Purdue Pharma's Oxycontin is the granddaddy of drugs that make money despite lethal side-effects. Along with other prescription opioids, it accounted for an astounding 17,000 deaths last year—four times that in 2003. "The increase [in use] has been fueled in part by doctors and pain advocacy organizations that receive money from drug companies and make misleading claims about the safety and effectiveness of opioids, including that addiction is rare," reported the Journal Sentinel.The American Geriatrics Society used Pharma-linked experts to rewrite clinical guidelines in 2009, says the Journal Sentinel, which specified opioids for all patients with moderate to severe pain as opposed to Aleve or Advil. Ka-ching.
Oxycontin, because it is a long-acting formulation, was supposed to reduce toxicities and addictiveness—at least until its crush, snort and shoot potential made it more popular than cocaine on the street. (All the pill's 80mg could be taken at once.) In 2010, responding to the addictions, overdoses, deaths and diversions associated with the drug, Purdue rolled out a tamper-resistant Oxycontin and began to push for state and federal laws requiring opioids to be tamper-resistant in 2012. Purdue said public health was its main concern but many are asking why that concern only surfaced as Oxycontin's patent was expiring. Its patent expired in 2013.