In 1869, John Purdue donated land to found Purdue University — he is not to be confused with John Purdue Gray, one of the founders of Purdue Pharma, which was founded over 20 years after John Purdue donated land.
Purdue Pharma is an independently owned pharmaceutical company based in Stamford, Connecticut. In mid-November, the state of Indiana filed a suit against the company alleging that it marketed its opioid medication, Oxycontin, too aggressively and offered physicians incentives to over-prescribe it to patients. Indiana joined about 30 other states in doing so, according to an Indianapolis Star article.
Eric Barker, the dean of the College of Pharmacy, noted that Purdue frequently receives calls due to being mistaken for Purdue Pharma.
"People have asked specifically why Purdue is involved in something like this, and we constantly remind our folks — our alumni, our faculty and staff — that we are the messengers of the reality that Purdue Pharma has absolutely no connection to Purdue University, despite the common spelling of the name," he said.
The Purdue University News Service has also made it evident that they are not associated with Purdue Pharma.
On its website, they state: "Purdue University is not and has never been affiliated in any way with Purdue Pharma. The pharmaceutical company was founded in Manhattan in 1892 by John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham as the Purdue Frederick Company. Purdue University was founded in 1869 as Indiana's land-grant institution, named for benefactor John Purdue."
Purdue University has taken several steps to address the opioid crisis. Last year, the College of Pharmacy launched a community engagement project known as BoilerWoRx to promote training for the use of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist. It also provides education on safe and effective disposal of unused medication and serves as a resource for public health officials.
"The opioid crisis is a complex one and there's no one entity that's really responsible," Barker said. "I think it's somewhat short-sided to point to one entity, but there are numerous players that have contributed to the situation that we are in with the opioid crisis."
While it is a difficult issue to discuss, Barker said it is essential to ensure that patients and their pain are being treated appropriately by thinking about alternatives to and limiting the number of opioids people have access to.
"I think that within the state of Indiana, we are having the right kind of conversations to address the problem, from monitoring how many opioids are being prescribed to legal issues to making sure we have treatment capacity. And education helps as well," Barker said.
Barker also stated the importance of opioid stewardship, or interventions to manage the use of opioids, in various educational aspects.
"The concept of opioid stewardship is very much forefront and can deliberate teaching practices in medicine and pharmacy," he said. "How we're addressing pain management is evolving to get to what individual patients need at that time."
Nicole Noel, director of the Purdue University Pharmacy, said that people call the pharmacy at least once a month mistaking it for Purdue Pharma.
"The calls are usually from patients who need pain medication that we do not stock, and doctor's offices looking for prescriptions," Noel said via phone. "So we can determine that they're calling for Purdue Pharma pretty quickly."
When individuals call, the Purdue University Pharmacy directs them to the number for Purdue Pharma, although it is usually a case-by-case basis.
Barker noted that despite having a similar name to Purdue Pharma, the Purdue College of Pharmacy plays a supportive role in opioid education and management.
"We are part of a multidisciplinary effort to address treatment in opioid- and substance-use disorder space, employing an evidence-based approach to be a resource for the legal system," he said.
The controversy has created a more robust conversation within the country about appropriate pain management, including between students at Purdue University.
"Improperly marketing opioid drugs is really dangerous and shouldn't be done," said Andrew Purdy, a second-year student in the College of Pharmacy. "Nowadays, there's too much hate put on pharmaceutical companies. But at the same time, these companies need to understand the severity of the opioid epidemic and put patients first."