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.
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.
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.
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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?
- We can take a closer look at how Big Pharma propaganda influences or elected representatives and their decisions on policy.
- We can pay attention to how the information provided by pharmaceutical companies or marketers is not always as reliable as it may seem.
- Look into excessive advertising for potent drugs
- Do more to combat drug makers from paying doctors to promote their drugs to other doctors.
- 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.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
One of the very real difficulties many families face today is trying to overcome issues with substance use and addiction. With opioid overdose resulting in the deaths of over 33,000 people in 2015, a rate of death that has consistently risen in the past several years, the opioid crisis is a very relevant concern. This issue does not only impact those abusing drugs but drastically impacts their families and loved ones.
Watching someone struggle with substance abuse or dependence can be a devastating experience. When it comes to those we are closest to, it only amplifies the turmoil. It is so hard to know how to be there for someone who is struggling without doing something that could be counter-productive to making their life better.
So can you protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic? Yes. But how?
What are the things that families members and friends need to focus on in order to keep their loved ones safe?
Understand Proper Pain Management
According to the CDC, approximately 20% of patients who visit their doctors for pain receive an opioid prescription.
Another article on Addictions.com talks about how opioid addictions often begin at home. Some people may still assume that drug addiction begins on the illicit market, but what we have seen more and more over the years is that the opioid epidemic has largely been fueled by prescription drugs.
Many people who struggle with opioid addiction began by using opioid-based painkillers due to a doctor’s prescription. These kinds of medication are not all that strange when dealing with pain management. Powerful prescription opioids are used for:
A lot of times these medications are prescribed for short-term use to try and reduce the risk of dependence after extended use. However, even with short-term prescriptions, these potent opioids can develop a physical dependence with uncomfortable or even painful withdrawal symptoms.
Overprescribing has also become an element in the opioid epidemic spreading through prescription drugs. Having an abundance of people prescribed to opioids also adds to the risk of more abuse.
By understanding these risks, people can better protect themselves and each other from developing a serious dependence. If you are aware of what can happen with opioids, even if legitimately prescribed, you can watch for signs and take action to prevent further risk.
Monitor Your Medicine Cabinet
According to a SAMHSA study from 2015, more than 50% of people addicted to painkillers receive the drugs from family members or friends.
Not only are those who receive opioids for medical reasons at some risk of accidentally developing a dependence, those who live with them can also be at risk of abusing opioids and becoming addicted. The overprescribing of opioids has also created stockpiles of opioids in thousands of homes all over the country. Left-over medications are also making a contribution to high rates of opioid misuse.
Some people who receive an opioid prescription may not actually use the entire prescription, but frequently they hold onto the excess supply of their medications. This is often innocent enough, as people will sometimes want to have something on-hand in case of unexpected pain down the road. Sometimes they might even offer these medications to others in an attempt to help manage a friend or loved one’s pain. However, even with the best intentions, this can be very dangerous.
Not only can giving someone a powerful opioid they are not prescribed be dangerous, simply having this kind of drug lying around is dangerous. Your medicine cabinet can be easily accessed by others within your household.
If you want to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic, make sure that you keep opioid medications under restricted access in your home. Do not play doctor and offer these kinds of drugs to your friends or family.
Also, make sure you properly dispose of any unused medications. You can take excess opioid drugs to a drug drop-off. Find nearby locations, which are often at pharmacies or law enforcement agencies.
Look for Signs of Dependence
Dependence and addiction are two terms that are relatively similar, but not exactly interchangeable.
Opioid dependence refers to how the body builds a tolerance to opioids over time. This process leads to the individual needing increasingly high doses of the drug to receive the same effect. Where addiction is more psychological, dependence is primarily a physical response.
Opioid users become physically dependent on the drugs when they require certain doses to feel and function “normally,” while also trying to avoid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. All of these effects can contribute to the development of a more serious addiction. Some physical signs to watch for include:
- Constricted pupils
- Reparatory depression
- Loss of consciousness/Nodding off
Withdrawal signs can also indicate dependence, including minor symptoms such as:
Understanding the signs or addiction, including withdrawal, can be a way to protect your loved ones in the opioid epidemic. If you can recognize the warning signs, you might be able to intervene before it is too late.
Seek Professional and Effective Help
Education is key to prevention, no matter what the situation or circumstances. Whatever the adversity, arming yourself with information makes you more effective. At the same time, seeking help from those with knowledge and experience with treating addiction is invaluable. Having a safe and effective resource that knows how to help your loved one overcome an opioid dependence or addiction can make all the difference.
It can be overwhelming, and none of us can protect everyone. However, you can be part of the support system that works to keep your family, friends and loved ones safe.
If your loved one is already struggling with opioids, the best thing you can do to protect them is to get them the help they need. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Big Pharma has been called out several times in the past couple years for pricing, aggressive marketing and misrepresenting their products. Big Pharma companies have also been called to court a few times for the contribution prescription opioid drugs have made on the opioid epidemic that has damaged the country. The financial and emotional toll of the opioid epidemic has hit hard in several states. South Florida is no exception. Delray Beach has experienced their fair share of strain from the opioid problem, especially when it had been an epicenter of the huge illegal pill mill problem.
