OxyContin is a dying business in America. With the country dealing with an opioid epidemic, the medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, pursued a new strategy: Get the painkiller that is widely blamed for setting off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.
A network of family-owned companies are pouring money into operations in the developing world and other countries less familiar with opioids: Brazil; China; Colombia; Spain; South Korea. They’re using some of the same techniques that made OxyContin a pharmaceutical blockbuster in the U.S. Training seminars that tell doctors to overcome “opiophobia.” Awareness campaigns to reframe common conditions like migraines as things that deserve opioid painkillers. A discount program to make pills more affordable.
Promotional videos for the international companies feature smiling families and suggest they see OxyContin’s U.S. success – more than $34 billion in sales – as merely a beginning.
“We’re only just getting started,” the videos declare.
This is the third installment of our investigation into OxyContin. Join us on Reddit with any questions you might have.
Do you have an experience with OxyContin, or know someone who has? Tell us your story.