In Painkiller, Richard Sackler’s key to making OxyContin successful is the right marketing. Their marketing made them numbers, while people lost their lives after getting addicted to their drug.
Richard Sackler is heavily influenced by his uncle, Arthur Sackler, who is responsible for building an empire for the family. Arthur Sackler was a psychiatrist at the eve of the pharmaceutical revolution who created a pill that was a lobotomy in a bottle.
He bought a drug company and an advertising company, knowing that marketing the pills is the future. Certainly, he was a better salesman than a doctor.
As a salesman, Arthur knew a product is only as good as the message it comes with. Taking inspiration from him, Richard devises his marketing plan.
Convincing the doctors
Richard knows the message he wants to send, but more importantly, he knows how to send it. In order to sell OxyContin, Purdue Pharma hires good-looking college graduates who can speak the language of a doctor and puts together a sales force.
The job of this sales team is to go from doctor to doctor and convince them to prescribe more OxyContin. When a simple introduction to the drug doesn’t work, these graduates use their pretty faces, smiles, and charm to get the doctors on their side.
For this sales team, doctors are their family. They are not in the medical business; they are in the people business. Doctors are very special to them because people trust doctors more than teachers, priests, politicians, parents, or anyone else.
Furthermore, an intricate aspect of making doctors prescribe this drug is that this sales team doesn’t have to make doctors write more prescriptions. They have to make them prescribe more milligrams of OxyContin.
The toy and the conferences
Purdue Pharma also comes up with the idea of making a big, furry, squishy, fluffy, and cuddly OxyContin pill toy. It is manufactured and shipped from China to Virginia.
Through that toy, doctors, pharmacists, people buying drugs, and even the people in China, who are manufacturing this toy, know about a drug called OxyContin.
OxyContin was an effective but seriously flawed drug. However, Sackler managed to get his drug FDA approval by convincing Dr. Curtis Wright to use language that would allow them to say that, with full FDA approval, OxyContin is the safest opioid in the market.
OxyContin’s FDA report says delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets, is believed to reduce the abuse liability of the drug. The words ‘is believed’ allowed Sackler to launch his drug into the market.
Purdue Pharma had just started here. After the launch of the pill, Purdue Pharma fills every other conference room in every Holiday Inn in an eight-state area, where they convince doctors that whoever is not prescribing OxyContin is practicing inhumane, backward, and antiquated malpractice.
OxyContin becomes the country’s fastest-growing drug and soon one of the most powerful painkillers to ever hit the market.