The gleaming white booth towered over the medical conference in Italy in October, advertising a new brand of antidote for opioid overdoses. “Be prepared. Get naloxone. Save a life,” the slogan on its walls said.
Some conference attendees were stunned when they saw the company logo: Mundipharma, the international affiliate of Purdue Pharma — the maker of the blockbuster opioid, OxyContin, widely blamed for unleashing the American overdose epidemic.
Here they were cashing in on a cure.
“You’re in the business of selling medicine that causes addiction and overdoses, and now you’re in the business of selling medicine that treats addiction and overdoses?” asked Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an outspoken critic of Purdue who has testified against the company in court. “That’s pretty clever, isn’t it?”
As Purdue Pharma buckles under a mountain of litigation and public protest in the United States, its foreign affiliate, Mundipharma, has expanded abroad, using some of the same tactics to sell the addictive opioids that made its owners, the Sackler family, among the richest in the world. Mundipharma is also pushing another strategy globally: From Europe to Australia, it is working to dominate the market for opioid overdose treatment.