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Big Pharma Propaganda: How Drug Companies Feed the Crisis

Big Pharma Propaganda: How Drug Companies Feed the Problem

Author: Justin Mckibben

Overprescribing of powerful prescription medications is just one part of how the current American opioid crisis came to be. While incredibly dangerous synthetic drugs like fentanyl came pouring in from across the globe, the pharmaceutical industry right in our own backyard thrived off of the devastation it was helping create. And as more people became aware of how prescription drugs were contributing to one of the worst drug epidemics in the country’s history, Big Pharma has come under fire for a number of things over the years. To name a few, we’ve seen arguments against drug companies for:

With recent reports, such as the explosive piece of 60 Minutes last month, we have also been exposed to the corruption, greed and a disregard for the well-being of the consumer.

The Big Pharma propaganda machine has paid out countless dollars for criminal and civil settlements over the years. Now even state officials are resorting to lawsuits against drug manufacturers in the fight against the ongoing opioid crisis.

So how did all this happen? How deep does the Big Pharma propaganda go? Some of this you might already know, but some of it might actually surprise you.

Prescription Politics

In case you didn’t know, the pharmaceuticals and health products industry spends the most money on lobbying politicians. And not even by a little.

  • Big Pharma and Health Products spent $3,714,580,815

That means that Big Pharma spends:

  • $1,134,783,913 more than 2nd place- Insurance Companies
  • $1,717,237,691 more than Oil/Gas Companies

The pharmaceutical industry, including dealers of medical products and nutritional/dietary supplements, is consistently a top contributor more to federal campaigns than any other industry.

In essence, drug companies spend big money on politics.

Whether we can always see it or not, this kind of financial incentive is more than likely playing into our current work on policy. For example, moves to pass legislation earlier this year were called into question by one source who pointed out 13 senators who were trying to push through a bill that would benefit the health insurance and pharmaceutical companies were receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from these companies between 2010 and 2016, including:

  • Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch led the way with more than $471,000
  • Kentucky Republican Senator Mitch McConnell with over $433,00 in donations

FUN FACT- Many lobbyists working on behalf of Big Pharma companies have previously held government jobs.

Information Manipulation

Truthfully, drug companies spend several years before a drug even makes it to the market on planning a strategy for selling it to you. Part of that strategy is proving drugs have value for treatment. However, according to some industry insiders, a lot of the time there is not enough comprehensive data to prove that value.

What you might also find surprising is that some of the earliest information drug companies have published about their products aren’t actually from credible sources. Ad agencies will hire writers to produce articles on behalf of the drug maker highlighting benefits of a drug. But the data is often cherry-picked and incomplete.

These articles are then sold to the public as ‘scientific’ because they are printed and published by some of the biggest scientific and medical publications, such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Those articles are then picked up by television and other news sources.

So essentially, drug companies often team up with marketing companies to fool not just doctors, but the public into thinking their product provides something that has yet to be proven. Big Pharma propaganda corrupts the research into their drugs and makes people believe their products are safer and more effective than they are.

For more important information on the dangers of prescription drugs, download our FREE E-BOOK “Big Secrets of Big Pharma: Why They Secretly Hope You Get Hooked”

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Big Pharma’s Billions in Ads

It isn’t just behind the scenes that Big Pharma propaganda takes place. Drug makers spend around $21 billion a year just to pedal products through advertising. One big problem for Americans is that many of their promotional techniques have been called out for being false advertising or misleading, to say the least.

  • 2015, the industry spent a record-breaking $5.4 billion of direct-to-consumer ads alone.
  • The same year, Americans spent over $450 billion on prescription drugs.

Some sources indicate there are about 80 drug advertisements per hour. While drug companies want people to think it is raising awareness, it is most definitely a commercial to sell you something.

Many pharma companies even have deep financial ties to medical communication companies (MCC) like WebMD or Medscape. This is just one more way they can influence physicians and consumers without people realizing the drug makers are funding the information.

Doctors Recruiting Doctors

But the drug makers don’t stop with recruiting politicians to support them. They also utilize doctors to help them push their products. The main target audience in most of the campaigns pushed by Big Pharma propaganda is not necessarily the consumer as much as it is the person who writes the prescriptions.

Drug companies giving kickbacks to doctors is nothing new.

