Purdue hires Ducharme as CSO to aid expansion beyond opioids

Purdue Pharma CSO Julie Ducharme. (Mundipharma)

Purdue Pharma has named Julie Ducharme as its CSO. Ducharme rejoins Purdue at a time when it is trying to expand beyond the opioids that built but now threaten to sink its business.

At its peak, Purdue pulled in more than $3 billion a year and employed close to 2,000 people. Those days are now behind Purdue, with the Wall Street Journal reporting sales will fall below $1 billion this year for the first time in a decade. The situation could get worse. Facing around 2,000 lawsuits over its alleged role in the opioid crisis, there are reports that Purdue will file for bankruptcy.

To recover, Purdue needs to move beyond OxyContin. The appointment of Ducharme as VP and CSO is part of that effort.

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Ducharme spent the past two years as managing director for R&D at Mundipharma. Before a recent revision to its website, Purdue listed Mundipharma as an “independent associated” company that helped extend its reach into more than 30 countries. The Sackler family that owns Purdue reportedly controls Mundipharma through trusts.

During Ducharme’s time at Mundipharma, the company supported Purdue’s R&D efforts, for example by advancing four drug candidates against 14 types of cancer. The oncology pipeline is spearheaded by tinostamustine, an alkylating deacetylase inhibitor that came through a phase 1 trial last year.

Before joining Mundipharma, Ducharme spent a little over a year serving as Purdue’s VP of R&D. Earlier in her career, Ducharme worked at AstraZeneca for 15 years before doing a three-year stint as general manager, human health therapeutics at National Research Council Canada. 

In commenting on her decision to rejoin Purdue, Ducharme highlighted the work the company is doing on drugs against cancer indications and CNS conditions such as ADHD, plus its efforts to develop non-opioid treatments for pain. Ducharme said Purdue’s “obvious compassion for patients” and “numerous efforts to help communities address the public health crisis” attracted her to the company.

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