A member of the billionaire family that owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which is currently the target of multiple lawsuits over its complicity in perpetuating the opioid crisis, just received rights to a patent for a drug intended to curb the opioid crisis.
Dr. Richard Sackler is listed as one of six inventors of the patent, which was approved in January but came to light this week in a report from the Financial Times. The patent office granted the rights to Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Purdue.
The patent is for a new version of the drug buprenorphine, which is already FDA approved in tablet and film form. The new version would come in wafer form, meaning it can dissolve more quickly. According to claims in the patent, the faster the treatment dissolves, the less risk of diversion among addicts.
The patent was granted amid lawsuits from 1,000 jurisdictions against Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which has been accused of marketing Oxycontin, a popular opioid, despite knowing the great risks of addiction the drug carried. Another suit targets the Sackler family directly.
In 2014, Purdue received FDA approval for an opioid drug that claimed to help curb opioid addiction. As Anti-Media reported at the time, “Hysingla contains a potent dose of highly addictive hydrocodone—120 mg… Hysingla is taken once a day and releases over a 24-hour period.”
The drug, which carried great potential for abuse, was approved without the input of an expert panel. The New York Times cited Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who at the time was the chief medical officer for Phoenix House, which runs non-profit addiction treatment centers (he is now the co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management). He questioned the drug’s approval, saying “addicts knew how to break down abuse-deterrent products for oral use, and that the 120-milligram tablets were particularly dangerous because they ‘pack an enormous amount of hydrocodone.’”
The year prior, the federal agency also approved Targiniq, another Purdue “abuse-deterrent” opioid. Koldny doubted the potential effectiveness of that drug, too.
At the same time, Purdue has been attempting to improve its image by donating money to fight the opioid crisis. As STAT News noted:
“Separately, Purdue has been trying to show it is taking steps to address the addiction crisis. It has backed safer prescribing efforts and donated money to the National Sheriffs’ Association to purchase naloxone and train law enforcement on its use. This week, it contributed $3.4 million to a company working on a low-cost naloxone nasal spray.”
The company also spends its money influencing the political system. In 2018 alone, it spent $620,000 on lobbying.
Purdue declined to comment on the patent for its new drug.