More Americans died from drug overdoses in the year 2017 alone than the entire Vietnam War. America is facing a raging opioid epidemic that has not even reached its climax yet, and frankly the government and pharmaceutical companies of America keep turning a blind eye. Our country, our civilians, our families, and our children are affected everyday by the opioid epidemic and our elected leaders and supposed healers are brushing it under the rug. Who is responsible for the quadrupled number of overdoses in the last ten years? Who is responsible for the nearly two million Americans that are addicted to prescription painkillers? Who is responsible for the fatal fentanyl products reaching the streets and claiming the lives of addicts across the nation? The answer to these question will never be released in the media or shared on Facebook or Twitter. The answer is too much for the American people to bear. Our government is not run by the people but by the money. Pharmaceutical companies that control all of America’s prescription drugs also control the government with their large stacked pockets through excessive lobbying and overbearing election donations. In return, the government changes laws and bends the rules for money hungry Pharma forcing our country to experience the world’s worst drug epidemic ever seen.
In December of 1995, the FDA approved the infamous opioid painkiller OxyContin. Perdue Pharma advertised this opioid as being non-addictive, and had their sales reps push this drug onto many doctors, advising them that OxyContin could be used for minor issues such as back and neck pain, as well as more serious conditions like end-of-life cancers. It was not until 2007, eleven years after the drug hit the market, during the United States of America vs. The Perdue Frederick Company Inc. that Perdue pleaded guilty to misleading and lying to doctors and patients about the addictive conditions of OxyContin. However, eleven years was too long to not know. From 1999 to 2010, the sales of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors quadrupled, as well as the number of fatal overdoses. Doctors unknowingly were prescribing large amounts of opioid painkillers like they were candy, constantly refilling prescriptions, and even upping the dosages once patients received a tolerance. No one knew that a patient in as little of a weeks time could form a lifelong addiction, or so they say. How can a pill that was put on the market over twenty years ago be the cause for this exponential epidemic?
The amount of opioids still being prescribed by doctors is unreal, even now knowing the addiction rate of these drugs, doctors still over prescribe. Every year there is enough prescribed opiates to give every American their own one month supplies worth. In facts, prescription opioids now kill more Americans every year than illegal street ones. When someone develops a painkiller addiction they develop a very expensive habit. Street prices for an 80mg tablet of OxyContin fluctuate often but one single pill can cost an addict up to $100, and unfortunately one pill will not even be enough to stop withdrawal symptoms especially in those who have higher tolerances. According to a study done by The American Society of Addiction Medicine, 94% of opioid addicted patients said they used heroin because prescription opioids were too expensive.
Perdue Pharma’s creation of OxyContin in the mid 90’s is responsible for the opioid epidemic this country is facing now. In 2012, OxyContin was 30% of the painkiller market, and for over twenty years pharmacies and doctors continue to graciously prescribe this over addictive drug to the public. About 80% of heroin users started by misusing prescription opioids first. We want to know why heroin is populating our cities, our towns, our homes, well its because doctors first approved the opioids and then they wrote the scripts.
There are over 1,500 pending lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies over deceptive marketing claims that led to this national epidemic of addiction, and the thousands of fatal overdoses. One of these claims being against Insys Therapeutics, who released a fentanyl oral spray designed for cancer patients. These fentanyl products are a hundred times stronger than morphine as well as dangerous. Insys was responsible for pressuring and threatening their sales reps in order to increase written prescription of the drug. These sales reps misled doctors to write more scripts and higher doses from neck pain to migraines. Insys was said to have even paid doctors annual salaries in return for prescribing the company’s painkiller to patients. Drug dealers are now cutting their heroin with high quantities of fentanyl increasing the amount of homeless addicts and increasing the number of fatal overdoses in this country. History always finds a way to repeat itself.
Doctors swear an oath to their patients to place their care above all else, and yet doctors are accepting briberies from pharmaceutical companies and intentionally prescribing their patients harmful, addictive, unnecessary and fatal opioids because of their personal greed. These medicines were designed for dying patients to feel relief before passing, they were never meant for tooth pain, back pain, or migraines. While our doctors continue to accept briberies and over prescribe medications, what is the law doing? Nothing. Pharmaceutical lobbyist have persuaded Congress to pass new laws in favor of prescription drug distribution with their very large donations. For example, Congress passed a law that stripped the DEA of the power to immediately freeze and cease suspicious shipments of narcotics which allowed the DEA to stop huge quantities of illegal prescription drugs from hitting the streets.
The epidemic our country faces right now is absolutely tragic, but do not give up hope. Detox centers, rehabs, new drug campaigns are on the rise. The more we learn about the past will help in the future, and the more we learn about addiction and share with others, the more lives we will save. Drugs destroy lives, Knowledge can cure them.
Farmer, Britt McCandless. “The Opioid Epidemic: Who Is to Blame?” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 24 Feb. 2019, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-opioid-epidemic-who-is-to-blame-60-minutes/.
Gunderman, Richard. “Oxycontin: How Purdue Pharma Helped Spark the Opioid Epidemic.” The Conversation, The Conversation, 13 Sept. 2018, theconversation.com/oxycontin-how-purdue-pharma-helped-spark-the-opioid- epidemic-57331.
Gusovsky, Dina. “A Drug Stock Skyrocketing from Painkiller Profits.” CNBC, CNBC, 16 Aug. 2016, http://www.cnbc.com/ 2015/11/04/the-deadly-drug-appeal-of-insys-pharmaceuticals.html.
Mariani, Mike. “How the American Opiate Epidemic Was Started by One Pharmaceutical Company.” The Week – All You Need to Know about Everything That Matters, The Week, 4 Mar. 2015, theweek.com/articles/541564/how- american-opiate-epidemic-started-by-pharmaceutical-company.
Schulte, Fred. “PURDUE PHARMA’S SALES PITCH DOWNPLAYED RISKS OF OPIOID ADDICTION.” HealthLeaders, 17 Aug. 2018, http://www.healthleadersmedia.com/clinical-care/purdue-pharmas-sales-pitch-downplayed-risks-opioid- addiction.
Weiser, Benjamin, and Katie Thomas. “5 Doctors Are Charged With Taking Kickbacks for Fentanyl Prescriptions.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Mar. 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/16/nyregion/fentanyl-subsys- drug-kickbacks.html.
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