Saturday, July 21, 2007

Purdue - OxyContin: make the punishment fit the crime

"My object all sublime. I shall achieve in time. To make the punishment fit the crime. The punishment fit the crime."

Three of pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma's top current and former executives skirted a prison sentence in federal court today, winding up instead with three years probation and 400 hours of community service to serve instead.

Federal Judge James P. Jones ordered the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin and the three executives to pay a $634.5 million fine for misleading doctors about the narcotic's risk of addiction. The company had touted the drug as less addictive than more traditional narcotics, despite the fact that the pill can easily be crushed and converted into a powerful street drug.

Michael Friedman, who retired last month as the Connecticut-based company's president, lawyer Howard Udell and former chief medical officer Dr. Paul Goldenheim had pleaded guilty in May, in return for accepting the fine.

The surprise from today's ruling was the inclusion of the community service penalty — each man will have to serve his 400 hours working in drug abuse prevention or treatment, which would amount two and a half months of 40-hour work weeks spent fulfilling the sentence.

But the big question inside and outside the courthouse today was, does the punishment fit the crime?

Read the "Hillbilly Heroin" stories:

More at Time

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