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Purdue Pharma - OxyContin

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Company: Purdue Pharma
Settlement amount: $634.5 million
Drug: OxyContin
Year: 2007

Purdue pleaded guilty to one felony count of fraudulently misbranding Oxycontin for suggesting it was less addictive and less abused than other painkillers, an obvious disconnect with the reality. It also had sales representatives saying users could stop using the drug, often referred to as hillbilly heroin, without withdrawal, also a big lie. The New York Times reported at the time that sales representatives were allowed to draw "fake scientific charts," on the drug's safety, which they passed out to physicians as proof of their claims.

Three executives also were roped in on the settlement. Chief Executive Michael Friedman, general counsel Howard Udell and former Chief Scientific Officer Paul D. Goldenheim each pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of misbranding a pharmaceutical, although they did not admit any wrongdoing. They were held responsible based on their positions in the company and to serve as a deterrent to other companies, something that clearly has worked.

The men were also banned from doing business with federal health programs for 12 years. But they later took issue with the government's prosecution of them as "responsible corporate officers" rather than on charges that they themselves had participated in the illegal behavior. A court upheld their exclusion, but the three appealed last fall. Goldenheim, meanwhile, has joined the board of Momenta Pharmaceuticals.

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