.

“That was sufficient as a cooling-off period, apparently, to allay any concerns that Richard Sackler might have had about the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Keefe wrote.

Purdue Pharma did not have additional comment to add. The FDA declined to comment.

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McKinsey has agreed to pay $573 million over its role in boosting opioid sales during an epidemic that has killed more than 450,000 Americans

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin pills, made by Purdue Pharma LP sit on a counter at a local pharmacy in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017.    REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo
Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin made by Purdue Pharma LP.

  • McKinsey has agreed to pay $573 million to settle investigations into its role in the opioid crisis.
  • The firm has been accused of boosting drug sales during the epidemic, but it won’t admit wrongdoing.
  • At least 450,000 Americans have died of an opioid overdose since 1999.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Global consulting firm McKinsey & Company has agreed to pay $573 million to settle investigations into its role in boosting the sales of opioid drugs amid an epidemic that has killed nearly half a million Americans, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

McKinsey will not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, which is expected to be filed on Thursday, after coming to an agreement with attorneys general in 47 US states, the District of Columbia, and five territories, according to The Times.

The settlement comes after court documents recently revealed states were pursuing the firm for advising Purdue Pharma LP, maker of OxyContin painkiller, and other opioid manufacturers on how to sell more opioids at the same time the country was attempting to address the opioid crisis.

From 1999 to 2018, 450,000 people died from an opioid overdose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more: McKinsey says COVID-19 is just one of many supply-chain disruptions CEOs need to prepare for going forward

McKinsey’s settlement also includes limiting its work with some narcotics and making thousands of pages of documents publicly available, sources told The Times. They also said states are expected to use the settlement money on opioid treatment, prevention, and recovery.

McKinsey did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

In a statement in December, McKinsey said “we recognize that we did not adequately acknowledge the epidemic unfolding in our communities or the terrible impact of opioid misuse and addiction on millions of families across the country.”

Because of this, the statement said, the company stopped working with opioid-specific businesses in 2019.

The statement also said McKinsey’s “work with Purdue was designed to support the legal prescription and use of opioids for patients with legitimate medical needs, and any suggestion that our work sought to increase overdoses or misuse and worsen a public health crisis is wrong.”

Purdue Pharma, one of McKinsey’s clients, pled guilty to three criminal charges over its marketing of OxyContin as part of an $8 billion settlement in October. At the time, the Associated Press said it was “the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible” for the opioid crisis.

Read the full story at The New York Times ยป

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