No, pharma is not responsible for opioid addiction

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: The idea that pharmaceutical companies are responsible for opioid addiction is a myopic approach written by people who have never had to deal with chronic pain.

Two and a half years ago I broke my shoulder while riding my bike in downtown Boston.  When I was discharged from Massachusetts General Hospital I was given an Rx for some opioid pain killers. At first I was not going to fill the Rx because I wasn’t in too much pain, but later that day the pain in my shoulder became so intense that I took one of the pills to help me manage my pain.  I only had an Rx for 10 pills and my surgeon told me that the Rx could not be renewed as was hospital policy.  After the pills were gone I went on to Rx ibuprofen, which also helped with my pain management.

pain relief

Today, thanks to the OIC commercials, so called journalists are pointing the finger at big pharma for people who addicted to opioids.  Obviously they never have had to deal with chronic pain management.  Ultimately, it’s up to the prescribing physician to decide if a patient is abusing their Rx and not write for renewals.  The AMA, which tends to blame pharma for all their shortcomings, washed their hands of the opioid issue.  Some states, like here in Florida, have tackled the issue of pain clinics and closed down “pay and write Rx” pain centers.  Other states have not and they bear a huge responsibility for the addiction to opioids.

What can and should be done to ensure that opioids aren’t abused?

(1) Rx’s for opioid renewals should be verified by more than more HCP and justification should be required via confirmation of diagnosis.

(2) Prescription pill distributors should notify the DEA of any pharmacies that are ordering high volumes of opioids.

(3) Pharma should educate physicians on opioid addiction signs.

(4) Patients who receive more than one Rx for an opioid should be required to submit photo ID’s and social security numbers which have to verified in a national database to ensure that they are not opioid abusers.

When my mother was in the final stages of her battle with cancer opioids provided the relief she needed to get thru the day.  No, they didn’t make her a drug addict, but they did help her manage her pain which at times was unbearable.  Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined and it’s up to physicians, with patients, to determine the best way to manage chronic pain.


The Burden of Pain on Every Day Life

The total annual incremental cost of health care due to pain ranges from $560 billion to $635 billion (in 2010 dollars) in the United States, which combines the medical costs of pain care and the economic costs related to disability days and lost wages and productivity.

More than half of all hospitalized patients experienced pain in the last days of their lives and although therapies are present to alleviate most pain for those dying of cancer, research shows that 50-75% of patients die in moderate to severe pain.
An estimated 20% of American adults (42 million people) report that pain or physical discomfort disrupts their sleep a few nights a week or more.