In Painkiller, to create OxyContin, Richard Sackler didn’t need to start from scratch. He already had a drug in his hands that needed a little modification.
Richard Sackler teams up with Raymond Sackler and Mortimer Sackler and takes over Purdue Pharma after Arthur Sackler’s death. According to Richard Sackler, human behavior is essentially comprised of running away from pain and towards pleasure.
Sackler plans to stand between pain and pleasure by creating a drug for people who want to get away from pain.
The origin of OxyContin
Purdue Pharma had been making and marketing a morphine-based painkiller called MS-Contin for 15 years. All Sackler needed to do was tweak the recipe a bit.
MS-Contin has two elements. First is the Contin, the candy element that dissolves slowly in the digestive tract, which gives the system its time-release property. Then there is the milk chocolatey center, morphine sulfate.
There were no plans for a second generation of MS-Contin because morphine works well and is well understood, which made it relatively easy to get approval from the FDA.
Sackler points out that morphine is not the only opioid that works well. Also, it is an opioid that is associated with death. Sackler’s idea is to create a drug that people will associate with improved well-being.
OxyContin is born
Purdue Pharma organized a discussion group, and Sackler observed that people have no associations with oxycodone. They can make oxycodone whatever they want.
Now, Sackler thought of taking a drug with twice the kick of morphine and giving it to people. Sackler is reminded that abuse is going to be a real issue, but he quotes that, as long as a patient is under the supervision of their physician, these drugs are incredibly safe.
On the Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale, Sackler suggests that doctors will prescribe their drug when it hurts a little or more, unlike morphine, which is prescribed when it hurts a lot or worse.
Edie Flowers likes to think this is the moment where all of this could have been stopped if Raymond or Mortimer had objected. Sackler vows that they are going to take away a lot of pain, knowing that people will abuse their drug and get addicted. He then names the drug OxyContin.
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