So drugmakers create an advisory board, where some of the most successful and well-respected doctors are put on the payroll with huge payoffs to help drug companies design a marketing campaign that will help promote the drugs to other doctors. Once these doctors have helped highlight the best ways to convince other physicians these drugs work, they themselves validate the drug in a way that encourages other doctors to prescribe the drug.

Drugs to Treat Drugs

A while back there was an ad that ran during the Superbowl that caught the attention of a lot of people. It was an ad selling an anti-constipation drug for those so dependent on prescription opioids that they were suffering from constipation as a side effect.

This is another huge problem with how drugs are marketed to us… in tandem.

Instead of suggesting an alternative treatment, drug companies want to give you more drugs to combat the effects of other drugs. Doctors will often prescribe a second medication for no other purpose than to treat the effects of the first medication. Big Pharma propaganda can literally sell you the illness and the medicine in the same marketing campaign. A 2012 study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine describes this as “prescribing cascade”.The study indicates that the practice of using drugs to treat problems with other drugs is a key component to the heavy reliance on pharmaceuticals in healthcare.

Another devastating way this has taken place is when doctors prescribe powerfully and potentially habit-forming narcotic medications to combat illicit drug use and substance use disorder. Heroin addicts are being treated with other strong narcotics, which can actually have their own withdrawal symptoms and side effects. They even highjacked the opioid overdose antidote and several makers gouged the prices to offensive new heights during the rise of the opioid epidemic.

Drug Companies Abuse of Americans

Now let us be fair; modern medicine does provide us with some life-saving resources that can be paramount to the health and wellness of our population. Thanks to great strides in medicine doctors are able to treat some conditions or illnesses that were once thought of as a death sentence. Today, we have some of the greatest opportunities to receive quality care with innovative and well-researched treatments.

However, the fact remains that drug companies have been caught red-handed more than a few times misrepresenting their products, hiding the side-effects, falsely advertising their benefits and even recently some huge names in pharmaceuticals have been accused of bribery and racketeering to sell potent and extremely dangerous drugs.

So, what can be done?

  1. We can take a closer look at how Big Pharma propaganda influences or elected representatives and their decisions on policy.
  2. We can pay attention to how the information provided by pharmaceutical companies or marketers is not always as reliable as it may seem.
  3. Look into excessive advertising for potent drugs
  4. Do more to combat drug makers from paying doctors to promote their drugs to other doctors.
  5. Pursue other forms of treatment that don’t require expensive and powerful drugs.

When it comes to drug abuse, maybe we shouldn’t let the drug companies continue to make massive profits from a problem they have a large hand in creating. There needs to be more commitment to finding alternative treatments that don’t rely so heavily on drugs in order to help people get healthy.

Holistic drug addiction treatment is a unique and effective way of helping people struggling with substance use disorder. The fact that powerful drugs help cause addiction, let us not forget the value of offering healing options that don’t require more drugs. Building a strong foundation with personalized therapy and innovative treatment opportunities helps thousands of people all over the nation overcome addiction. Palm Partners Recovery Center is committed to providing quality care for those dealing with drug abuse, whether it is illicit drugs or prescription drug dependence. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.   

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One City Sees 174 Overdoses in 6 Days

One City Sees 174 Overdoses in 6 Days

(This content is for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Justin Mckibben

The number of overdose deaths in our country are already at a staggering rate, increasingly troubling by the minute. Some areas are hit much harder, but overall the tragic toll of the opioid addiction epidemic in America is obvious. Time after time we witness overwhelming reports of devastating deaths and high frequencies of serious complications from drug use.

Ohio is among the top states in the country to experience elevated rates of overdose per population, and Cincinnati has seen a viscous proportion of these. In a single weekend 30 heroin overdoses across Cincinnati were reported.

During just a 48-hour time frame from Tuesday to Wednesday there were 78 more overdoses and at least three deaths.

Finally, after a six-day period of emergency-room visits, the number of overdoses had reached to a number health officials are calling “unprecedented”: 174!

Cincinnati VS Carfentanil

According to one local news source, Cincinnati has four overdose reports per day on average, and usually no more than 20 or 25 in a given week.

The bigger problem; pure heroin is what’s responsible for that average, but that’s not what’s on the streets now.

