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Oxycontin giant’s guilty plea poses more questions than answers about opioid epidemic, according to WVU experts

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Dr. Judith Feinberg, Dr. James Berry and John Temple are available for comment on the Purdue Phrama settlement. (WVU Photo)

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A “disappointing” settlement that reveals a bent toward corporate profits over an “unfathomable amount of suffering” should lead to the shutdown of Purdue Pharma, according to West Virginia University experts who both work with people who face substance use disorder issues and have investigated the inner workings of the illicit side of the drug trade. Dr. Judith Feinberg, Dr. James Berry and John Temple are versed in various angles of the national opioid crisis are available to discuss the Justice Department’s $8.3 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma, the drug company that produces OxyContin. Purdue Pharma also agreed to plead guilty to three felonies.


“The settlement is disappointing-- the $225 million amount the Sacklers (Purdue’s owners) have to pay is a pittance compared to the billions they have made from OxyContin. And as Purdue is in bankruptcy proceedings, it is doubtful that the company will ever pay the $8 billion. With 450,000 lives lost to overdose, will we ever see justice for Purdue's and the Sacklers' criminal behavior?” —Dr. Judith Feinberg, professor, School of Medicine, Dept. of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry Contact:


“The decisions made by a few in order to maximize profits at the expense of many has led to an unfathomable amount of suffering. Too many individuals, families and communities continue to bear the burden of these decisions every day. It is of utmost importance that we learn the lessons of the past to keep this from ever happening again and provide immediate help to those who in need. This should be the frame by which we consider how to move forward.” —Dr. James H. Berry, director, WVU Addiction Services Contact:


“This settlement raises a lot of questions for me. I’m not sure why the government is taking over this company and continuing to produce opioids at a time when the drug epidemic is still raging. The over-production and over-prescription of these drugs, sparked by Purdue’s misinformation campaign around OxyContin more than two decades ago, is what caused the drug crisis. This company should be simply shut down.”

“For years, the federal government gave companies like Purdue free rein to steadily increase the amount of opioids that are manufactured each year. Why should we trust the federal government to now make good public health decisions about the operation of this company?” 

“Eight billion sounds like a lot of money, but it’s a drop in the bucket of what Purdue Pharma made from OxyContin over the last two decades. The Sackler family, the former owners of Purdue, have a net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes magazine. The family itself is facing $225 million in fines. That’s an amazing deal for them.” —John Temple, professor, Reed College of Media Contact:


Read about Feinberg's research on fentanyl test strips as an opioid overdose prevention strategy and her collaborative project targeting substance abuse in the southern coalfields of West Virginia.

Berry, who’s also chair of the Department of Behavioral Medicine & Psychiatry, was part of the team responsible for the first-in-the-U.S. clinical trial that used deep brain stimulation for patients recovering from opioid use disorder.

Read about Temple’s book “American Pain,” which chronicles how a ring of doctors helped to unleash the opioid epidemic by operating the nation’s largest pain clinic, in this WVU Magazine story.

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



CONTACT: Jake Stump
WVU Research Communications

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