(This is 2nd and final installment about the origins of the opioid epidemic)
Doctors and Patients Were Lied To
But here’s the thing – the study mentioned in the letter only included patients that were given small doses of opioids in a hospital setting, not on an outpatient basis. Purdue Pharma and its sales representatives were aware of this study limitation, but purposely neglected to include that information in their sales pitch.
This misrepresentation by omission is considered to be one of the major factors that has contributed to the opioid epidemic.
In addition, prescribing doctors were also misled. For instance, they were taught that since OxyContin was made in a time-release formulation, abusers would be unable to get “high” from misuse.
A Reckoning for Big Pharma?
Fast-forward to 2007 – Purdue Pharma, along with three of its top executives, pled guilty to criminal charges that they had willfully misled the FDA, doctors, and patients about the abuse and addiction potential of OxyContin. Part of the charge was that Purdue’s sales representatives had over-aggressively and fraudulently pushed OxyContin as a safer alternative to other short-acting opioids.
Purdue Pharma was fined $600 million.
RIGHT NOW, Purdue and other Big Pharma companies are being sued by dozens of cities, counties, and individual states for their unsavory business practices that contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic.
For his part, Dr. Hershel Jick, who wrote the letter, has said, “The letter wasn’t of value to health and medicine in and of itself. So, if I could take it back — if I knew then what I know now, I would never have published it. It wasn’t worth it.”
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