Purdue Pharma, facing fines of $12 billion for fueling the opioid crisis in the U.S., has a foreign affiliate peddling a surprising medication — an antidote for opioid overdose.

And now the Australian affiliate of Purdue, Mundipharma, is being criticized for profiting from the epidemic the OxyContin maker is blamed for creating, the Associated Press reported

In the U.S. the Sackler family, Purdue’s owners, targeted OxyContin’s patients as core customers for its overdose treatments, New York and Massachusetts’s attorney generals have alleged. That plan, Project Tango, called for Purdue to use the same sales force promoting opioids to push antidote naloxone, the N.Y. attorney general claimed.

Mundipharma denied its connection with Project Tango when it introduced the naloxone overdose nasal spray Nyxoid last year. “Mundipharma Australia and Purdue Pharma are independent companies,” Mundipharma wrote. “Mundipharma Australia introduced Nyxoid to help meet a clear clinical need.”

Injectable Naloxone is a generic and cheap opioid antidote. However, Nyxoid, one of the few nasal naloxone sprays available on the market, is selling for more than  $50 a dose in some European countries while not being available in the U.S.

The Sackler family exploited a lack of competition to dominate the market for nasal spray overdose treatments. Three startups have been trying to develop new ways to dispense naloxone, and none of them scored any investments this year, according to PitchBook. Nasal Naloxone spray maker Aperi pharmaceuticals of Switzerland received $10,000 seed money from startup accelerator Venture Kick in 2017. Westwood, Massachusetts-based Epidemic Solutions is developing a bracelet that can detect signs of overdose and automatically administer naloxone. 

  • Startups that are tackling the overdose epidemic with other innovative solutions, from a social network for addicts to robots that test sewage water for traces of drugs, are mostly in early development stage. 
  • Mundipharma declined to reveal how much Nyxoid costs to manufacture or its profit margin.  
  • Purdue Pharma also has launched an aggressive media campaign to counter negative stories about its blockbuster opioid.