On June 22 in Stamford, Connecticut, a sculpture of a drug spoon was installed outside of the headquarters of Purdue Pharma in protest of the opioid crisis in the United States. The 800-pound, 10.5-foot steel sculpture named “Purdue” was created by artist Domenic Esposito and was placed at the drugmaker’s facility with the help of art gallery owner Fernando Alvarez. The sculpture was there for about two hours until it was removed by Stamford public works employees using a payloader.
The sculpture is now being held by the police as evidence after Alvarez was arrested and charged with a criminal misdemeanor. He is being charged with obstruction of free passage and for interfering with the police, and may also have to be financially responsible for the cost of removing and storing the sculpture. It was reported that the interactions between Alvarez and the police were civil, though he refused to move the sculpture when asked. Esposito was also there at the time of the sculpture’s placement, but he was not arrested or charged. Alvarez and Esposito decided beforehand who would take the charges. Alvarez will face the court July 10 to face his misdemeanor charge.
In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to mislabeling OxyContin and deceiving the public about the risk of addiction. They were required to pay $600 million and three of their executives were convicted of criminal charges. Purdue Pharma is currently being sued again by several state and local governments for their role in the opioid epidemic. They are being accused of using deceptive marketing tactics in order to sell more OxyContin, their opioid painkiller. By allegedly misleading doctors and patients about the risks of opioids, Purdue is being blamed for causing fatal opioid overdoses and feeding the flame of addiction. Purdue denies these claims, purporting that they’re committed to working with the community to find a solution to opioid overdose deaths. They have stopped promoting opioids to prescribers and earlier this month, it eliminated its sales force.
The sculpture has personal meaning for its artist. Esposito, who grew up in Westwood, MA, has a brother, Danny, who has suffered from opioid addiction for 14 years. Danny has been in out of jail and been near death due to opioid overdose. His addiction began with OxyContin and Percocet, then turned to heroin. Esposito found inspiration for “Purdue” when his mother found another bent spoon used by his brother to cook the drugs into a liquid to be injected. The sculpture served to raise awareness of the role pharmaceutical companies, particularly Purdue, play in the heroin and opioid epidemic, and to establish accountability for it. The sculpture’s placement served to kick off an exhibit on the opioid crisis that opened at Alvarez’s gallery.
The heroin and opioid crisis has an impact on the country that is seen in all communities. It’s important to recognize the signs of heroin and opioid use and to understand what we can do to prevent the spread of this epidemic. You can learn more about heroin and opioid addiction prevention through the resources on our site, Give America Hope.