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Purdue Pharma, maker of painkiller OxyContin, starts ad campaign

Feb 20, 2002 | AP

The maker of the painkiller OxyContin is starting an advertising campaign in U.S. newspapers to highlight its efforts to combat abuse of the powerful prescription drug.

Purdue Pharma's six-month campaign was to begin Thursday, with ads in papers from Maine to Florida. Company officials declined to say how much the campaign would cost.

"There's been too little recognition in the media for what we have been doing," company spokeswoman Robin Hogen said.

OxyContin is the nation's top-selling narcotic painkiller and generates more than dlrs 1 billion in annual sales. It's widely prescribed for victims of moderate to severe chronic pain resulting from arthritis, back trouble or cancer. One OxyContin pill is designed to last 12 hours.

Those who abuse the drug crush it, then snort or inject it, producing a quick, heroin-like high. Federal officials blame OxyContin and similar drugs for hundreds of deaths nationwide over the past two years.

Many doctors, patients and even some of the its critics say OxyContin is highly effective in relieving chronic pain.

The company faces lawsuits, growing scrutiny from regulators and even calls for banning the drug.

The new ads never mention OxyContin. Instead, they say 4 million Americans each month abuse a variety of prescription drugs, including pain medications, weight-loss pills and antidepressants.

"And Purdue Pharma is doing something about it," the ad says.

The ads highlight Purdue's effort to develop new abuse-resistant medicines, distribute free tamper-resistant prescription pads and educate teens on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

On Tuesday, Dr. James Graves became the first doctor in the country convicted of manslaughter in the OxyContin death of a patient. The Florida doctor was convicted of prescribing OxyContin to four patients who died from overdoses.

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