In September, Stamford-based Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for bankruptcy as part of a tentative settlement in a lawsuit brought against the company by more than 2,000 municipalities and two dozen states. The deal marked a stunning turn of events for the Connecticut company that made billions selling OxyContin, a drug that came to be seen as an early driver of the opioid epidemic.

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1953

New York-raised brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, all psychiatrists, buy Purdue Frederick Company, a small and struggling New York City drug company that had been founded in the 1890s.

1973

The company moves to Norwalk.

1990s

Opioid medications previously used primarily for acute and cancer pain in the hospital setting begin to be used more widely as there is a belief that chronic pain is being inadequately treated.

1995

OxyContin is approved by the FDA. Its timed-release method is thought to reduce the chance of addiction. Soon after it is released, people learn that crushing, dissolving or chewing the pills bypasses the timed release, allowing for a powerful high all at once.

1998

The Federation of State Medical Boards reassures doctors that they won’t face regulatory action for prescribing large amounts of opioids.

Late 1990s & early 2000s

Overdoses and deaths from prescription products rise sharply, fueled in large part by opioids, with OxyContin often at the center.

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The Purdue Pharma headquarters on Tresser Boulevard in Stamford.

2000

Purdue Pharma moves to its current location in Stamford.

2001

Stronger warnings about OxyContin’s potential for misuse and abuse are added to its label.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asks the company to “completely overhaul and reform” how it is marketing the painkiller.

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Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in 2001.

2002

Faced with mounting controversy, Purdue hires former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, to help assuage fears about OxyContin.

2003

The FDA issues a warning letter to Purdue Pharma about OxyContin for misleading advertisements.

2004

The Federation of State Medical Boards lobbies to make undertreatment of pain by physicians punishable for the first time. Among those who draw up the policy is David Haddox, a senior Purdue executive.

2007

A 26-state lawsuit led by Blumenthal and Connecticut leads to a settlement in which Purdue pays $19.5 million — $719,500 of which goes to Connecticut, where part of it helped fund a prescription drug-monitoring system. The company also agrees to end some of its controversial marketing techniques, including giving sales representatives bonuses solely on the volume of OxyContin prescribed.

Days later, Purdue and three company executives, including its president and top lawyer, plead guilty in federal court to criminal and civil charges. As part of the plea, the company agrees to pay $600 million in fines and other payments. At the time it is one of the largest amounts ever paid by a drug company.

2010

The FDA approves a new formulation of OxyContin that is more difficult to crush, chew and dissolve.

2016

The CDC issues more conservative guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain.

It is estimated that Purdue has made more than $36 billion in revenue from OxyContin.

2019

As part of its tentative settlement of a suit involving more than 2,000 municipalities, Purdue will be dissolved and several billion dollars will be paid out by the company and the Sackler family, which still owns it. A new company will be formed in its place that will continue selling OxyContin and other medicines. Profits will be used to pay plaintiffs in the lawsuit and support treatments for addiction. About half of U.S. states, including Connecticut, are not satisfied with the terms of the settlement and are opposing it.

This article appeared in the November 2019 issue of Connecticut Magazine. You can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get the latest and greatest content from Connecticut Magazine delivered right to your inbox. Got a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com, or contact us on Facebook @connecticutmagazine or Twitter @connecticutmag.

The senior writer at Connecticut Magazine, Erik is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University