Is Purdue Pharma Responsible for Starting the Opioid Crisis?

  • I have picked the OxyContin ad from the manufacture Purdue Pharma from 1996 as my drug debunk advertisement. Even though this ad is rather dated I feel that it provides relevant insight as to how our opioid crisis may have initially started.
  • Purdue Pharma is the company responsible for producing and distributing OxyContin. The company is also responsible for advertising that OxyContin was safe for long term use and that OxyContin would give people, struggling with pain, their lives back. According to Purdue “We are committed to improving patients’ lives in meaningful ways by providing effective therapies along with educational tools that support their proper use.” Purdue also says “At Purdue Pharma, we embrace our mission to find, develop, and introduce innovative medicines that meet the evolving needs of healthcare professionals, patients, and caregivers.” (Purdue Pharma, 2017)
  • Purdue has been around since 1892. The company started out developing medicines for earwax treatment laxatives and arthritis pain. In 1972 Purdue developed a product called Contin, extended release morphine, it wasn’t released until 1987. In 1996 Purdue released OxyContin extended release tablets. Since 1996 the company has been releasing new opioid painkillers for medical use. The most recently released opioid pain killer by Purdue was Hysingla, also known as, hydrocodone bitartrate extended release tablets, it was released in 2015.
  • After watching the ad for OxyContin I feel that the intended audience of this ad was for middle aged adults experiencing chronic pain. This ad was intended for television viewing during a commercial break. This ad featured a doctor that specialized in pain management. The ad also featured real patients that had been taking the drug. The patients in the ad were middle aged men and women who expressed how thrilled they were to have their chronic pain gone. The slogan for OxyContin that was started by the patients was “I got my life back!” To show that the drug was safe for long term use, Purdue made a second advertisement video featuring the same patients from the first advertisement video after 2 years of taking OxyContin. The original patients were still very happy with OxyContin and expressed their happiness in the second video as well.
  • OxyContin is an Opioid. The opium alkaloid, thebaine, is the active ingredient in OxyContin. (National Institute of Health, 2017) An alkaloid is a naturally occurring chemical compound. Opium is considered to be extremely addictive and dangerous. Opium is considered to be a psychoactive drug that impairs vision, cognitive, and motor functions. Opium will affect mental and physiological health by causing extreme mental and physical dependency. Opium acts on the dopamine center of the brain. It causes the brain to flood with dopamine creating a pleasurable sensation. The use of opium also leads to paranoia, anxiety, and depression all of which are mental health disorders. Opium affects physiological health by affecting the lungs, heart, kidney, and liver. The ad for OxyContin by Purdue Pharma did not inform the user of severe risks and side effects of the drug. An example of a severe risk of taking OxyContin is death from overdose. Other side effects of the drug OxyContin are Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, constipation, dizziness, drowsiness and mood changes, headache, sweating and flushing of the skin. The ad for OxyContin doesn’t just not list the side effects of the drug, but it actually claims that there are no side effects to taking OxyContin.
  • The advertising techniques used by Purdue Pharma for advertising the drug OxyContin were misleading, used real people, and presentation of incorrect information. Purdue lead the general public to believe that OxyContin was safe for use. They did this by saying in their drug advertisement video that OxyContin has no side effects. Purdue did acknowledge that opium has many adverse side effects, but claimed that OxyContin was safe for daily extended use for pain patients. To prove that their drug was safe and great, Purdue put real patients that were taking OxyContin for chronic pain in their drug advertisement video. Initially, the patients said that OxyContin was great and that it gave them their lives back. After two years of the drug being on the market the original patients from the first video agreed to make a follow up video because they were still feeling like they were benefiting from the drug. After the second video was made the original patients started having problems. One patient lost her medical insurance and found out about the severe withdrawals and dependency that came with prolong use of OxyContin. This patient was not aware that she was going to be addicted to OxyContin or rather addicted to the active ingredient, opium, when she initially started taking the drug. Another patient was driving under the influence of OxyContin and fell asleep while driving multiple times. The final time that the patient fell asleep while driving under the influence of OxyContin the patient lost his life in a car crash. Yes, the techniques used for advertising OxyContin were deceptive. The techniques were deceptive because people were led to believe that OxyContin was safe for long term extended use for chronic pain management when it really wasn’t. The original release of OxyContin has led to an opium based drug abuse crisis now almost 20 years later.
  • I would not recommend the use of OxyContin to a friend or family member for management of chronic pain. “Chronic pain” means that the pain is going to be long term. After almost 20 years it is clear that OxyContin is not for daily long term use. The patients from the Purdue Pharma ad for OxyContin, one was addicted when her insurance ran out. Addiction to opioid pain medicine tends to lead to illegal opium drug abuse, such as abuse of heroin. Another patient from the Purdue Pharma drug ad lost his life from a side effect of using OxyContin. The side effect that caused him to lose his life was drowsiness. The patient fell asleep while driving, resulting in a fatal car crash. I think OxyContin and other opioid pain medicines have a place in modern medicine and patient recovery. I think said opioid pain medicines are for short term use only and there needs to be extreme regulation of how much a patient is prescribed. Also, better identification of when patients have become addicted to pain medicine and need help getting off the drug.


Additional Information:

I feel that even though the Purdue Pharma advertisement for the release of OxyContin is rather dated, the information that I have gathered from this drug ad is relevant to today because there is such a major opioid drug abuse problem currently going on. All over the United States citizens are addicted to their pain medication. The addiction to pain medication tends to escalated into illegal use of heroin because heroin produces the same or similar feelings as pain medication. The opioid crisis is particularly bad in, the nearby, city of Everett, WA. The crisis is so bad in Everett that in January 2017, Everett filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma. (City of Everett, 2017) City of Everett is suing Purdue Pharma to hold them responsible for the opioid crisis now almost 20 years later. Everett is asking Purdue to take financial responsibility and help resolve the ever growing opioid crisis that is raging on in Everett, WA.

On September 25, 2017 the majority of Everett’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma was allowed to move forward. Link to the Amended Complaint Filed against Purdue Pharma by the City of Everett, WA on October 25, 2017:


Purdue Pharma. (2017). About Purdue. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

National Institute of Health. (2017). OXYCONTIN® (OXYCODONE HCl CONTROLLED-RELEASE) TABLETS CII10 mg 15 mg 20 mg 30 mg 40 mg 60 mg* 80 mg* 160 mg*. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

City of Everett. (2017). City of Everett’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma | Everett, WA – Official Website. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

  1. (2012, September 09). OxyContin Poster Children 15 Years Later. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from

Purdue Pharma. (2016, September 22). Purdue Pharma OxyContin Commercial. Retrieved November 09, 2017, from


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