The sinister element suspected to be responsible in this latest upsurge of overdoses is heroin cut with the latest opioid hitting the streets- Carfentanil. For those of you who don’t know yet, this is an elephant tranquilizer. Carfentanil supposedly has 10,000 times the potency as morphine!

At this point law enforcement officials are unable to identify the source of the toxic cocktail. Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan states that State, local and federal authorities have mobilized across Hamilton County to investigate where this incredibly powerful poison is coming from. So far they believe this record number of overdoses could be caused by a single heroin batch laced with Carfentanil.

Carfentanil, relatively similar to the opioid Fentanyl that has caused enough damage it its own right, is the strongest commercially used opioid. So just like with Fentanyl, drug dealers cut their heroin with Carfentanil to make it last longer and to deliver stronger, more addictive highs.

Tri-State Area Turmoil

New reports state that additional heroin overdoses in the tri-state area, plus New Jersey, tally up to more than 225 for this timeframe.

  • In the same time period of the Cincinnati overdoses:
  • Jennings County, Indiana reported 13 overdoses last Tuesday
  • Montgomery County, Kentucky reported 12 overdoses on Wednesday
  • Camden, New Jersey reported 29 overdoses between Tuesday and Thursday

All this news comes in after 27 people overdosed during a five-hour period in one West Virginia town in mid-August.

Still, these shocking and frightening rates springing up in Cincinnati have captured the most national attention.

Officials on a Mission

Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan also heads the law enforcement task force for the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition. This effort is a collaboration of public health and law enforcement officials from Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky working as a collective to combat the heroin epidemic afflicting the tri-state area. Many of these officials are very clear about their concerns, and about their mission. Hamilton County Commissioner Dennis Deters says this is a public health emergency like they have never seen before. Tim Ingram, the county’s health commissioner, said:

“This is unprecedented to see as many alerts as we’ve seen in the last six days,”

Officials are now pleading with the public. They have come out in the news to ask people to avoid the drug. The fact that the source of this potent batch is unknown and still out there makes them disparate to end this uptick in overdoses. Synan states,

“We’re urging you, please don’t do heroin right now. If for no other reason, because we don’t know what’s in the stuff on the street.”

He went on to point out the blatant disregard of dealers, saying:

“These people are intentionally putting in drugs they know can kill someone. The benefit for them is if the user survives, it is such a powerful high for them, they tend to come back. … If one or two people die, they could care less. They know the supply is so big right now that if you lose some customers, in their eyes, there’s always more in line.”

Harder to Fight

Further complicating matters is that Narcan– the drug that reverses the side effects of an overdose- is not working anymore, or at least not as reliably in cases such as these. When it comes to heroin overdoses, one or two doses of Narcan will stabilize a patient. So Narcan, and the generic Naloxone, expansion programs have taken great bounds forward in providing a line of defense.

However, these recent overdoses required two or three times that dosage. These more potent mixes have proven not only to be more deadly, but far more resilient to any medication-based efforts to save lives. Cincinnati is definitely not the only state in the nation dealing with this issue. The problem is growing, and with it so it the death-toll.

Now even more efforts must absolutely be put into raising awareness and providing education to the public. With such powerful new elements being introduced into the fight, the world should know what it’s up against. Real solutions should be made available, and real recovery begins with effective treatment.

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CNN Highlights Opioid Epidemic In Town Hall Discussion

CNN Highlights Opioid Epidemic In Town Hall Discussion

Author: Shernide Delva

On Wednesday night, CNN aired a town hall discussion on the opioid epidemic. The hour-long special was hosted by news anchor Anderson Cooper and CNN chief correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. The discussion focused in on the root of the prescription painkiller problem, what’s being done to fight it, and unveiled personal stories from opioid users themselves.

The special is long overdue for an epidemic that is taking lives away each day. In 2014, painkiller abuse accounted for more than 28,000 deaths. That is more deaths per year than in automobile accidents. Even worse, those rates have tripled since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Close to two million Americans in 2014 have abused or become addicted to these drugs.

In attendance was former NFL quarterback Ray Lewis, who shared his personal story of becoming addicted to opioid painkillers after a football injury. Unfortunately, stories like Lewis are all too common in sports. Lewis’s addiction worsened to the point that he was eventually taking 1,400 painkillers a month.

“I was a functioning addict,” he said. He described how he would make regular TV appearances for the New York Jets and then rush off to take 15 pills and then another 15 on the way home.

