February 1, 2023

Just after he was offered a job at Purdue Pharma, Michael Andersen was watching the news with his wife when a report came on. It was about abuse of Purdue’s pain pill OxyContin, the product he would be convincing doctors to prescribe to their patients at his new gig.

Today in washington the white house and the national safety council unveiled a traveling memorial to victims of the opioid epidemic it’s called prescribed to death and it depicts the faces of 22,000 people who died from using prescription opioids in 2015 the crisis has its roots in the late 90s when drug companies like purdue pharma started aggressively marketing

Opioids to treat chronic pain oxycontin has been a huge moneymaker for purdue but in february the company announced it would stop promoting it to doctors vice news spoke with one former purdue sales rep who’s now a chronic pain patient himself that would probably knock you out i mean it just barely takes the edge off oh come on yeah the way dawg i’ve had back pain

Since i was 14 and i was diagnosed with a degenerative disc i have a back brace i’ve tried traction i have a tens unit i have my own personal ultrasound machine and have massage unit that i use i got to the point where i had surgery after many many years of trying lots of different things gotten to the point where i take the medications daily now to deal with this

Chronic back pain michel depends on a large amount of opioids taken throughout the day including morphine and oxycodone but this isn’t his only experience with opioids for 15 years michael was atop oxycontin sales representative for purdue pharma if i could take this off the wall i’ve got to wipe it off it’s dirty in 2008 i was the number one sales rep in the company

And how many we talk in here well hey i want to say it was around 500 salespeople so something like that if i recall this was kind of a a creative little tool they used to have you pull it out and on there are some of the more common it’s kind of conversions yeah conversions on it so if a doctors got this in his pocket he’s like with a patient he’s thinking well

You know i’ve got to convert this patient from percocet what would be the conversions at the time that they offered me the job i was watching tv with my wife and here’s a news report about what oxycontin abuse you know being highly addictive drug and so we had to think about that like is this really what we want to do i mean that must be kind of stressful you’ve

Just signed on with his company and then you flick on the news and somebody’s bashing it what was interesting when i came on board i didn’t see initially this issue in my territory but of course my territory hadn’t been worked for a year so not a lot of people were writing oxycontin the first problem and issue i had was with that doctor in hesperia mike focused his

Sales on physicians who were already treating pain patients with older less potent opioids his job was to get doctors to prescribe oxycontin a more powerful pain pill the more prescriptions they wrote the more money he made but these new pills were also popular with less scrupulous doctors so i used to call on a doctor in this corner suite right here somewhere along

The line he read a book about pain management and decided he became a pain expert read a book yeah write a book okay and so i started calling on him on a frequent basis and talking to him about oxycontin he started writing oxycontin which at first i thought was a good thing yeah that’s hey you’re making sales i’m doing what i’m supposed to do yeah it evolved and

Eventually when i would come here we saw the wrong kind of crowd what’s wrong kind of crowd well you know people don’t usually hang out outside of a doctor’s office on the sidewalk in the parking lot etc these were drug seekers they were here they were here to get prescriptions for narcotics and they were not paying patients i was in another city in my territory

And one of the office staff said she got a call from a police officer in ohio if they caught a guy selling oxycontin from a prescription bottle and that doctor’s name was on the prescription some of these patients will walk through a doctor’s office and they’ll steal a prescription pad was there anything keeping you from just driving by and looking the other way

You know for someone like him i don’t want to get credit for what he’s doing did patients that i sold oxycontin to through a doctor get hurt well i hope not but i’m sure they did as a rep i it was it was heartbreaking to hear from a doctor that they have a patient that is now self-identified as a drug addict because they got started on oxycontin for their pain you

Know i take these opioids i don’t want to be married to him i would rather not have to take them but i’ve gotten to the point where i’ve you know like i said i’ve tried everything i’m not here to defend purdue but they were an easy target i mean they revolutionized chronic pain management and long-acting opioids and i’ll g six they were innovators in that business

Certainly you know abusers and diverters were getting their hands on the medication so yeah they were widely criticized for what they did am i ashamed that i worked for them not at all because really i know know i know that what i did was the right thing there are people i think who would learn of what you used to do it what you do now and say this guy’s this guy’s

A dope pusher i’m sure they would and i think that it’s it’s of course if you’ve lost a family member to addiction i can i could seriously see how they could say that but you can’t have all of these chronic pain patients suffer at the chance that one person is going to become addicted and if you’re out there and you see me say that and you go yeah but i lost my

Son or daughter or nephew or husband or cousin to addiction and you’d love to see you know all opioids taken away that’s that you know that’s just not a reasonable approach to addressing the problem you

Transcribed from video
This OxyContin Salesman Of The Year Doesn’t Regret His Work (HBO) By VICE News