Crimes committed in the name of business
June 5, 2007
In case you didn’t notice, four of the biggest drug kingpins in the country recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanors. If that’s a surprise it shouldn’t be; they were executives. Specifically they were the makers and distributors of oxycontin, a powerful and lethal narcotic you’ve undoubtedly heard of if not been prescribed. Because of them it’s been recklessly distributed by doctors everywhere, leading to overuse, overdose and addictions that are stronger than heroin for an unknown number of Americans.
Once again criminals of the highest order go free because their crimes were committed in the name of business. The FDA’s investigative wing found an “extensive, long-term conspiracy” to deal as much oxycontin as possible with no regard to public safety. These guys and their corporation (which was convicted of a felony – a non-living entity caught the felony, good deal for the real people who were involved) were fined more than $600 million so they didn’t get away scot-free, but that’s Monopoly money to everyone involved. It may sound like a lot, but compared to the number of lives they wrecked with their evil substance, it’s a weak pittance. They purposefully lied to doctors about the potency and addictiveness of their new drug, downplaying its euphoric effects and saying there were little or no withdrawal symptoms. These were all devastating deceptions because they masked what was effectively a pure narcotic engineered to be as potent as possible and then flooded the streets with it using unsuspecting doctors as dealers. They overproduced it, knowing supplies had to be going to illegal uses, but they didn’t care because they got paid either way. These guys were drug dealers plain and simple; they just did it from a boardroom wearing a suit.
Now I don’t blame Purdue Pharma LP and its executives for the addictions of the many people who have wasted their lives doing oxycontin, no more than I blame the Columbian drug lords for the crack and cocaine epidemics of earlier eras. Everyone must take personal responsibility for their own choices, whether that’s taking a dangerous, addictive drug or producing and distributing it, no one gets off the hook.
But what’s worse: to have participated in an epidemic or to have purposefully fostered and enabled one to start in the first place? I vote for the producers and distributors. Without them a lot of unwary people who would never have found heroin because it either wasn’t available or was too taboo were instead introduced to an equally dangerous substance that came in a pill, from a doctor and a pharmacy, and was all of the sudden readily on hand thanks to the marketing and distribution network of a major American corporation. Ambrose Bierce, a Civil War veteran, put it best when he defined a corporation as “an ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.” And that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Profits without morals, whether you’re a drug dealer or drug executive it makes no difference.
– Jeff Williams is a Tahoe local, outdoor enthusiast and political junkie.
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