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A true tale of science succumbing to marketing

Summary and Analysis…

Many people are familiar, thanks originally to Sam Quinones’ Dreamland, of the twisted and often intentional misrepresentation of a 101-word letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) which was used to propel and justify massive over-drugging of Americans with opioids.

In the following post, Mr. Quinones provides a follow-up to the story — the NEJM’s caution (more than 30 years later) against misinterpretation of the original letter which is often known by the names of its two authors, Porter and Jicks.

But, most pertinent to today are Mr. Quinones’ observations about the misuse of science, particularly at the hands of “relentless marketing.”

Today’s policymakers would be well-advised to remember this lesson when evaluating and planning for another round of widespread opioid distribution in the form of Medication-Assisted Treatment such as Suboxone and methadone.

Excerpted from DREAMLAND...A Reporter's Blog

The New England Journal of Medicine startled everyone this week by a posting a one-sentence warning over the so-called Porter & Jick letter to the editor that the journal published in January of 1980.

The warning note reads:  “For reasons of public health, readers should be aware that this letter has been `heavily and uncritically cited’ as evidence that addiction is rare with opioid therapy.”

I find it remarkable that the NEJM did this, particularly so long after the letter itself was published in the journal. Apparently this kind of note is very rare.

But I think it confirms what I wrote in Dreamland – in which I interviewed the main author of the letter, Dr. Herschel Jick.

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