Since the beginning of the opioid epidemic in the United States, pharmaceutical companies have remained under close watch. Their role in the opioid abuse crisis that continues to plague the nation is one that has left many searching for answers.
Yesterday, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit alleging that major pharmaceutical companies are to blame for the uprising of the opioid crisis, with product marketing designed to mislead patients. More specifically, the companies have been accused of severely downplaying the addictiveness of painkillers, actively fueling the nation’s growing dependence on opioids.
In a press conference, DeWine spoke of the situation’s gravity, stating in part that, “These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids.”
The lawsuit names five major corporations that are responsible for the manufacturing and marketing of prescription painkillers.
The opioid epidemic has ravaged through the state of Ohio in recent years, though its brutal effects have been experienced nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that opioids, including prescription painkillers, accounted for 33,000 deaths in 2015.
While official data has not yet been made available for 2016 and 2017, these numbers, according to national reports, are on trend to largely surpass totals for 2015.
Outside of the lawsuit filed in Ohio, more news regarding pharmaceutical companies’ role in the epidemic has emerged. The New England Journal of Medicine published a new note about a letter published in 1980 that has been for referenced for decades.
In the original letter, a doctor spoke of his findings regarding prescription opioids and their effects. The study focused on 40,000 patients; according to the study’s results, only four of those patients became addicted.
As a result of this letter, many doctors were reassured that opioids were safe to prescribe to those suffering from different forms of pain. The published letter was titled with the headline “Addiction rare in patients treated with narcotics.”
The letter, which does not contain any evidence beyond the singular study performed at one hospital in 1980, has been cited 608 times between its publication and today, according to researchers at the Sunnybrook Research Institute of Toronto.
In short, a decades-old, one-paragraph letter has continued to back pharmaceutical companies’ claims with little to no evidentiary support.
Since 1980, the increase in painkiller prescriptions has skyrocketed. So, too, has the use of heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—a cheaper alternative for those who become addicted to opioids’ powerful effects.
Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) suggests that between 26.4 and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide.
As the Ohio Attorney General urges for drug companies to claim responsibility, questions regarding the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use continue to haunt medical professionals. While opioid addiction affects each state and town in the United States and beyond, it is imperative that prescribing practices be re-examined in an effort to prevent an enduring crisis.
With so many individuals unaware of the true risks involved with opioid use, the need for education is fundamental. The risk of addiction is one that does not discriminate, as evidenced by millions of those who are struggling every day.
In the midst of the darkness associated with addiction, there is hope, and help is available. If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, call 844.900.RECO.
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