Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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

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

Given China’s fraught history with opioids—the country fought the Opium Wars in the nineteenth century to stop Britain from dumping the drug there, which had given rise to a scourge of addiction—one might assume that there would be formidable barriers to entry when it came to an effort by Mundipharma to change the culture of prescribing. But the company was ravenous for new customers and prepared to engage in marketing tactics that were extreme even by the standards of Purdue. Mundipharma China had been established back in 1993, the same year that the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology opened in Beijing. The China Medical Tribune, which Arthur had founded, now boasted a readership of more than a million Chinese doctors. In seeking to convince physicians and patients in China that opioids were not, in fact, dangerously addictive, Mundipharma assembled a huge sales force. They were under a great deal of pressure from the company to perform, and they were encouraged with the type of aggressive incentive structure that the Sacklers had always favored. Come in over the company’s quarterly sales targets and you could double your salary. Come in under and you could lose your job. Mundipharma supplied the reps with marketing materials that included assertions about the safety and effectiveness of OxyContin that had long since been debunked. The company claimed that OxyContin was the World Health Organization’s preferred treatment for cancer pain (it isn’t). According to an investigation by the Associated Press, Mundipharma reps in hospitals actually donned white coats and pretended to be doctors themselves. They consulted directly with patients about their health concerns and made copies of people’s confidential medical records.

Mundipharma released a series of flashy promotional videos about its products and its global ambitions, featuring images of smiling patients from a range of different ethnicities. “We’re only just getting started,” one of the videos said.

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