Marianne Skolek Perez- a Mother Who Helped Take Down Purdue Pharma

On April 29, 2002, a 6-year-old boy named Brian waited for his mother, Jill, at the bus stop. When she never showed, Brian made his way home, only to discover her in what looked like a deep sleep on her bed. Brian fell asleep next to her and the next morning when he woke up, he discovered his mother had passed away. After Brian’s grandmother, Marianne Skolek Perez, discovered that Purdue Pharma played a role in her daughter’s death, she decided to take legal action against them, ensuring that no parent or child has to endure the pain of watching a loved one die of opioid addiction.

Jill’s Link with OxyContin 

One week after Jill’s funeral, Brian told Perez that his mother started to change once she began taking OxyContin. Brian reported going on doctor visits with his mother, stating that the doctor prescribed the medication to help treat her back injury. Perez, a part-time nurse in the Somerset Medical Center Oncology unit, was familiar with OxyContin, as she assisted cancer patients with those pills for end-of-life treatment protocals. Perez did not believe her grandson when he mentioned the medication until she saw the toxicology report stating that Jill died of respiratory failure due to an accidental overdose of OxyContin. Upon receiving this news, Perez vowed that anyone responsible would be held accountable.

The Quest for Answers

Perez wanted to know why a drug that she would give to her cancer patients would be given to her daughter for back pain. She spoke to her daughter’s friend who told her that, after Jill’s first appointment with her doctor, the rest of her appointments were with the receptionist who handled the OxyContin refills. This news caused Perez to contact the New Jersey and Pennsylvania medical boards where her daughter’s doctor was licensed. State investigators interviewed her and opened a case. 

Trying to Open a Case

Perez met with lawyers at a Philadelphia-area firm. The lawyers acted confident that a wrongful death lawsuit could be put into place and spent weeks preparing a complaint. As they were about to serve the doctor with the complaint, they found out that they could not proceed, as Jill’s doctor had followed the standard of care that was in place at the time. Confused by this news, Perez soon realized that it was not the doctor who was the problem, but the pharmaceutical company itself.

Researching Purdue Pharma

Perez decided to investigate further into Purdue Pharma, the company that made OxyContin. She researched the executives that were running Purdue and the history of the company. Perez also researched how the drug was being dispensed nationwide. For six months, Perez would speak to the FDA about how Purdue was mass-merchandising this painkiller. She even spoke to local newspapers, urging them to look into the company and its medication. Eventually, the FDA took action in response to the countless letters Perez sent them, issuing a letter of warning to Purdue. The warning highlighted how Purdue’s advertisements over-promoted OxyContin, while omitting and minimizing information regarding the health risks presented by the painkiller. Specifically, Purdue was saying that patients taking less than 60 milligrams of the drug could easily stop it without any withdrawal symptoms. Perez was on the way to becoming an advocate for Jill and other victims of the pharmaceutical company.

Columbia University Conference

The case against Purdue Pharma would eventually be reopened once lawyers had enough evidence. In the meantime, Perez decided to attend a conference at Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse after seeing a notice that the vice president of health policy, J. David Haddox, would be there. Perez researched Haddox before the conference and found out that he is the man responsible for the debunked theory of pseudoaddiction in that addiction could be resolved with larger or more frequent doses. During the conference, Haddox spoke about the drug’s pain relief benefits and glossed over the potential for addiction. Perez got so mad at Haddox that she pushed him down towards rows of chairs and said, “Now you know how the victims of OxyContin feel when they hit the depths of addiction and are on their knees fighting the horrific effects of withdrawing from the drug.” 

Perez’s Efforts Continued

Marianne Skolek Perez seemed to be everywhere and would not rest until justice was served. She set up a website called oxydeaths.com for people to share their stories about the drug’s dangers. She also teamed up with Chelly Griffith, who became addicted to OxyContin as the result of a back injury like Jill’s and felt angered that the FDA failed to require Purdue to warn the public of the drug’s addictive properties. Perez even got Purdue to remove a press release from their website, called “65–0: OxyContin Cases Against Purdue Pharma LP Dismissed at Record Rate,” as it looked like they were gloating over their victories.

Justice is Served

In May 2007, Purdue and three of its top executives pleaded guilty to misbranding OxyContin. The company was fined 600 million dollars and the three executives another 34.5 million dollars. Perez is now a writer for Salem-News.com. She updates her email subscribers on changes and news around opioid litigation. Perez encourages local and private attorneys to stand up to Purdue Pharma and to settle for nothing less than victory. Her bravery and conviction led her to expose Purdue Pharma’s marketing crimes, protecting others from going through opioid addiction.

At Silver Lining Recovery, we know that addiction has many stories. Whether you started using drugs and/or alcohol with your peers, or you are struggling with dependence as a result of an injury and/or physical pain, we are here to help. Located in Huntington Beach, California next to a beautiful pond, we work tirelessly to create a calm and serene environment for our clients to begin their recovery journeys. We believe in treating addiction, while simultaneously identifying and treating underlying causes that often perpetuate the addiction cycle.

Our professional staff is experienced in creating individualized treatment plans that address each client’s unique needs. Through the use of several treatment modalities, including EMDR, CBT, DBT, and alternative healing practices such as mediation, we have watched countless clients recover.  If you are ready to take the steps towards a life free from drugs and/or alcohol, call us today at (833) 847-6984.