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Should We Blame Pharmaceutical Companies for America’s Opioid Epidemic? Here’s What the Science Says.

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Several studies indicate that the ready availability of prescription opioid painkillers was a key factor in creating the current opioid epidemic.

Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, has been taking some legal hits lately. Last week, the company settled a lawsuit with the state of Oklahoma for $270 million, the largest amount yet in a state opioid suit. Over the past several weeks, an ongoing case with the states of Massachusetts and New York has revealed the extent to which the Sacklers, the wealthy family that owns Purdue, were personally involved in plans to market and profit from OxyContin. Suits like these allege that Purdue advertised OxyContin as less addictive than it really is, leading to an epidemic of opioid use disorder and overdoses. Purdue and the Sacklers deny these claims.

So what’s the evidence that Purdue Pharma and its marketing of OxyContin led to high rates of opioid addiction in the United States? While it’s up to the courts to decide to what extent Purdue is legally responsible for America’s opioid crisis, the science has been building for several years now to support the idea that the ready availability of legally manufactured, prescribed opioid painkillers was a critical force in creating the epidemic in painkiller and heroin addiction today. Below are some of the most important studies showing that link, as well as studies that illustrate the current state of the opioid epidemic.

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