New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced earlier this year that the city would sue manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids to account for their part in the city’s ongoing deadly opioid epidemic. Firms named in the suit include Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and McKesson Corporation. The Guardian reports that more than 60 cities are suing Big Pharma over opioids. An explosive New York Times report has revealed that manufacturers of the drug OxyContin knew it was highly addictive as early as 1996, the first year after the drug hit the market. The Times published a confidential Justice Department report this week showing that Purdue Pharma executives were told OxyContin was being crushed and snorted for its powerful narcotic, but still promoted it as less addictive than other opioid painkillers. Purdue executives have testified before Congress that they were unaware of the drug’s growing abuse until years after it was on the market. Today, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50. We speak with Barry Meier, author of Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is Barry Meier, author of Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic. Tell us the story of Dr. Art Van Zee.
BARRY MEIER: You know, Art Van Zee is kind of the hero of my book. He’s a man I met him when I was reporting for the Times back in the early 2000s. He’s a small-town doctor. He lives in a town called Pennington Gap in very western Virginia, near the Kentucky border. And I met him. He was a — he’s a gracious, lovely person. He reminded me of kind of a Doctors Without Borders, but here in the US, you know, working in Appalachia, in an area that desperately needed medical care.
He realized that his town was being overrun by OxyContin abuse. He saw kids being addicted to it, went to the hospital on emergency visits. And he…