Newly released court documents show that OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma attempted to divert attention away from an investigative series published by the Los Angeles Times. The series, published in 2016, scrutinized the company’s marketing of OxyContin and its ties to the opioid epidemic.
“If Purdue doesn’t fill this vacuum, someone else will—and it won’t be Purdue’s narrative,” a memo written by a member of the company’s digital support team reads. The memo also outlined a strategy for redirecting traffic to a friendly website: PurduePharmaFacts.com.
“By purchasing highly targeted strings of keywords that people are likely to use to find out more information about the articles, we can ensure that PurduePharmaFacts.com is at the top of a user’s search results,” a PowerPoint presentation stated.
It’s unclear as to whether the strategy was implemented and if so whether it was successful or not. PurduePharmaFacts.com is not currently operational.
Attorneys representing Cuyahoga and Starke counties in Ohio filed the documents outlining Purdue Pharma’s strategy in the U.S. District Court in Cleveland on Wednesday. The counties are among more than 1,500 governments and other parties that are suing those involved in the opioid epidemic for damages caused by the addiction crisis.
“Throughout these public ‘messaging’ initiatives, the emphasis was on deflecting attention, blame or litigation away from the pharmaceutical industry for their role in recklessly distributing opioid products into the supply chain and ‘inoculating’ the industry from litigation—like this case,” attorneys for the Ohio counties wrote in the court filing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of U.S. opioid overdose fatalities increased from 8,048 in 1999 to 47,600 in 2017.
Purdue Pharma released a statement late Wednesday evening in which they denied any wrongdoing by trying to deflect attention away from the Los Angeles Times investigative series.
“This is a very standard practice used by companies and organizations to address inaccurate and unbalanced news coverage,” the company’s statement reads.