The Corporation Behind the Opioid Epidemic
Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of oxycontin, has largely funded research articles published in reputable medical journals (Gale). Purdue paid Dr. Russell Portenoy, director of MJHS Institute for Innovation in Palliative Care, to publicly downplay the dangers of opioids. The pain specialist reported to the New York Times in 1993, “these drugs can be used for a long time, with few side-effects, and that addiction and abuse are not a problem”, and toured around America, preaching that not having access to strong painkillers was an ethical conflict. After realizations of the true effects of opioids arose, Portenoy later stated that his conclusions were based off of “weak, weak, weak data” (McGreal). By 2016, Purdue Pharma had paid over $600 million in fines for spreading misinformation about the addictive properties of oxycontin and is now facing propositions by US states for $2.2 trillion (Spector). As pain specialists proclaimed that opioids should be used, fearing medical negligence of untreated pain, American hospitals began prescribing narcotics both aggressively and sometimes unnecessarily.
Today, the CDC and NIH are working towards combating misinformation about opioids by conducting research, partnering with public safety workers, and supplying resources for clinicians. Although these steps being taken are necessary, they do not nearly make up for the lives lost caused by an industry whose only motivation is money. To combat future opioid misuse, the general public must be properly informed about narcotics’ true addictive properties. If an opioid prescription is necessary, personally working with physicians to form a plan for taking the medication is a reliable way to ensure proper use.
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Gale, A. (2016, July). Drug company compensated physicians role in causing america's deadly opioid epidemic: When will we learn? Missouri Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139931/
Lipari, R., & Williams, M. (2017, July 27). Why do adults misuse prescription drugs? https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/report_3210/ShortReport-3210.html
Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health. (2018, August). Number of opioid-related overdose deaths, all intents by county. https://www.mass.gov/doc/opioid-related-overdose-deaths-by-county-august-2018/download
McGreal, C. (n.d.). Doctor who was paid by Purdue to push opioids to testify against drugmaker. In Opioid Crisis. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/10/purdue-opioids-crisis-doctor-testify-against-drugmaker (Reprinted from The Guardian, 2019, April 10,)
Spector, M. (2020, August 17). U.S. states seek $2.2 trillion from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma: filings. Reuters. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-purdue-pharma-investigations-opioids/u-s-states-seek-2-2-trillion-from-oxycontin-maker-purdue-pharma-filings-idUSKCN25D2EG
Understanding the epidemic. (2020, March 19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
What is the U.S. opioid epidemic? (n.d.). Health and Human Services. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html
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