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Jun-10-2013 18:10printcomments

Purdue Pharma Places Price Tag on Life: We're Worth $61.54 Each

A $13 billion pharmaceutical company responsible for criminally marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused and Pike County, Kentucky thinks that $4 million will "make a difference"?

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway photo: zimbio.com

(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - This past week, Pike County, Kentucky settled its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over the company’s narcotic painkiller OxyContin — the amount? $4 million for approximately 65,000 people in Pike County If you do the math that equates to $61.54 per person in Pike County -- a county crippled by OxyContin in deaths and addictions.

The Office of Pike County Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford announced the settlement and Shelley Johnson, a spokeswoman for Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, said in an email. “They opted to settle their claims. The Commonwealth did not.”

Rutherford said he couldn't give further details about the settlement due to terms of the agreement.

The county initially filed the lawsuit in 2007 and asked for damages the community suffered after the company marketed OxyContin as a safer alternative to other pain medicine.

The drug became so pervasive in eastern Kentucky, it was dubbed "Heroin of the Hills."

Rutherford indicated in the statement that he was pleased with terms of the settlement.

"Finally, Pike County Government will have the funds to make a difference in drug addiction," Rutherford said. "We can now establish the Pike County Re-Entry Partnership for people convicted of drug violations. It has taken years to get done. The goal of the Pike County Re-Entry Partnership would be to rehabilitate people who are addicted to drugs." $61.54 per person in Pike County -- you're dreaming Mr. Rutherford.

A $13 billion pharmaceutical company responsible for criminally marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused and Pike County, Kentucky thinks that $4 million will "make a difference"?

Purdue Pharma officials issued a statement that said, in part: “After six years of litigating this case, Purdue is pleased to have resolved this matter.” I just bet they were "pleased" to settle the Pike County lawsuit. There were probably lots of high fives in the board room at Purdue Pharma for getting off so easily.

Kentucky and Pike County sued Purdue Pharma in October 2007, alleging that an aggressive and deceptive marketing campaign saddled taxpayers with millions of dollars in social, health care and other costs. It alleges the Connecticut-based company misled health care providers, consumers and the government about the risk of addiction associated with the pain drug.

Yes that's right -- the Commonwealth of Kentucky is also suing Purdue Pharma.

Purdue spokeswoman Libby Holman released a statement saying, “Now that the federal jurisdictional issue is resolved, Purdue is fully prepared to vigorously defend this action on its merits, and we expect to prevail.”

Prescription drug abuse — the subject of “Prescription for Tragedy,” a two-year series published by The Courier-Journal — has reached epidemic proportions in Kentucky, with overdoses killing nearly 1,000 residents a year.

In 2009 and 2010 I wrote for Salem-News.com about Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and his ties to Purdue Pharma. Conway had taken a check from an organization called National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) -- financed by Purdue Pharma.

I had a problem with Conway taking money from a group funded by Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin. My reasons were several -- The state of Kentucky was suing Purdue Pharma for the devastation caused by OxyContin in deaths and addictions -- and since Purdue Pharma was criminally convicted in Federal Court in 2007 of deceiving physicians and patients about the addictive and abusive qualities of OxyContin, I had a problem with law enforcement being associated with Purdue Pharma's poster child, NADDI -- a big problem with it.

A newspaper in Kentucky -- The Underground Chicken -- initially shared my concern with Conway taking money from convicted criminals, but then backed down and posted the following on their website:

    Conway Responds to Purdue Pharma Article
    "I appreciate Attorney General Jack Conway giving me a few minutes and responding to the story I wrote concerning Purdue Pharma. Marianne Skolek who is an advocate bringing to light the actions of companies like Purdue Pharma had questioned a grant excepted (sp) by the Kentucky Attorney Generals Office.

    Skolek was very concerned that the Grant provided by NADDI was being funded by Purdue Pharma and other drug companies. In response, Attorney General Conway said that he was well informed regarding the funding issue. Conway said many of these grants are funded in part by the pharmaceutical industry. Conway responded emphatically, "The only issue is the budget". With the budget cuts we have and continue to face I'm not concerned that a part of the grant money comes from the industry said Conway. Conway continued on saying that when I can take this money and put it to good use to help in the fight against drugs and crime then I'm going to continue to do so."

Pretty much said it all -- Conway had no problem taking money from convicted criminals -- and used the excuse of putting it to good use to help in the fight against drugs and crime in Kentucky and, of course, the lame budget issue. I still had a problem with it. The top law enforcement official of a state should not be taking money from criminals and excusing himself because of a budget -- especially when his state was suing the criminals. The families of victims of OxyContin in Kentucky who lost loved ones to death and addiction may not share Conway's reasons for "dancing with the devil" and taking money from Purdue Pharma.

So when the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma by the State of Kentucky comes to trial and the judge says to AG Conway "Why would you take a check for $50,000 from an organization financed by the pharmaceutical company responsible for unprecedented deaths and addictions in your state -- will Conway answer -- I know I danced with the devil, but does taking that money mean that the devil will win the lawsuit and the victims of OxyContin in Kentucky will be the losers? Care to answer Mr. Conway?



LP - One path - three sets of footprints.  Love you for being one set and so proud of you.

Marianne Skolek twitter.com/MarianneSkolek
Investigative Reporter for Salem-News.com on drug epidemic


Salem-News.com Investigative Reporter Marianne Skolek, is an Activist for Victims of OxyContin and Purdue Pharma throughout the United States and Canada. In July 2007, she testified against Purdue Pharma in Federal Court in Virginia at the sentencing of their three CEO's - Michael Friedman, Howard Udell and Paul Goldenheim - who pleaded guilty to charges of marketing OxyContin as less likely to be addictive or abused to physicians and patients. She also testified against Purdue Pharma at a Judiciary Hearing of the U.S. Senate in July 2007. Marianne works with government agencies and private attorneys in having a voice for her daughter Jill, who died in 2002 after being prescribed OxyContin, as well as the voice for scores of victims of OxyContin. She has been involved in her work for the past 8-1/2 years and is currently working on a book that exposes Purdue Pharma for their continued criminal marketing of OxyContin.

Marianne is a nurse having graduated in 1991 as president of her graduating class. She also has a Paralegal certification. Marianne served on a Community Service Board for the Courier News, a Gannet newspaper in NJ writing articles predominantly regarding AIDS patients and their emotional issues. She was awarded a Community Service Award in 1993 by the Hunterdon County, NJ HIV/AIDS Task Force in recognition of and appreciation for the donated time, energy and love in facilitating a Support Group for persons with HIV/AIDS.


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