Purdue Pharma’s campaign donations to politicians have dropped precipitously in recent years as investigations revealed its product OxyContin’s major role in the opioid epidemic, leading to lawsuits from 26 different states against the company.
However, Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., is one of the few candidates still taking Purdue’s money, accepting $1,000 this election cycle even as his state takes legal action against the company for downplaying the risks and pushing higher doses of OxyContin.
Paulsen’s campaign received the contribution in November 2017 as his state grappled with the opioid crisis that officials have pinned on segments of the health-care industry, including drug manufacturers like Purdue.
Minnesota is among the states who have sued Purdue, alleging that it had continued to engage in deceptive practices that ignored the risk of its drug. In July, the state’s attorney general, Lori Swanson, announced a lawsuit against Purdue, claiming, “This company misrepresented and minimized the addictive nature of its drugs in order to sell more of them.”
In 2017 alone, 162 people died of opioid-related causes in Paulsen’s home county, Hennepin County, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to charges it deliberately misled the public by claiming that OxyContin was a less addictive alternative to other opioid painkillers.
The company was forced to admit that it knew its claims about OxyContin’s relative safety had been proven false almost ten years earlier, when it hid a study revealing that OxyContin was just as addictive as other painkillers from the FDA.
It continued to promote the drug while deaths from opioid addiction rose across the country. Meanwhile, the Sackler family, Purdue’s owners, became billionaires on the back of strong OxyContin sales.
According to OpenSecrets, the company spent more than $43,000 on the midterms in 2014 and $52,000 during the 2016 cycle. However, during the 2018 elections it’s spending has dropped to just $20,600 on campaign contributions.