“I tell my story, and I’m not ashamed because I think opiates have changed the face of what people think are addicts,” he said during the town hall. “I’m an eight-year NFL veteran, graduated from Rutgers University, but I’m an addict. And I will always be that way.”

Also contributing to the cause this week is Seattle rapper and songwriter Macklemore. Although he was not at the town hall meeting, Macklemore will have a documentary air on MTV about opioid abuse. Macklemore has been very open in the media about his personal struggle with addiction. President Obama and Macklemore appeared in a Your Weekly Address video to talk about the problem.

This week, the House passed several bills about opioids, but unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won’t get Americans the help they need,” Obama said. “Deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000. A lot of the time, they’re from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor.”

Macklemore supported Obama’s pitch with a personal request.

“I know recovery isn’t easy or quick, but along with the 12-step program, treatment has saved my life,” Macklemore said. “Recovery works — and we need our leaders in Washington to fund it and people to know how to find it.”

Macklemore first opened up about his struggles with addiction two years ago.  He says he almost ruined his music career because of his addiction. Macklemore found that using drugs hindered him as an artist because when he would use, his mind would go blank.

How Do We Prevent This?

Macklemore has since recovered and hopes to spread the message of hope to others. But for many addicts, the future is uncertain. One of the questions asked by an audience member was how to stop doctors from prescribing these addictive drugs.

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner, responded by explaining that doctors need to “own the problem.” She said they need to be aware of what is going on. On the same note, we as the consumers need to be aware of the potential for abuse these medications have in order to make a more informed decision.

Dr. Drew explained how he believes doctors are also prescribing opioids for too long.

“These things are prescribed for acute intervention, not long-term use,” he said. “And if it is going for more than two weeks, both doctor and patient better really think about it.”

Dr. Sanjay Gupta highlighted in the discussion that 91% of people who overdose  go back to their doctor and are given those same prescriptions for opioids. This is a problem that needs to be addressed.

#cultureofconsumption

Another topic raised was the concept of America being a “culture of consumption.” Are we simply too reliant on seeking a pill to solve all of our problems? Dr. Wen elaborated stating:

“We have this culture of giving a pill for every problem, this culture of a quick fix, and that is something we have to change.”

Whether you believe in that opinion or not, this discussion is critical in the fight against opioid abuse. Each and every day, someone is afraid to open up about their addiction because of the stigma surrounding it. Because of the stigma, their addiction is kept a secret, and some never seek help.

Do not be afraid to come forward with you addiction. You are not alone. Many people are facing the same challenges with addiction as you are. We can help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Opioid Alternatives: Should Doctors Weigh Other Options?

Physical therapist helping patient on exercise staircase.

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

Over the last decade, the increase in opiate painkiller abuse and heroin abuse has been alarming to say the least. The 2014 statistics state that a person dies every 4 minutes from a drug overdose or alcohol-related event. Prescription pain killer abuse is an epidemic in the United States and as a result, alternatives are being considered to prevent more and more people from developing a dependency to opioids. Are there better methods of managing chronic pain?

Many believe so and are pushing for a change. While opioid medications are effective at reducing pain, they are very addictive, and other alternatives should be looked at before doctors prescribe opioid medications.

So, what options are available? Fortunately, there are a variety of options available for pain relief that range from non-opioid medications to non-medicinal therapies. Discussing these options with your doctor can help provide you with a pain management program that has a lower risk for dependency.

