Pharma not wholly to blame for opioid epidemic

According to the Atlantic “opioid abuse is rampant in states like Ohio, where paramedics are increasingly spending time responding to overdoses and where coroners’ offices are running out of room to store bodies. In 2012, there were 793 million doses of opioids prescribed in the state, enough to supply every man, woman, and child, with 68 pills each”.  But is pharma really to blame?

Who is responsible for the opioid epidemic? Some attorneys general and advocates are now asking, in court, whether the pharmaceutical companies who marketed the drugs and downplayed their addictive nature can be held legally responsible for—and made to pay for the consequences of—the crisis.

Individual plaintiffs who have sued pharmaceutical companies over how opioids have been marketed have rarely been successful, according to Richard Ausness, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law. Courts have made clear that they believe that individual victims are largely responsible for their addiction. People who die of overdoses are often using the pills not as they were prescribed, but are obtaining the pills on the black market. They are disregarding doctors’ prescriptions and taking more than is safe. “It is difficult to persuade courts that FDA-approved prescription drugs are defective and that their warnings are inadequate,” Ausness said.

However, let’s use some common sense here…

1ne: When a small pharmacy in West Virginia orders 9 million opioid pills in a year it should have sent off a blaring alarm.

2wo: When a drugstore in Ohio fills and renews a huge number of opioid Rx’s and nobody raises a hand to ask “what’s going on here?” there is a huge crack in the system .

3hree: When drug distributor orders a lot of opioids and the pharma company just says “ka-ching” the system is broken.

4our: When doctors who are high prescribers of opioids and are not investigated than the AMA and DEA are not doing their jobs.

Now you can say what you want about drug company marketing and I agree they bear some responsibility, but does anyone really believe that a reputable doctor is going to believe any drug company marketing that opioids are not additive?

Finally, it’s no coincidence  that high opioid addiction has a strong correlation with economically depressed areas of the country.  As the number of pills begins to decline heavy opioid users are going to turn to more dangerous street drugs like heroin.

Greedy pharma companies do bear some responsibility, but the system failed and because of that we are all going to be paying a price.

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