Diabetes medication list + What Purdue Pharma L.P. knew about Oxycontin Ring

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What Purdue Pharma L.P. Knew About a Oxycontin Ring that Pushed More than 1 Million Pills

EXCERPT: More than 194,000 people have died since 1999 from overdoses involving opioid painkillers, including OxyContin. Nearly 4,000 people start abusing those drugs every day, according to government statistics. The prescription drug epidemic is fueling a heroin crisis, shattering communities and taxing law enforcement officers who say they would benefit from having information such as that collected by Purdue.

A private, family-owned corporation, Purdue has earned more than $31 billion from OxyContin, the nation’s bestselling painkiller. A year before Lake Medical opened, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to federal charges of misbranding OxyContin in what the company acknowledged was an attempt to mislead doctors about the risk of addiction. It was ordered to pay $635 million in fines and fees.

After the settlement, Purdue touted a high-powered internal security team it had set up to guard against the illicit use of its drug. Drugmakers like Purdue are required by law to establish and maintain “effective controls” against the diversion of drugs from legitimate medical purposes.

That anti-diversion effort at Purdue was run by associate general counsel Robin Abrams, a former assistant U.S. attorney in New York who had prosecuted healthcare fraud and prescription drug cases. Jack Crowley, who held the title of executive director of Controlled Substances Act compliance and had spent decades at the DEA, was also on the team.

Purdue had access to a stream of data showing how individual doctors across the nation were prescribing OxyContin. The information came from IMS, a company that buys prescription data from pharmacies and resells it to drugmakers for marketing purposes.

That information was vital to Purdue’s sales department. Representatives working on commission used it to identify doctors writing a small number of OxyContin prescriptions who might be persuaded to write more.

By combing through the data, Purdue also could identify physicians writing large numbers of prescriptions – a potential sign of drug dealing.


In the case of Lake Medical, Purdue didn't notify some distributors that it suspected St. Paul's was part of a drug ring. Five months after HD Smith stopped shipments, another wholesaler selling large quantities of 80s to St. Paul’s reached out to Crowley seeking information about the store.
‘It really takes the ‘G’ a long time to catch up with these jokers’

In the end, the Lake Medical ring was brought down by a team of state, federal and local investigators who collected tips from citizens and spent hours staking out the clinic, interviewing witnesses and turning junior ring members into informants. When Lake Medical closed in 2010, after a year and a half in business, Purdue had still not shared its wealth of information on the clinic with the authorities, according to law enforcement sources.
Dr. Eleanor Santiago leaves U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Oct. 3, 2014 after testifying against alleged co-conspirators in an OxyContin trafficking ring. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

In an email to a distributor after the arrest of Santiago and the clinic operators, Crowley criticized the pace of the government investigation.

“It really takes the ‘G’ a long time to catch up with these jokers,” he wrote.

In a memo to supervisors after the clinic was shuttered, Ringler noted that more than 20 doctors in her territory were still doling out large amounts of 80s, some using the same pharmacies Lake Medical had used. She suggested that Purdue use its databases to “proactively” report suspicious prescribing, across the country, to insurers as well as law enforcement.

Purdue did not respond to questions about the proposal. Crowley said he was never told about her plan. Ringler declined to speak to The Times.

The company introduced a new, tamper-resistant OxyContin tablet in August 2010. Addicts found them almost impossible to smoke or snort. Within months, the old 80s were gone from the streets and many dependent on the pills switched to heroin, which was chemically similar and readily available....

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