Purdue Pharma pleads guilty in case initiated by Vermont prosecutors

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 5:43 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Drugmaker Purdue Pharma, the company behind the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, pleaded guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges as part of an $8 billion settlement.

Vermont authorities played a major role in the case that resulted in charges that related to a kickback scheme aimed at increasing opioid prescriptions. U.S. Attorney for Vermont Christina Nolan says her office led a multiyear investigation into the scheme that involved Purdue working with tech company Practice Fusion to develop electronic medical record software. The pharmaceutical giant included in the software specific alerts designed to influence doctors to prescribe extended-release opioids, EROs, like Oxycontin.

The three-year investigation beginning in July 2016 led to Nolan’s office to discover the crime. She spoke at the Washington press conference Wednesday along with other Department of Justice officials. “The unlawful, dangerous scheme put profits over people, seeking to increase scripts for addictive EROs even when not medically appropriate. And at the height of the U.S. opioid crisis, at a time when Vermont -- where I am from -- and across the country, people were suffering under opioid addiction, sometimes ending in death. And so many of those addiction stories began with Oxycontin,” Nolan said.

Although Vermont investigators were able to uncover the scheme, it wasn’t before those alerts were used 230-million times.

Nolan credited the work of her staff and says despite their smaller team, they are prepared to take on the biggest of cases. “It’s a great moment, we’re proud of it, and we’re proud of the fact we can do this work on behalf of Vermonters,” she said.

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