Now that Purdue Pharma has acknowledged news reports that it compiled a list of 1,800 doctors suspected of churning out OxyContin prescriptions for addicts and drug dealers, the political fallout has begun.
The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story on Sunday, reports that two California state senators are calling on Purdue to turn over all the physicians' names, scolding the pharma company for its decision to flag only 154 cases to law enforcement officials since it launched the red-flagging program way back in 2002. And physician Andrew Kolodny, who's been leading a campaign to curb the abuse of painkillers, added his opinion that Purdue is not in any position to decide whether a physician should be probed for possible violations.
"That judgment needs to be made by state medical boards, not a corporation that benefits from overprescribing," Kolodny told the L.A. Times. "Purdue should make the list available to state medical boards so that physicians on the list can be investigated."
In fact, Purdue's choice to sell a powerful painkiller gives it the responsibility to share information, State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) says. "If Purdue Pharma is going to sell a highly potent, highly addictive narcotic in California, then the company has a duty to inform authorities in California of those doctors the company believes may be irresponsibly prescribing OxyContin," Lieu wrote in a letter to Purdue. "This duty may or may not be a legal one, but at the very least the company has an ethical duty to let authorities know about dangerous doctors."
Purdue acknowledged that it has compiled the list of suspect prescribers, assigning the doctors on it to what it called "Region Zero." Doctors suspected of participating in pill mills for abusers were redlined. Sales reps were told to steer clear of them and weren't paid commissions on the scripts the doctors wrote. But experts and public officials say that Purdue didn't go nearly far enough.
Purdue declined comment on the latest development.
- see the L.A. Times story