The company that makes OxyContin pleaded guilty today to misleading the public about the effects of the potent painkiller. Purdue Pharma and three executives will pay $634.5 million in civil and criminal fines. Federal prosecutors accused the firm of "misbranding" the drug, marketing it as a less addictive alternative to traditional pain meds although no evidence supported the claim.
In a rare move, Pharma's president, top lawyer and former chief medical officer also entered pleas. The news came two days after Purdue announced a $19.5 million settlement with 26 states that had accused the drugmaker of pressuring physicians to overprescribe OxyContin. Deaths from the drug rose 400 percent between 1996 and 2001, the period the lawsuit covers.