Is Big Pharma Peddling Narcotics? Take Oxycontin, For Instance
HEALTH, 16 April 2012
by Mark Karlin, Buzzflash – TRANSCEND Media Service
In response to the BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary, “Which is the Biggest Drug Cartel in the World? Big Pharma,” we received a Salon article by journalist Evelyn Nieves, “America’s pill-popping capital: Welcome to Kermit, W.Va. — ground zero of the prescription drug epidemic”
In the story, Nieves details the rampant growth of mood altering and addictive drugs – narcotics – in southern West Virginia, along with a specific pill mill pharmacy that was indiscriminately peddling them. Nieves went on to note:
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps warning, prescription drug abuse is spreading. Pills, especially Xanax, the anti-anxiety drug manufactured by Pfizer, and Vicodin, Loracet and Lortabs, highly addictive opioid painkillers familiar to anyone who has had a wisdom tooth removed, are being abused more and more, all over. What started out as a situation in poor isolated areas of the country left to their own devices has taken root and spread, across Appalachia and beyond.
You can find pockets of pill abuse from Orange County, Calif., to Staten Island, NY (sometimes now called Pill Island). Nationally, the abuse of prescription pain relievers, as evidenced by treatment submissions, has gone up 430 percent in the last decade, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in Washington, D.C. The report says states with the highest rise in prescription painkiller abuse include Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Arkansas, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
It is difficult to believe that Big Pharma is not aware of this growing abuse of legal drugs. It is difficult to fathom that their actuarial predictions of profit don’t take into account the addictive and widespread abuse of narcotics. Perhaps they are indeed innocent bystanders to this spreading problem, but then the companies that make such effective medications would have to be deaf, blind, and dumb, because there is no way to ignore the “legal” drugs that are decimating sections of America.
In fact, in 2004, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma, settled a case brought by the attorney general of West Virginia charging them with misleading and overly aggressive marketing of Oxycontin in the state. According to a 2004 New York Times article:
The agreement, which averts a trial, involves a $10 million sum paid over a four-year period to drug abuse and education programs in West Virginia.
The attorney general for West Virginia, Darrell V. McGraw Jr., sued Purdue Pharma, which specializes in a variety of painkilling medicines, in June 2001, accusing the company of aggressively marketing OxyContin, a highly addictive prescription drug, to state residents, many of whom became addicted….
In addition to challenging Purdue’s marketing, the suit had accused Purdue of purposely hiding from doctors the extent to which OxyContin’s morphinelike qualities could lead to addiction.
In a later case, in 2007 in a federal criminal prosecution in the State of Virginia, Purdue settled a for $634.5 million dollars in penalties (and pleaded guilty to a felony charge), according to the New York Times:
The $634.5 million in penalties and fines that the maker of the painkiller OxyContin and some of its executives agreed to pay to resolve a false marketing charge represents 90 percent of the profits it initially made from the drug, according to court documents filed by federal prosecutors.
The company, Purdue Pharma, agreed to the penalty, one of the largest ever paid by a drug company in such a case, after an affiliate, Purdue Frederick, and three current and former executives pleaded guilty last month to criminal charges that it had misled doctors and patients when it claimed the drug was less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics.
Maybe Purdue is a bad apple in the Big Pharma orchard. But are mega-billion dollar corporations going to regard growth in sales of a patented drug — regardless of its misuse — as anything but an increase in profits?
Good question to ask the largest legal drug cartel in the world: Big Pharma.
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