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Giuliani Accused of Shielding Purdue Pharma in OxyContin Scandal

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Former New York mayor and presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani is being criticized for image consulting that helped pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma as the company grappled with criticism over the marketing of the painkiller OxyContin, Newsday reported July 15.

After stepping down as mayor, Giuliani worked for five years as a consultant, taking a job with Purdue that sought to blame drug dealers — and not the company — for the problem of OxyContin abuse and addiction. However, Purdue officials agreed in May to pay $640 million in fines and plead guilty to fraud charges for minimizing the risks associated with the drug.

Giuliani also helped negotiate the plea deal that allowed the Purdue executives to avoid jail time.

“The country was being devastated, continues to be devastated, and his function was to convince the public that there wasn't a problem with the drug,” said Marianne Skolek, whose daughter Jill died in 2002 of heart failure after being prescribed OxyContin. “He is not a hero to the thousands of parents who have lost kids or whose kids are in rehab facilities as a result of Purdue peddling this drug.”

“If he became president, I would like to move to Canada,” added Ed Bisch, whose son died after mixing illicit OxyContin with alcohol. “I'll do everything in my meager power to stop his election.”

Purdue didn't respond to the story; Giuliani declined an interview request but in the past has said that his concern was that patients still have access to valuable drugs even if abuse and trafficking were occurring.

“This is one of Giuliani's Achilles' heels,” said Baruch College public affairs professor Doug Muzzio. “He was directly and intimately involved with a company that was in violation of law and morals and ethics. There are ways to frame the issue that resonate, that Rudy Giuliani is sacrificing the public weal for his own personal benefit.”

As a Purdue representative, Giuliani used his political clout to arrange meetings with former DEA head Asa Hutchinson to discuss security at Purdue's plants. “In my opinion they hired Rudy to give them a good image, and to get around me,” said Laura Nagel, formerly the DEA's chief diversion investigator. “Rudy got them access to higher levels of government.”

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