Purdue Pharma hired Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor and now Donald Trump’s lawyer, to head off a federal investigation in the mid-2000s into the company’s marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller at the center of an epidemic estimated to have claimed at least 300,000 lives. In 1990 it was not apparent to the medical and pharmaceutical communities, or to the general public, how addictive Oxycontin was as a painkiller. Oxycontin is a time released version of Oxycodone, a semisynthetic opioid synthesized from Thebaine, an opioid alkaloid found in the Persian poppy.
In 1996, Purdue Pharma aggressively advertised its product to not only physicians handling patients in need of pain management, but also to family doctors and general practitioners, which critics feel resulted in the crisis of abuse that exists today. As lawsuits began to be brought against the company, in 2002 Purdue hired Guiliani’s law firm (Guiliani Partners) to stem the controversy around the product and manage intense scrutiny coming from the DEA. As Guiliani Partners had a contract with the Justice Department helping them reorganize major drug investigations, his reputation as a litigator and mayor of New York during the 9/11 crisis helped influence the result of a 2004 recording keeping fine levied by the DEA – instead of paying $20 million, they were fined for $2 million, and Purdue gave credit to Guiliani for this result. He was also credited for negotiating with federal prosecutors from Virginia over a case against Purdue Pharma, helping three Purdue executives avoid jail time with guilty pleas and reducing the overall judgement against the company which, in 2006, was finally forced to admit it mislead doctors, patients and the general public as to the addictive nature of Oxycontin.