Here’s the $643 million question.  How could the makers of painkiller OxyContin downplay the addictive qualities of the drug, which produces a high similar to heroin, and was responsible for at least 146 deaths in 2002?

Their answer?

“We promoted the medicine only to health-care professionals, not to consumers.”

That seems like a less than sincere apology for a company that was just found liable for a sum of more than half a billion dollars.  The most sinister part of the story is that prosecutors say executives from Purdue Pharma, the makers of the painkiller, had closed door sessions to strategize on how to downplay the drug’s potency.

That was in 1995.

Despite its claims of implementing new oversight tactics to prevent future gaffes like this, companies like Purdue are responsible for consumers that abuse their products.  The fact is that Purdue masked the drug’s qualities and didn’t publicize its dangers.

It’s the same thing Big Tobacco did for decades, and no one can argue that smoking is a dangerous habit.

It’s ethics, people.  Large corporations are deemed faceless and look upon with skepticism because of instances like this where greed trumps the right thing to do.  It’s irresponsible.  It’s unethical and it’s illegal.  The three executives named in the suit are lucky they’re not facing jail time.

Those three are paying a combined $34 million, and no drug can ease that kind of pain. — Alex Parker