America is beset with a serious and deadly opioid epidemic for which Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson are being blamed and sued.
To begin with, here are the opioids:
- Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Hycodan)
- Morphine (MS Contin, Kadian)
- Oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percoset)
- Hydromorphone (Dilaudid)
- Fentanyl (Duragesic)
Americans have an insatiable hunger for mind altering drugs. Marijuana, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines are among a plethora of drugs relished by pleasure seekers. It is that insatiable hunger which keeps the Mexican drug cartels not only in business, but also in control of parts of our southern neighbor.
Opioids are now competing with those drugs. Oxycontin, which is produced by Purdue Pharma, and Fentanyl have led to thousands of overdoses. Those overdoses have been costly to the cities wherein they occurred.
Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed to recover those costs against Purdue Pharma, against generic pain killer producer Teva Pharmaceuticals and against Johnson & Johnson which supplied Purdue and Teva with the narcotic ingredients they needed to produce drugs like Oxycontin. They are being blamed for pushing their drugs to the extent that America is now experiencing the opioid epidemic.
Teva recently agreed to an $85 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma. The settlement probably cost them a lot less than had they gone on trial.
But are Purdue, Teva and Johnson & Johnson really responsible for America’s opioid epidemic? Of course, they are not! Lawsuits against big pharma are akin to lawsuits against gunmakers. Gunmakers, instead of the crazies and criminals, have long been blamed for the gun violence in this country but they were given immunity against lawsuits by an act of congress.
When Purdie and Teva were touting their drugs to doctors, they were doing what every pharmaceutical company does with their products. Oxycontin, for example, is a legitimate product, unlike heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc.
There are two kinds of opioid abusers. Thee are the pleasure seekers with their insatiable hunger for mind altering drugs. And there are the patients who became addicted because their doctors over-prescribed drugs like Oxycontin.
So, let’s put the blame where it really belongs. We are in an opioid epidemic because pleasure seekers crave them and because doctors over-prescribe them.
Withheld by request says
My wife has had surgery twice in a year and the pain has been bad. She is an RN. When she brought it up to the DR. he prescribed additional opioids instead of finding the cause and told her to come back in a month. She only takes one when the pain is unbearable and the rest of the time she takes ibuprophen and lives with the pain. She knows how easy it is be to become addicted to pain meds. Be careful with opioids they can take control of your life.
Fat Albert says
I’m a libertarian at heart, and I will defend free speech to my dying breath. But if I were King, my first act would be to prohibit publicly advertising prescription drugs.
The opioid epidemic, like the drug problem in general, is a cultural problem, and it’s not going to be solved by fining the drug companies. We’ve spent the last 50 or 60 years telling everybody that will listen that there is a drug to solve every problem – and if there’s not, we’re working on it.
So, why do we act surprised when people try to solve their problems with drugs?
Bernadette McLeroy says
I recently had a knee replacement (May 23 rd) and was placed on oxycodone every 4 hrs along with 1 tablet of 500 mg tylenol too. I welcome the medication because it helped me on pain MANAGEMENT. After taking such strong medication for two weeks straight I then asked to be switch down to the next tier Hydrocodone and I took it for just 3xs a day along with tylenol, then since I was now managing my pain more realistic I then cut out Am, noon time and still taking only the night doses.
I am mature as an adult to control my body needs, pains and to regulate my medicines intakes. I decide, not a doctor when and how much I take of medications..anything that will and could alter my mind and render me helpless to controll substances. I will be giving up the pm medication at the end of this week and continue to manage my discomforts with upping on tylenol 3,000 per day.
Persons on these medications are druggies, weak and helpless characters who would resort to taking anything for a high or cant have the assertive behavior on their own to STOP those opinoids.
I place the burden on patient and abusive persons for their wrongful behaviors not the doctors or drug makers who are trying to help patients out.
Grow up, take the responsibilities of how to manage your life, mind and body. At the same time get off your happy weed marijuana too and make your character strong to know the diferences in good and bad behavios…
DONT BLAME OTHERS FOR YOUR LACK OF CONTROL YOUR OWN LIFE and its struggles. This is my opinion.
If Berna, a woman over 74 yrs can do it, then do it since you are younger.
