The world is abuzz today with the news:
The maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin and three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty Thursday to misleading the public about the drug’s risk of addiction, a federal prosecutor and the company said.
Purdue Pharma L.P., its president, top lawyer and former chief medical officer will pay $634.5 million in fines for claiming the drug was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications, U.S. Attorney John Brownlee said.
Part of me is thrilled by this news. Finally, one of the all-powerful pharmaceutical companies — part of the industry that has worked to block safe natural medicines like marijuana while pushing their own dangerous high-priced cocktails on massive populations who didn’t know they needed it — is getting a taste of their own medicine.
Another part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. Somehow, I fear, the drug warriors will use this case to find a way to make pain medication even less available to those who really need it.
There’s another developing part of this story that is fascinating, involving drug warrior and Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani — reported by Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and R. Schwartz at ABC News:
Rudolph Giuliani and his consulting company, Giuliani Partners, have served as key advisors for the last five years to the pharmaceutical company that pled guilty today to charges it misled doctors and patients about the addiction risks of the powerful narcotic painkiller OxyContin. […]
Drug Enforcement Administration officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com Giuliani personally met with the head of the DEA when the DEA’s drug diversion office began a criminal investigation into the company.
According to the book “Painkiller,” by New York Times reporter Barry Meier, both Giuliani and his then-partner Bernard Kerik “were in direct contact with Asa Hutchinson, the administrator of DEA.” […]
Kerik told New York Magazine at the time that Giuliani had raised $15,000 in donations for a “traveling museum operated by the DEA.”
That “traveling museum” would be the the outrageous one I’ve spent so much time protesting. Back to ABC:
Some officials told ABC News there were questions inside the agency of whether the donations were an attempt to influence the DEA.
Meier wrote that “with Giuliani now in the mix, the pace of DEA’s investigation into Purdue’s OxyContin plant in New Jersey slowed as Hutchinson repeatedly summoned division officials to his office to explain themselves and their reasons for continuing the inquiry.”
Giuliani publicly praised the company, Purdue Frederick, when it hired him in May 2002 for an undisclosed amount. “Purdue has demonstrated its commitment to fighting this problem,” he said, referring to the issue of drug addiction.
According to Giuliani Partners, Kerik, a New York City police commissioner under Giuliani, was in charge of helping Purdue improve security at the New Jersey plant.
Kerik left Giuliani Partners after disclosures he was under criminal investigation.
In hiring Giuliani, Purdue said, “Giuliani Partners is uniquely qualified” to address the issue of preventing drug abuse.
There’s just a ton of investigation begging to happen here.
One place to start just might be GVI Security Solutions. They’re listed as one of the contributors to the DEA museum exhibit. They also later named former DEA head Asa Hutchinson to their Board of Directors in 2005. And the Chairman of GVI, Howard Safir, was the former New York Fire Commission and Police Commissioner, with both appointments coming from Giuliani.
Who knows how many other tangled incestuous webs you’ll find in this story.
Update: More from Mark Kleiman.