Son of Purdue Pharma owner wins patent for opioid dependence treatment

Alicia Farmer
September 9, 2018

Purdue is now being sued by more than 1,000 cities, states, counties and tribes for allegedly contributing to the opioid epidemic through its marketing and distribution of the opioid OxyContin.

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has received a patent created to treat opioid addiction.

Dr. Richard Sackler is listed as one of six inventors on the patent, which was issued in January and was first reported Friday by the Financial Times.

A pharmaceuticals billionaire accused of fuelling America's opioid crisis is poised to benefit financially from a treatment used to wean addicts off prescription drugs.

Purdue has denied the allegations in the lawsuits, which also target a range of other opioid painkiller manufacturers and distributors. It is already approved by the Food and Drug Administration in tablet and film form, but the patent describes a wafer that could dissolve even faster than existing forms when put under the tongue.

This new patent is a variation on buprenorphine, which is a mild opiate that helps control drug cravings.

Buprenorphine is now prescribed in tablets or fast-dissolving strips.

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Sackler is the past president of Purdue; his father was one of three brothers who founded the company.

It's definitely a positive that treatments are being made readily available but it leaves a sour taste in the mouth that the company largely responsible for the crisis is now set to profit off the misery they have caused for millions of opioid addicts and their families.

The lawsuit states that Purdue Pharma "downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioids", "exaggerated the benefits" and "advised health care professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids", according to the statement from the Colorado attorney general's office.

Purdue declined STAT's request to comment on the patent.

The patent states that the drug could be used both in drug replacement therapy as well as for pain management.

The CDC doesn't yet have data on the number of deaths from opioid overdose for 2017, but the government agency reported that 2016 recorded 42,000 deaths from the national epidemic, which is more opioid overdose deaths than any other year on record.

Earlier this week, the company donated $3.4 million to a nonprofit drug developer working on an over-the-counter version of naloxone, a nasal spray used to treat opioid overdoses that retails for about $140 per dose.

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