National Opioid Activist Puts 800-Pound Heroin Spoon at RI’s Rhodes Pharmaceuticals - UPDATED

Thursday, February 07, 2019


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Domenic Esposito in front of Rhodes on Thursday.

Artist Domenic Esposito dropped an 800-pound “heroin spoon” in front of Rhodes Pharmaceuticals in Coventry on Thursday to bring attention to what he says is Rhodes’ role in the opioid epidemic — as a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma. 

The move marks the latest effort to raise awareness through the demonstration of public art, after a heroin spoon was placed in front of Purdue Pharma in Stamford last June.

As the New York Times reported, “Large-Scale Art Protest Outside OxyContin Maker Ends in Arrest.”  A spoon was placed outside of the Massachusetts State House in October. 

“It’s not [about] attention but accountability — who perpetrated this epidemic,” said Esposito. “We firmly believe it’s a man-made epidemic.”

VIDEO: See LIVE Interview with Esposito BELOW

Esposito, who appeared on GoLocal LIVE last fall, spoke to the role specifically of Rhodes. As first reported of Rhodes in September 2018, “RI is Home to Major Oxycodone Manufacturer and Marketing — State is Suing Parent Company.”

“So Rhodes was started in 2007, four months after the 2007 plea agreement that Purdue had with the federal government — they paid a $634M fine and 3 execs pled guilty — served no time,” said Esposito. “[So] Purdue was told to be careful with their marketing or lessen it — so they started a whole new generics company.”

“Purdue and Rhodes combined are 6% of the opioid market — but if you look at it in [Oxycodin] weight, tonnage, it’s much higher.  I personally estimate it closer to 20 or 30%,” said Esposito.

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Rhodes Pharmaceuticals' Coventry facility.

Esposito said he believes that Rhode Island — and other states — who are suing Purdue will ultimately be successful. 

The evidence is overwhelming at this point.  If you look at what [Massachusetts Attorney General] Maura Healey was able to get in terms get in terms of previous lawsuits — the evidence is overwhelming there will be culpability. What we’re hoping of is not just fines and the pay to play attitude for big Pharma — we hope there’s some jail time. 

Raimondo’s Sackler Money

While Rhode Island is suing Purdue, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has continuously defended her decision to keep nearly $12,500 in contributions from Purdue scion Jonathan Sackler and his wife Mary Corson despite the family’s role in the national opioid epidemic. 

Esposito would not speak to the issue on Thursday. 

“I want to stay away from issues like that,” said Esposito. “We’re here today to bring awareness to Rhodes Pharmaceuticals and not some of the issues you’ve talked about."

When reached for comment about Esposito’s demonstration on Thursday — and Rhodes’ role as a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma, Raimondo’s office issued the following statement.

"The opioid crisis is one of the greatest public health issues of our time, and it’s a crisis that has touched every Rhode Island community. We’ve made progress in recent years, but we are still losing too many of our friends and neighbors to overdose. The Governor is committed to continued investment in public health services to prevent and treat addiction and to support Rhode Islanders in recovery," said Josh Block in Raimondo's office. "Questions about the pending lawsuit should be referred to the AG’s office."

Read more below video

Split in Movement 

Esposito also spoke — briefly — to his split with gallery owner Fernando Alvarez, who had founded “The Spoon Movement” — and was the one arrested in Hartford with a spoon was dropped at Purdue. 

Alvarez has said in an appearance on GoLocal LIVE that Raimondo “should be ashamed” for keeping the Sackler money. 

“We had a different view [of the movement],” said Esposito, who spun off and started his own effort, “The Opioid Spoon Project.”

“I can’t speak to what he’s doing,” said Esposito of Alvarez’ trademarking “The Spoon Movement.”

Alvarez sent the following comments Thursday evening.

"As the founder of the Spoon Movement, I invite all artists affected or not by this epidemic to contribute their voice to the cause. It is great that Domenic is embracing what my gallery invented, strategized, executed and ultimately launched," said Alvarez.

"The real Spoon Movement includes many artists making many spoons who are all-in, working with a community of career artists and survivors of the epidemic and willing to sacrifice for that community. These spoons will be authenticated with a certificate of authenticity."

Updated Friday February 8 5:45 AM


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