Recent lawsuits against Purdue Pharmaceuticals for its role in the current opioid crisis surface allegations important to understanding how we got into the current situation.
But, there is a risk that the allegations will only be viewed as important for understanding the past. These problems are not just associated with opioids, but provide insight into problems we face today. They describe a pattern and practice for Big Pharma, a way-of-life for marketing their products and suborning questionable rulings from the FDA. There is no reason to believe they have suddenly abandoned their well-worn, highly profitable in methods when it comes to marketing Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) opioids to “treat” opioid addiction.
The article makes the following points:
- Purdue was “paying doctors to downplay the addictive properties of Oxycontin and funding advocacy groups, including the American Pain Society.”
- The FDA relied on the American Pain Society and “a half-dozen others now linked to Big Pharma in deciding whether to place tighter controls on the prescribing of Oxycontin.”
- Purdue’s “internal records show the firm made most of its profits from pushing high-dose Oxycontin to repeat customers, so much so that its sales staff targeted pill mills to win bonuses.”
- The FDA did order studies on whether Oxycontin and other high-dose, extended-release opioids are indeed too dangerous for non-cancer patients but unfortunately, the “FDA put Purdue and other ‘sponsoring’ opioid makers in charge of those studies.”
Applying those kinds of practices to the debate about MAT, when communities explore possible responses to the opioid crisis they should carefully determine:
- Are the dangers of MAT drugs being downplayed?
- Are the organizations supporting MAT, particularly to the exclusion of other approaches, funded by pharmaceutical companies?
- Are drug company sales personnel focusing on high traffic MAT providers?
- Who is funding studies exploring the dangers of MAT drugs? Are such studies even being done?