Now community leaders in Delray Beach are seeking restitution from the Big Pharma empires, making it the first city in Florida to take this shot at holding Big Pharma accountable.
The Big Suit
That’s why the Delray Beach commission Tuesday decided to sue drug makers for the part they played in the heroin crisis. The city has enlisted the national law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd from their office based in Boca Raton. So far the suit has set its sights on at least 8 major drug makers and distributors. Two of these have already seen similar cases; Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
Mayor of Delray Beach, Cary Clickstein, has stated:
“With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state … cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population,”
“We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity.”
According to the law firm representing Delray Beach, the Big Pharma companies being pursued are responsible for:
- Downplaying the addictive nature of opioids
- Forcing the burden of dealing with the resultant overdoses on state, county and city governments
One of the more impressive features of this case is that the lawsuit won’t cost the city of Delray Beach. The expenses will be covered by Robbins Geller. However, the case supposedly has the potential to garner millions in damages for the parties pressing the matter.
According to a partner of the law firm, who compared the Big Pharma tactics to the now infamous tactics of Big Tobacco,
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true.”
The Mayor and the law firm seem hopeful, while other states have been laying the groundwork for these powerful fights.
States VS Big Pharma
Back in 2015, two counties in California sought damages against 5 Big Pharma companies for the same reasons, and in no time at all the case had been dismissed. However, recently one of these drug company agreed to pay 1.6 million for substance abuse treatment to settle the lawsuit. 4 others remain as defendants in this ongoing battle.
In 2014, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a similar stance, but in 2015 the case was also dismissed. However, the court did state in one of these cases:
“The Purdue entities made misstatements about opioids on their own websites with the intention that Chicago doctors and consumers rely on those misrepresentations are sufficient to state claims against the Purdue entities for violations…”
And while U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso dismissed many of the complaints, the battle over whether these companies deliberately misrepresented the drug benefits and risks continues.
Even recently Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the state is suing 5 pharmaceutical companies, including:
- Purdue Pharma
- Endo Health Solutions
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Allergan, formerly known as Actavis
There are numerous other suits that have been filed against Big Pharma companies.
- Four counties in New York
- The Cherokee Nationfiled a lawsuit against distributors and pharmacies in tribal court over the opioid epidemic.
- The city of Everett, Washington
While some of these suits may go over better than others, the fact is Big Pharma is under some serious scrutiny.
Delray Beach Making a Case
The Delray Beach lawsuit will seek damages based on the claims that drug makers and distributors violated laws of:
- State consumer protection
- Public nuisance
- Unjust enrichment
According to city officials, every overdose in Delray Beach costs the city about $2,000 in manpower and lifesaving materials. With 690 overdoses last year, that puts the bill around $1,380,000. The only problem is finding a way to prove that pharmaceutical companies can be linked to these overdoses. While many, if not all, of those overdoses were heroin-related, the city may still have grounds to go after opioid drug makers in Big Pharma because these dangerous drugs are considered an underlying problem in the opioid epidemic.
Between 72 and 82 opioid prescriptions are written for every 100 people in Florida, the law firm reports.
While the law firm anticipates other governing bodies will join as plaintiffs, Delray Beach leaders insist they will not wait for other plaintiffs to join the lawsuit. At this point there is not telling how long the lawsuit will last.
There should definitely be accountability for the damage that has been done thanks to the misrepresentation of drug risks and benefits. The misguided and underestimated use of powerful opioids has destroyed countless lives over the years. But beyond holding Big Pharma accountable, there should also be some effort put forth by the state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a huge impact. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
The benefits of playing sports are endless. Any form of physical activity is good for the mind, body and spirit. Team sports teach you accountability, social skills, leadership, among many other traits. Growing up, I was involved in playing soccer and basketball. I was an average player at best, however, I learned so much about myself being involved in sports. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, both mentally and physically.
However, the biggest danger of playing sports is getting injured. Injuries and sports go hand and hand. A study even revealed that athletes could have a greater risk of developing a dependency to drugs due to their high risk of injury.
See, it starts off quite innocently. An athlete suffers an injury and is prescribed an opioid painkiller to ease the pain during the healing process. The next thing you know, that same athlete finds themselves with an addiction to painkillers.
A recent article delves into this addiction crisis in sports. A Maryland doctor admits he sees this occurrence on a daily basis. What starts out as a simple sports injury leads into abuse of powerful, narcotic painkillers. And when the pills run out, teens often turn to a cheaper alternative: heroin.
In the article, Conner Ostrowski is used as an example. Conner was a varsity team wrestler with plans to attend college on a full scholarship. Suddenly, Conner’s plans were derailed when he suffered a life-changing injury and cracked the base of his spine during a match.