Howie Katz says
Thanks, 74-year-old Berna, for your pearls of wisdom.
Jeff Larson says
Did Rush Limbaugh become addicted to painkillers because he was overprescribed, or because he was immature and irresponsible?
Bernadette McLeroy says
You dont get over prescribed because you and you alone are the patient contacting the doctors office to have it re-filled. The Doctor will trust that you are being sincere in your pain an still need management with additional medication. To be filled again.
On Rush L, he was irresponsble, period as an adult to continually taking those medications once you are told the consequences.
Children and young teenager will be more inmature in taking it and fooling their parents that Rush L. He is an adult.
Please stop defending weakness to take these medications instead of confronting it as a persons responsibility to get better and get off it, take tylenol, do your excersice and get off.
Berna and Howie, those are two of the most uninformed statements on opioid addiction I’ve ever seen. A very high percentage of opioid addicts were prescribed the meds by a doctor who had either not understood the addiction potential, or didn’t care. The patients took the meds as prescribed, and after a couple of weeks were addicted, often without really knowing. I’m talking about teens, mothers, regular people that never had a drug issue in their life until they received an oxycontin prescription. Once hooked, it is very difficult to get off of opioids, and that has nothing to do with weakness, and everything to do with the addictive nature of the drugs. Watch the HBO documentary “Warning: This Drug May Kill You”, and then try to support your claim that it’s just weakness.
Fat Albert says
“A very high percentage of opioid addicts were prescribed the meds by a doctor who had either not understood the addiction potential, or didn’t care.” I curious, have you seen any hard data to support this? Not disagreeing, but I’ve looked and I couldn’t find it.
William Marks says
I didn’t even read the whole article, it lost me when a comparison was made to gun manufactures . You can’t make the comparison , because gun manufactures don’t have a front man with a professional degree writing a medical order or a perscription telling you he knows what he is doing. Big pharma pays pecuniary bribes to doctors to push their products. They should all be held liable, what they are doing would be considered organized crime if you and I were doing it.
Bob Walsh says
Saying that these drugs have led to thousands of overdoses is kind of like saying that Henry Ford led to thousands of drunk driving deaths. It has some element of truth to it, but is sort of missing the point. There is no doubt that there is a certain amount of overprescription of these drugs and some people become dependent due to this. There is also no doubt that a certain amount of the problem is due to recreational users getting too deep in. Social problems are seldom (if ever) two-dimensional. People who study such things claim that about 80% of the homeless population have severe substance abuse problems, and that over the last few years this has been overwhelmingly opioid addiction.
I too have libertarian instincts but sincerely believe that mass advertising of prescription drugs is only creating more of a problem in society. Pharmaceutical firms have every right and need to market prescription drugs to those who are authorized to write prescriptions – but not directly to potential patients and users of those prescription drugs. Medical professionals should not be influenced by patients who have been won over by mass advertising for prescription drugs that supposedly provide a cure for what ails a patient. Choosing which medication is appropriate for any patient should be the responsibility of the medical professional – not the marketing department of a pharmaceutical firm.
Howie Katz says
Wayne, I fully agree with what you say. Every day I see numerous drug commercials on TV, no matter what channel I am watching. But, I have never seen any commercials for opioids.
Fat Albert says
You are correct sir. However the larger issue is our society’s insistence that these is a quick, easy and painless solution to every problem. It is a cultural issue, it’s pervasive throughout all facets of our culture, and it is rapidly corroding the foundational principles of our society.
The opioid epidemic is simply an acute symptom of the larger disease. We’ve been fighting drug abuse since at least the mid-1960’s. (Alcohol abuse has been around for millennia!) I’m not denying that Dr’s and drug manufacturers play a role, but the problem is much larger, and deeper. More regulations and restrictions isn’t gonna fix the issue.
Howie: the advertising for opioids isn’t what a lay person reads in the newspaper or sees on television. It’s the advertising and sales forces aimed at doctors who prescribe them. When oxycontin first came out in the 1990s, the big pharma advertised it as safe and non addictive. They either knew better or should have known better.
They got doctors into the habit of prescribing these things like candy. When I had a tooth pulled, my dentist gave me a script for a strong opioid even though I told him I’d never had a problem with pain after earlier extractions. He made me promise to take at least one.
