In the wake of massive onslaughts on big pharmaceutical companies and their promotions of dangerous opioid drugs, Purdue Pharma has announced massive sales force cuts and the end of promoting Oxycontin to doctors and medical professionals.
The Death Toll
- In 2016, over 64,000 people died from drug overdoses.
- Out of that number, over 42,000 were from heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioids
- A study by the CDC discovered that people who developed an addiction to prescription painkillers were 40 times more likely to try heroin
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The Oxycontin Lawsuits
As of late, a number of states have taken to suing big pharmaceutical companies for their misconduct and purposeful “flooding” of certain areas with addictive opioid prescriptions pills, such as Oxycontin. These states include West Virginia, Ohio, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Florida.
According to companies like Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, and AstraZeneca defend their claims by saying that their business practices are not irresponsible, as all of their medications have been tested and approved by the FDA.
Lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies are nothing new, and unfortunately, haven’t seemed to promote any real change in the past. For example, medications such as Risperdal, Ambien, and of course, the dangerously addictive opioid pills like Oxycontin, Percocet, and Vicodin, have been widely promoted on misleading and false promises.
In the year 2007 alone, Purdue paid out over $675 million in settlements to the U.S Justice Department and different states. However, Purdue has been the first and only company to announce any sort of reform or change in their marketing techniques.
Thus far, these lawsuits against big pharma haven’t received much headway, as big pharma is in a way protected by bulletproof glass.
The Big Pharma Oxycontin Umbrella
Pharmaceutical companies that are responsible for manufacturing and distributing these dangerous opioid medications, such as Oxycontin, are nearly impossible to take down with lawsuits. This is because of three, pretty impenetrable reasons, all of which, involving money.
Clinical Trials – The National Institute of Health was previously responsible for most of the funding that was required for clinical trials of new medications
- This budget has gone down immensely in recent years, and the budget has been picked up by the pharmaceutical companies themselves.
- This has allowed for bias outcomes, positive over negative, in favor of promoting the medications, despite possible risks for patients.
- A lot of the problems come from original trials such as handpicking study populations, that don’t reflect possible risks to certain age groups, as well as testing in shorter time frames and not analyzing long-term risks.
Lobbying – While lobbying is legal, and was created to originally give voice to the people, it has become extremely blurred and is often run on misconduct and greed
- Big Pharma spent over $78 million in the first quarter of 2017 alone on government lobbying.
- These “donations” are often made to lawmakers that would be responsible for creating and promoting safe use and restriction laws on these addictive or potentially dangerous medications.
- For example, the Pain Care Forum (funded by big pharma) spent $470 million on lobbying efforts AGAINST limiting opioid prescriptions.
Laws and Regulations – Laws and regulations are generally created to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.
- One of the largest receivers of lobbying funds is the FDA. With over 42% of their overall budget being provided by fees from drug manufacturers.
- The bill that allowed for this funding was created in 1992 and is called the Prescription Drug User Fee Act.
- The bill that created this was intended for small amounts being given to the FDA to aid in the research process, but loopholes have allowed for massive amounts of funding from big pharma companies.
- The bill also states that the FDA is required to answer new medication requests within 10 months, which has been proved to be an insufficient amount of time to ensure proper long-term studies on these new medications.
Purdue and Oxycontin
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to one and four people who received opioid prescriptions such as Oxycontin, struggle with an opioid addiction. However, the drug Oxycontin was originally marketed to be nonaddictive, with no side effects, and comparable to ibuprofen. This is what has lead to a multitude of lawsuits against Purdue.
Their response to these lawsuits by cutting a large portion of their sales team has been the first indication of acknowledgment of the dangers of the pills, but is it going to be enough to promote real change among Big pharma and the opioid epidemic? Their other method of no longer advertising oxycontin to medical professionals might be a small step, but has the damage already been done?
The opioid Oxycontin, which has been on the market for over 20 years, has become somewhat of a household name. While the promotion of it to doctors and medical professionals has definitely increased the distribution of it to patients, just pulling the previously used sales team may not be enough to help get it off the streets.
For people who have been taking oxycontin as a prescription medication, they most likely aren’t going to stop just because the Purdue sales force has been cut. Much in the same light, doctors and medical professionals aren’t going to stop prescribing oxycontin just because the sales force isn’t knocking on their door anymore.
Instead, these sales teams are going to start promoting a new medication, Symproic, that was created to treat opioid-induced constipation and other non-opioid products. In addition, the Purdue company has made an official announcement to all medical offices that they will no longer be visiting them to discuss opioid prescriptions, and all questions will be directed to the Medical Affairs Department at Purdue Pharma.
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