OxyContin Maker, Executives Plead Guilty to Misleading Public

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 10, 2007; 10:59 AM

ROANOKE, Va. -- The maker of the painkiller OxyContin and three of its current and former executives pleaded guilty today to misleading the public about the drug's risk of addiction.

U.S. Attorney John Brownlee in Roanoke said in a press release that Purdue Pharma L.P. and the executives will pay more than $634 million in fines.

The plea comes two days after the Stamford, Conn.-based company agreed to over $19 million to 26 states, including Virginia and the District of Columbia, to settle complaints that it encouraged physicians to overprescribe OxyContin.

Brownlee said Purdue "unleashed a highly abusable, addictive, and potentially dangerous drug on an unsuspecting and unknowing public."

The drug became a major problem in Virginia, particularly southwest Virginia and other areas of the Appalachian region, where it got the nickname "hillbilly heroin."

© 2007 The Associated Press