Painkillers: A Brief History

Oxycodone, the first synthetic opioid, is invented in Germany. For most of the 20th century, this class of drug was used only for acute or cancer pain.

The FDA approves OxyContin, the first long-acting form of oxycodone.

The FDA strengthens label warnings about the risk of OxyContin abuse.

Purdue Pharma and three executives plead guilty to federal charges that the company illegally marketed OxyContin from 1995 to 2001. Purdue is fined $600 million.

Nov. 2011
The CDC calls prescription painkiller abuse an epidemic. More than 40 Americans die of overdoses each day.

Sept. 2013
The FDA proposes label changes to alert users to “risks of addiction, abuse, and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death.”

Oct. 2013
The FDA approves potent new painkiller Zohydro even after its scientific advisory com­mittee votes 11 to 2 against approval. In March, Gov. Deval Patrick tries to ban the drug in Massachusetts. A federal court halts his ban.

May 21, 2014
California counties sue drugmakers over opioid marketing.

June 2, 2014
Chicago sues drugmakers.

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