The Best Opiate Alternatives

  • Over-the-Counter Acetaminophen
    Acetaminophen is a drug more commonly known by the brand name Tylenol. It is recommended as a first-line of treatment by the American College of Rheumatology. While scientists are not sure on how the drug works, most theorize the drug works by inhibiting the synthesis of chemical messengers called prostaglandins, which help to transmit pain signals and induce fever. This drug is non-addictive and can be very effective.
  • Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
    NSAIDs are more potent than acetaminophen and include anti-inflammatory drugs such as Aleve. These drugs work by reducing inflammation; however they run a risk of risk of organ toxicity, kidney or liver failure and ulcers. Use in moderation for optimum success.
  • Corticosteroids
    Steroids inhibits nerves in the body and provide pain relief. The drawbacks to steroids are that they can potentially accelerate join destruction. Other side effects can include immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues and psychiatric effects.
  • Serotonin and Norepinephrine Re-uptake Inhibitors
    Anti-depressants may be appropriate for nerve, muscular and skeletal pain. They also help with insomnia and anxiety. This is a great alternative because these drugs do not have the same side effects of opioids.
  • Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy requires more work from the patient but can be extremely useful in improving physical healing and relieving pain long-term. Physical therapy can be done in sessions and recommended exercises can often be done at home.
  • Massage, Acupuncture and Chiropractic Care
    Acupuncture is an ancient art form that has been used for thousands of years. Some find acupuncture to be just as effective, if not more effective than medications. On the bonus side, it is a totally natural safe alternative to opioid medication.
  • Exercise
    Exercise is beneficial for so many reasons. Surprisingly, exercise has been shown to be healing for those with chronic pain. Low-impact exercises can help improve mobility and functionality. Activities like yoga and ta-chi can be helpful for many ailments.

Chronic pain affects millions. Whether we like it or not, pain is a real occurrence, and sometimes opioid medications may be the only option. However, if other alternatives and other methods of care can be promoted, it can help prevent the amount of patients suffering from dependence to these drugs. Often, taking a prescription opioid may not be the best option. As the prescription pain killer epidemic continues to gain media attention and  political awareness,more attention should be placed on prevention methods, as well as treatment.

Overall, ask your doctor to weigh the alternative options available. Together, both of you can decide the best method of pain management. What do you think? Should doctors weight other options? If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.

Adults 50-59 Largest Age Group in Opioid Treatment Programs          

olderdrugsIf you think the opioid addiction crisis is affecting mostly younger age groups, think again. A recent survey reveals there has been a pronounced age trend in those treated for opioid addiction. Adults ages 50 and older now make up the bulk of the opioid treatment population in New York City, which has the largest methadone treatment system in the United States.

There has been a major change in drug use patterns among older adults. Older adults are not only being admitted to treatment programs for substance abuse, they are also using injection drugs at a higher rate overall. As of now, little research has been done regarding the epidemiology, health status and functional impairment in this older population of opioid users.

Previous studies that have been done focused mostly on treatment admission therefore may not capture the utilization of substance abuse treatment overtime. The data does not fully demonstrate the way older adults over 50 are aging in the treatment programs.

As a result, researchers affiliated with New York University’s Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), and NYU’s School of Medicine (NYUSoM) set out to understand the trends in the older populations entering opioid treatment programs. The study emphasized on older adults and focused on trends specifically in New York City since it is home to one of the largest methadone treatment systems in the US and is known for providing access to treatment in the public system.

The study, titled “Demographic Trends of Adults in New York City Opioid Treatment Programs- An Aging Population,” utilized data and allowed researchers to characterize basic demographic, substance use, and physical impairments. Benjamin Han, MD, who led the study, found notable information regarding the age trend.

“Most notably we found a pronounced age trend in those utilizing opioid treatment programs from 1996 to 2012, with adults aged 50 and older becoming the majority treatment population.”

Researchers conducting the study found that in 1996, individuals aged 50-59 made up only 7.8% of the total patient population. However, in 2012, patients 50-59 make up close to 35.9% of the population. Older age groups over 60 saw a dramatic increase in numbers as well. The population of substance abuse in that age group shifted from 1.5% to 12%.

“These increases are especially striking, considering there was about a 7.6% decrease in the total patient population over that period of time, and suggests that we are facing a never before seen epidemic of older adults with substance use disorders and increasing numbers of older adults in substance abuse treatment. ” says Dr. Han.

Even more interesting, those age 40 and below who made up 56.2% of patients in 1996 only make up 20.5% of total patients as of 2012. Researchers believe the population of older adults utilizing opioid treatment programs is likely to continue to increase over the next decade.

Further studies are required to better understand the specific and unique health needs of this rowing population. In addition, further research is needed to understand how substance use can complicate care in terms of treating these older clients for other illnesses. Health implications increase as we get older so it is difficult for doctors to find a balance between treating patients without increasing the odd of substance abuse.

Overall, it is important that we do not stereotype drug addiction based on our perception on who we believe is more likely to struggle with substance abuse. Time and time again, the facts come out that show that addiction can affect anyone, regardless of their demographic. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. 

 

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