Report: Purdue Pharma used 'Wizard of Oz' film to first market OxyContin to patients, physicians

Following the launch of its blockbuster painkiller OxyContin in 1996, Purdue Pharma's sales team devised a marketing plan that incorporated references to "The Wizard of Oz" to convince physicians to prescribe the narcotic, according to a Marketplace report.

The marking guide, titled "If Only I Had A Brain…" and obtained by Marketplace, was a training and development document sent out to the manufacturer's "entire field force" via the sales department in November 1996.

The step-by-step guide presents a concrete approach physicians should use to prescribe the drug. The memo begins by stating that, like Dorothy's quest to return to Kansas via the yellow brick road in "The Wizard of Oz," physicians must present patients with a clear objective and provide a definite plan as to how to speed up the healing process.

According to the documents, physicians should present OxyContin as a medication that will help patients heal faster without becoming addicted to the drug because "delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets, is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug." The phrase was a marketing tactic the company included on the drug's original label to encourage physicians to prescribe the narcotic to patients, according to the report.

By 2004, OxyContin quickly became one of the most abused pharmaceutical drugs in the nation's history and played a significant role in the rise of the opioid epidemic, which has impacted millions of Americans, the report states.

The drug manufacturer has since been sued by several states, cities, counties and hospitals, each alleging Purdue Pharma engaged in a deceptive opioid marketing campaign that contributed to rising rates of opioid overdoses across the country.

To view the original Purdue Pharma memo, click here.

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