8News Investigates: Virginia accepts grant from drug maker widely blamed for opioid crisis

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Commonwealth is accepting money from the very pharmaceutical company that an 8News investigation showed may be to blame for the opioid epidemic.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the painkiller OxyContin, will provide Virginia with a $3.1 million dollar grant to upgrade the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP).

This is the same drug maker that admitted in federal court it misled doctors and patients about the risks of OxyContin.

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That 8News investigation found while Purdue Pharma marketed the drug to provide 12-hour relief, it knew it’s effectiveness in some people wore off in 6 to 8 hours. This left some patients wanting more of the powerful drug sooner.

In 2007, the company pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to criminal charges of misbranding OxyContin.

The company agreed to pay a $600-million-dollar fine.

Gov. McAuliffe’s Communications Director Brian Coy says the money is about saving lives. He also says Purdue Pharma will not have any involvement in the actual upgrades or changes to the drug monitoring program — a program that tracks narcotic prescriptions.

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While some critics worry about the position accepting the money could put the state in, Coy stresses to 8News this money comes with no strings attached.

Matt Treacy with Virginia Department of Health Professions which oversees the PMP says, “this will make it much easier for practitioners to fulfill their legal requirement to check the PMP database and view a patient’s prescription history before prescribing a controlled substance.”

Purdue Pharma tells 8News:

“This company accepted full responsibility for the actions some of its employees took prior to 2002. Since that time, we’ve led the industry in developing medications with abuse-deterrent properties, which the FDA, DEA and The White House consider an important part of a comprehensive approach to combat prescription drug abuse. Purdue also has a long history of supporting the use of drug monitoring programs and our partnership with the Commonwealth is an important next step to reduce inappropriate prescribing and other areas of risks to patients.”

Something many may not know: The Commonwealth’s prescription drug monitoring program is funded by that settlement with Purdue Pharma.

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