$200K Bonuses for Big Pharma’s Top Pill Pushers

How Purdue’s ‘one-two’ punch fuelled the market for opioids

| “They misled the public, they misled the doctors, and they misled their salespeople.”

| Accused of exaggerating the benefits of OxyContin, the company’s owners had a bigger share than realized

Financial Times – Like many salespeople working in the US pharmaceuticals industry, Carol Panara had often heard about the legendary bonuses on offer at Purdue Pharma, the maker of the now infamous opioid painkiller OxyContin.

“I remember one of their reps telling me you could make $40,000 or $50,000 a quarter [$160,000 to $200,000 per year] in bonuses,” she recalls.

“I thought, ‘Wow, there are actually companies paying that kind of money, why can’t I find something like that?’ I had two kids that were getting ready to go to college. It sounded as if it was too good to be true.”

In 2008, Ms. Panara decided to quit her job at Novartis, the Swiss drugmaker, and join Purdue, a career move that has since become the source of bitter regret.

Over lunch at a diner in Medford, New Jersey, she recounts how she became concerned about the tactics Purdue used to increase sales of OxyContin, a drug that has been blamed for sparking the US opioid crisis.

Ms. Panara claims she and her colleagues were instructed to boost sales of OxyContin — a potent and addictive painkiller — by aggressively targeting inexperienced doctors while underplaying the risks of abuse.

“I feel bad that the company was so blasé, so negligent about taking responsibility,” says Ms. Panara, who left in 2013, and who was last year subpoenaed by the state attorney general in New Jersey.

“I feel they misled the public, they misled the doctors, and they misled their salespeople.”

The actions of Ms. Panara and her colleagues at Purdue have become central to the legal case that prosecutors are now building against the company … Read the full story at Financial Times.

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