Richard Sackler, OxyContin Creator, Granted Patent For Opioid Addiction Treatment Drug

The former Purdue Pharma president who has made millions off the opioid epidemic may now profit from weaning addicts off the pills.

Activists march on Capitol Hill for reform in opioid/heroin crisis holding up signs.
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The former Purdue Pharma president who has made millions off the opioid epidemic may now profit from weaning addicts off the pills.

In the midst of countless lawsuits against Purdue Pharma for the alleged promotion of opioid OxyContin and its role in the opioid epidemic, The Washington Post reports that the company’s owner, Richard Sackler, has now been approved for an opioid treatment drug patent. In addition, Colorado’s attorney general is currently suing Purdue Pharma for its apparent role in boosting the opioid crisis, sources say.

The CDC reportedly claims that of more than 63,000 drug-related deaths in the U.S. in 2016, sixty-six percent were caused by prescription and illegal opioid drugs. Many have displayed outrage at Sackler and his company for first profiting off opioids by overpromoting them to doctors and patients, and now profiting off those addicts seeking treatment. The Washington Post highlights a statement by Luke Nasta, director of New York addiction treatment center Camelot.

“It’s reprehensible what Purdue Pharma has done to our public health… [The Sackler family] shouldn’t be allowed to peddle any more synthetic opiates — and that includes opioid substitutes.”

The Washington Post also reports that in 2007, three Purdue Pharma employees pled guilty to criminal charges of misleading doctors and patients that OxyContin held less potential for abuse than other drugs in the same category. Additionally, earlier this year, the company made it public that they planned to stop promoting the pain drug. Now, the company owner, Sackler, has been granted a patent for a mild opioid medication, formulated from buprenorphine that is aimed to help opioid addicts recover. The new patent statement does recognize the danger of chemical dependence involved with the widespread patient use of opioids such as OxyContin, says The Washington Post.

Fortune offers a little more description on the new drug that has been approved for opioid addiction treatment. The drug is an altered form of buprenorphine, better known as Suboxone, which is a mild form of an opiate drug that helps curb cravings and can be offered as a temporary substitute for people addicted to heroin or other opioid drugs. It’s been reported that in 2017 alone, Suboxone earned British manufacturer Invidior $877 million from U.S. sales.

If Suboxone’s success is any predictor, it is likely that Purdue Pharma will likely profit largely from its newly patented treatment drug. And it’s not the first time that the company has sought a part in opioid addiction treatment endeavors, says Fortune. In 2017, the company sponsored a study which sought to track pain and addiction by using an iPhone app.