Saturday, January 21, 2023

the last book I ever read (Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family, excerpt nine)

from Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family by Patrick Radden Keefe:

In some ways, Richard’s argument about OxyContin mirrored the libertarian position of a firearms manufacturer who insists that he bears no responsibility for gun deaths. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. It is a peculiar hallmark of the American economy that you can produce a dangerous product and effectively off-load any legal liability for whatever destruction that product may cause by pointing to the individual responsibility of the consumer. “Abusers aren’t victims,” Richard said. “They are the victimizers.”

There were a number of problems with this hypothesis, but the most significant flaw was that not everyone who developed a problem with OxyContin started out as a recreational abuser. In fact, many people who were prescribed the drug for legitimate pain conditions and took it precisely as the doctor ordered found that they, too, had become hopelessly addicted. In 2002, a twenty-nine-year-old New Jersey woman named Jill Skolek was prescribed OxyContin for a back injury. One night, after four months on the drug, she died in her sleep from respiratory arrest, leaving behind a six-year-old son. Her mother, Marianne Skolek, was a nurse. Distraught and bewildered, she became convinced that OxyContin was dangerous. Skolek wrote to FDA officials, demanding that they do something about Purdue’s aggressive marketing of the drug. At one point, she attended a conference on addiction at Columbia University, where Robin Hogen, a Purdue public relations man, was one of the presenters. Hogen had sandy hair and an Ivy League affect; he wore a pin-striped suit and a bow tie. With a breezy confidence, he informed Skolek that she seemed to have misunderstood the circumstances of her own daughter’s death. The drug wasn’t the problem, Hogen said. The problem was Jill, her daughter. “We think she abused drugs,” he said. (Hogen subsequently apologized.)

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