He was sentenced to 20 years in prison but was paroled after only five.
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He had a new wife, Dr. Mireille Lalanne, and together they were running a new clinic on Charlotte Avenue. The couple later divorced but stayed business partners, and their clinic became one of the top painkiller prescribers in Tennessee. In just three years, Lalanne wrote more than 6, OxyContin prescriptions for more than , pills. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue continued to make sales calls to the doctors despite being aware that two of Vilvarajah's patients had died from overdoses and that the pair were under investigation for drug trafficking.
Purdue got an even more explicit warning about the doctors in Kentucky law enforcement officials specifically told Purdue they were suspicious of the doctors. Lalanne and Vilvarajah were handcuffed in Nashville and extradited to Kentucky, where they were accused of organized crime and drug trafficking. Kentucky prosecutors later charged Lalanne with murder because of an overdose, but those charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement, according to Department of Justice records.
They were each sentenced to four months of probation for a misdemeanor charge of facilitating drug trafficking. Vilvarajah to prescribe controlled substances notwithstanding his conviction," Josephson said. Pogue didn't just prescribe often; he also prescribed big. With dosage like this, it was "extremely likely" Pogue's prescriptions were being resold on the street, Tennessee officials allege in their lawsuit.
Pogue's prescriptions had gotten him in trouble before. However, the state's lawsuit says there were other red flags, too. Some patients admitted they planned to resell the drugs. However, the company waited another 75 days before it instructed sales reps to stop calling Pogue.
Purdue finally stopped calling Cochran in February after it became aware the doctor was under investigation by the medical examiners board. Cochran lost his license a few weeks later. None of the four doctors identified in this story could be reached for comment. Multiple phone numbers listed for Pogue, Lalanne and Vilvarajah were either disconnected or went to voicemail.
In its global expansion, Mundipharma is looking to countries with wealth, health benefits or large emerging middle classes. And it is pursuing patients healthy enough to be customers for a long time. Seeking new patients in Spain, Mundipharma chose ambassadors guaranteed to attract attention: Naked celebrities. A string of topless actors, musicians and models looked into the camera and told fellow Spaniards to stop dismissing aches and pains as a normal part of life. In a Spanish television spot sponsored by Mundipharma, celebrities wear chains to represent the burden of chronic pain.
The ads do not recommend a specific treatment or medication, but do urge sufferers to see a healthcare professional — thousands of whom have been trained by the company in the use of opioids. The campaign is part of a strategy to redefine back pain, joint aches and other common conditions as a distinct malady — chronic pain — that doctors and patients should take seriously. Chronic pain patients, who fill prescriptions month after month and often year upon year, have been the driver of billion-dollar sales for Purdue in the U.
In Spain, painkiller use is on the rise. Company sales were up seven-fold since , a Mundipharma executive said in a interview with an industry blog. A spokeswoman said the videos were taken down because the program was inactive. Around the world, Mundipharma companies cite statistics suggesting there is a great unmet need for their products. Opening an office in Mexico in , Mundipharma officials declared that 28 million citizens were suffering from chronic pain.
In Brazil, the company cited a figure of 80 million. Health authorities in the U. Some Mundipharma representatives abroad have suggested publicly that painkiller risk is overblown. As public health officials in the U.
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Lee could not be reached for comment. The surge in addiction and death was largely due to recreational abuse, he said. Subscribe today for unlimited access to exclusive investigations, breaking news, features and more. After introducing OxyContin in the U. In the last decade and a half, both have seen U.
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Mundipharma turned its focus to the developing world in , as U. Mundipharma expanded first in Asia, then Latin America and then the Middle East and Africa, ultimately having a presence in developing markets. The high cost of brand-name medications remains a barrier in many developing countries, but Mundipharma has sought ways to adjust.
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In Brazil, the company started a program this year that offers patients discounts on the cost of pills. Purdue used coupons in the U. About 34, coupons were redeemed before the company terminated the program as concerns about abuse grew, according to a Congressional report. A Mundipharma spokeswoman said that growth included revenue from deals the companies have made with other manufacturers to sell non-opioid products. The Chinese government has pledged that all 1. Since , Mundipharma has hired more than a thousand employees, most of them sales representatives, and now has a presence in cities.
Mundipharma has sponsored clinical trials of OxyContin and Targin at hospitals across the country. There remains, however, a deep-seated fear of opioids stemming from Chinese defeats in the 19th century Opium Wars that left millions addicted.
OxyContin maker reaches tentative U.S. opioid-crisis settlement – Mile House Free Press
Under strict government regulations, patients can purchase OxyContin only from a hospital or other medical institution, and can receive no more than a day supply. The video was removed from the site this fall at around the time The Times asked company officials about it. In China, where there are nearly 3 million registered drug abusers, the government has forced addicts into boot-camp style treatment that human rights advocates have described as prisons. Treatment is rudimentary or unavailable in many parts of the developing world. Public health officials in Europe worry far less about painkiller addiction than their American counterparts.
Government health systems in many countries track prescriptions, making it more difficult than in the U. But when a team of international researchers recently conducted the first large-scale survey of drug abuse in Europe, they found what the lead investigator described as a significant problem with prescription opioid abuse. Painkiller abuse rates are similar to the U. Across Europe, people with prescriptions were eight times as likely to abuse the drugs. Mundipharma International took issue with that conclusion.
The company said in a statement that painkiller abuse is less of a problem in Europe than in the U. In one European country — Cyprus — OxyContin abuse is an acknowledged problem. Mundipharma began marketing the painkiller in on the Mediterranean island of 1 million.
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Government health coverage made the medication cheaper than heroin and addicts began crushing and snorting the pills. Officers responding to overdoses knew little of the U.
Stelios Sergides, a superintendent with the Cyprus National Police, said that the first time he heard the word OxyContin, he had to look it up online. Police in Cyprus are investigating doctors suspected of overprescribing and working with public health officials to get addicts into rehab. Last year, 59 people requested treatment.
Read the Stories. Your Story. Full Coverage. OxyContin sales began to fall in the U. Visit the site Mundipharma China Mundipharma is courting Chinese patients with a campaign encouraging people to take medications as their physicians prescribe. Murthy has called on U. David A.