Purdue Pharma is privately held. (AP photo by Douglas Healey)
The state Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a Pike County judge’s ruling to release secret records about the marketing of OxyContin, the branded form of oxycodone that “has been blamed for helping to seed today’s opioid addiction epidemic,” reports Stat, the medicine-and-science publication of The Boston Globe, which fought to get the records.
In the court file is a deposition of Richard Sackler, a former president of Purdue Pharma, the family-controlled company that makes OxyContin and pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently marketing of as less addictive than other painkillers.
The deposition “is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the marketing of OxyContin and the addictive properties,” Stat’s David Armstrong and Andrew Joseph report. “Other records include marketing strategies and internal emails about them; documents concerning internal analyses of clinical trials; settlement communications from an earlier criminal case regarding the marketing of OxyContin; and information regarding how sales representatives marketed the drug.”
Almost a year and a half after oral arguments in the case, the three-judge panel of the appeals court unanimously agreed, saying it was the only way to hold Conway accountable for his actions. Without naming Conway, Judge Glenn Acree wrote, “Some agent of the government compromised the claim against Purdue; i.e.,some agent sold the people’s property. . . . Without access to court records, how can the public assess whether a government employee’s decision to compromise a valuable claim of the people adequately protected their interest or maximized the claim’s value?”
Conway told the Louisville Courier Journal Friday, “Kentucky got many times over what any state has gotten from Purdue Pharma. After eight and a half years, I thought it was best to get what we could. I hope it all comes out, (that) all of the documents eventually get released, and sooner rather than later.”
Purdue has 30 days to appeal. It indicated that it would, either to the state Supreme Court or through a rehearing by the appeals court. Either could refuse to allow further action.
Louisville lawyer Jon Fleischaker, who represented Stat, told the publication, “Really what the court is saying is these are public records. The public has an interest in them, and the public has a right to them.”
Stat Editor Rick Berke said, “More than two years after we filed this suit, the scourge of opioid addiction has grown worse, and the questions have grown about Purdue’s practices in marketing OxyContin. It is vital that that we all learn as much as possible about the culpability of Purdue, and the consequences of the company’s decisions on the health of Americans.”