STAMFORD, CT: Purdue Pharma has spent the past two months communicating the initiatives the company has put in place that will help prevent errors in the promotion of its drugs from ever occurring again.
On July 20 a federal judge sentenced three Purdue executives to community service and fined the company $634 million for wrongdoing in the promotion of OxyContin, the powerful pain medication that has become a heavily used recreational drug in many parts of the country.
Since May, the company has issued a number of releases, outlining initiatives it had taken to "ensure appropriate product promotion and prescribing of OxyContin tablets." The long series of steps spans over the past six years. Included in those plans is Purdue's "Protect Your Practice" campaign, a direct mail campaign to prescribers and pharmacists to raise awareness about abuse risks. And the company also organized a corporate compliance function into one department, charged with monitoring compliance-related matters.
Timothy Bannon, special counsel for the company, declined to discuss details about the company's communications practices. "We have approached this matter as a public health issue involving the proper use of important medicines," he said via e-mail.
Peter Pitts, SVP of global health affairs at MS&L, which does not work with Purdue, believes the company's response has been swift and effective. Pitts noted that Purdue has the benefit of being a privately held company, which allows it to act quickly as opposed to the average publicly held company.
"I think there are two things that make it a model. One is it's a terrific plan. Two is it's happened very fast," Pitts said about Purdue's response to the situation. "A lot of times these plans [devised] after bad things happen look good on paper, but are never really even meant to be implemented. And this plan clearly looks good on paper and clearly is going to be implemented."
Following the settlement, Purdue released a separate statement which lays out changes it has implemented since OxyContin first began being used as a recreational drug in 2000.
"During the past six years, we have implemented changes to our internal training, compliance and monitoring systems that seek to assure that similar events do not occur again. We also have added amplified warnings to the prescribing information for OxyContin and communicated those warnings to healthcare professionals," the company's statement read, in part.