Over prescription of drugs is a serious problem and it isn’t new. In 1981 then Justice (and later Chief Justice) William Rehnquist was hospitalized for addiction to Placidyl, a strong sleeping pill. He was taking three times the normal dose and his connection was the attending physician to Congress. There were reports that Rehnquist was unable to concentrate, worried about CIA plots against him and unable to pronounce long words. And, Placidyl had long been considered a drug with a high chance of abuse.
Take a look at this ad for it: https://www.biopsychiatry.com/misc/placidyl-oldad.html
As for big pharma’s marketing for the highly addictive drugs, read this article from the national institutes of health prepared during the George W. Bush administration: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2622774/
At the same time, the government has to be careful to avoid interfering too deeply in the physician-patient relationship. There have been reports of pain management doctors being accused by the DEA of overprescribing pain killers to terminal cancer patients. The DEA was worried that the patients would become addicted.
There have been numerous stories about big drug companies shipping hundreds of thousands of opioid doses to small pharmacies in small towns where there was little or no chance that they all would be consumed legally.
Comparing the drug companies to gun manufacturers is a false equivalency. I’ve never seen or heard of a gun ad that said something like this pistol is safe to leave laying around loaded where kids can play with it. But, that’s exactly what the big drug companies have done in their marketing campaigns.
I’m a First Amendment absolutist. I think when the Bill of Rights says Congress shall pass no law, no law means no law. On the other hand people always have been held accountable for damages caused by false statements. It’s called libel. When corporations knowingly make false statements about their products and individuals are injured because of those false statements, the corporations should have to belly up and pay for the damages they caused.
Howie Katz says
Tom, I cannot disagree with what you said. As a matter of fact, for two years I was a pharmaceutical representative calling on doctors to whom I touted my company’s products. In doing so, I never made any false claims. And I was friends with many of my competitors and I am sure they did not make any false claims either.
That was before pharmaceuticals were permitted to advertise in the media. If doctors were conned into believing Oxycontin was safe and non-addictive, shame, shame on them! Every medical school teaches that opiates and their synthetics are addictive and that care must be taken when prescribing them. When doctors prescribe addictive drugs like candy, that is the doctors’ fault and not the fault of the pharmaceuticals.
There are many things I dislike about pharmaceuticals, but I cannot blame them for the opioid epidemic. We are in an opioid epidemic because pleasure seekers crave them and because doctors over-prescribe them.
“There have been numerous stories about big drug companies shipping hundreds of thousands of opioid doses to small pharmacies in small towns where there was little or no chance that they all would be consumed legally.”
Indeed. A West Virginia one-man pharmacy turning over a million opioid pills in a year.
Don’t tell me Big Pharma didn’t know and has no culpability.
Shannon: Take a look at the NIH article linked in my answer. Oxycontin abuse has been known since the 1990s and prescription levels way out of line with the population have been recognized since the early 2000s.. An interesting question is why is it only now becoming a big public thing?
Could it be that next year we are having an election?
Howie: Take a look at the NIH article from 2009 that is linked in my reply. Generally, you have your head screwed on pretty straight but not when you discuss the effects of advertising and detail men on physicians. Look at the training and other things big pharma did to promote oxycontin.
Doctors are busy people and a lot of them don’t spend their evenings reading the latest medical journals. They rely on detail men for a lot of their information about new drugs. And, big pharma hires detail men knowing that.
As for the effects of advertising, just turn on your television to any commercial channel. Do you think advertisers are just dumping money there because they’re nice guys who want to subsidize television stations or do they spend megabucks because advertising works?
Howie Katz says
After reading the link I will have to admit that Purdue deserves to be sued for misrepresenting the addictiveness of Oxycontin. However, that does not absolve doctors from over-prescribing an opioid. Every cop, every medical student and most laypersons know that opiates and opioids are addictive. The blame for the opioid epidemic still lies with the pleasure seekers who crave mind-altering drugs and the doctors who over-prescribe opioids, whether for profit or out of plain ignorance.
Jimmy Kilpatrick says
Pharma paid doctors and provided misinformation regarding the addiction potential of the drug(s). Just wait as with smoking the truth will be revealed through lawsuits.