As you can imagine, this was very devastating for Conner. Conner was told he could never wrestle again. As a precaution, his mother told his surgeon not to prescribe him opiate-based medication. Addiction ran in the family, she said. However, Conner’s pain consumed him. Soon, he even became depressed.
A family member who had extra Percocet pills offered Conner a full bag. The rest, as explained by mother, Andrea Wildason, was history:
“So he took the Percocet, and you know, all the anxiety and the depression and the racing thoughts in his brain, he sort of went, ‘Ah,’ you know, and his back pain went away after one pill.”
Percocet is a highly addictive opioid. Conner went through the bag quickly and tried to find more at school, but he could not afford the high street value cost, so he turned to a cheaper alternative: heroin.
“He was sleeping, nodding off all the time, and he was angry. He became mean,” Wildason said.
Conner’s story is all too common. A 2014 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found boys who participated in organized sports have higher odds of being prescribed opioid medication, putting them at greater risk of drug abuse.
Sports injuries, in many cases, are the gateway to drug addiction. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edward McDevitt says stories like these are all too common. Doctors are eager to help athletes get back to the team quickly.
“As a team doctor, you want to help them, so you give them medication, but sometimes you give them too strong a medication or on medication for too long, and once they’re on it for a length of time, they get addicted to it,” McDevitt said.
He said physicians need to take some responsibility.
“We have to realize that we are sometimes the ones who are steering these people on the road to addiction. We have to talk about the dangers of these drugs and how they should be used for a very short period of time,” McDevitt said.
McDevvitt believes other less addictive options should be explored before prescribing addictive painkillers. Alternatives like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be very effective. Even physical therapy and ice can go a long way in treating an injury.
As for Conner, after several failed attempts, he is now three years sober. The pain from his wrestling injury is still there but he has learned a valuable lesson.
“Pain doesn’t kill you. Addiction will, and he knows that. He knows that, and I hope everybody knows that,” Wildason said.
Parents should explore other pain relieving options that are less addictive. If that does not work, carefully monitoring narcotic prescriptions and asking for a smaller dose could help prevent drug abuse.
What do you think? Are sports injuries contributing to teens abusing pain medications? Pain is a real thing, however knowing the dangers of addiction can help avoid a major problem. If you are struggling, it is time to finally overcome your dependence to opioid medications. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Shernide Delva
It turns out a brush with death is not enough to keep addicts from continuing to use. A recent study reveals that 90% of people who overdose on painkillers continue using despite their near-death overdose experience.
The study was conducted by The American College of Physicians and involved data from 3000 patients over a 12-year period collected from a national insurance claims database known as Optum. All the patients had a previous history of having a nonfatal overdose on prescribed opioids originally given to them to treat chronic pain.
Despite nearly dying from these medications, 91% of the patients continued to use the painkillers even after the overdose. Even more surprising, 70% of the patients continued to use the same healthcare provider to refill their prescriptions. Researchers followed up with the patients two years later and discovered that individuals who continued using opioids were twice as likely to have another overdose in comparison to those who ceased after the initial overdose.
Overdoses from Opioids
The opioid and heroin epidemic has gained media attention for being the nation’s biggest challenge for the next coming years. President Obama released a memorandum to combat the opioid epidemic through training medical professionals in understanding drug addiction as an illness and not a crime. Americans wait eager to learn what solution could possible help bring down the numbers of people dying from drug overdoses.
Similar to heroin, prescription painkillers bind to receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. These powerful painkillers create a feeling of euphoria that eventually will result in physical dependence an addiction. Therefore, even with an overdose, a person will still have cravings to continue taking the drug.
As more addicts are entering treatment centers and detoxing, there needs to be increased awareness about overdoses. Research reveals there is an increase in overdoses after treatment since a person’s tolerance to drugs will have decreased. After leaving rehab, an addict may relapse and overdose.
The ability for someone to overdose depends on a wide variety of factors including tolerance, age, state of health and how the substance was consumed. Some people do not make it out of an overdose. Treatment for an overdose may be quick and easy or may include long-term treatment such as an alcohol rehab center or longer hospitalization. Pharmacies like CVS have worked to make the overdose antidote Nurcan available over the counter to reduce the amount of overdose deaths.
Statistics released in September 2014 show that prescription drug deaths have quadrupled in the US between 1999-2011, from 4,263 to over 17,000 and those number show no signs of slowing down. The pharmaceutical industry had contributed to the opioid epidemic by over prescribing painkillers.
“The amount that [opioids] are administered by well-meaning physicians is excessive,” said Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research. “Most physicians are people-pleasers who want to help and want to meet people’s needs, and they are more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt until you are shown otherwise.”
The medical profession began transforming the way they approached pain in the early 90s when it was decided that pain would be treated aggressively. Traditionally, opioids were only prescribed for cancer patients and recovering from surgery. However, this new change made it okay to proactively treat patients who suffered from symptoms of pain. In 1995, more powerful drugs like extended release OxyContin was approved for use.
Doctors continued to prescribe pain medications and the medical use of opioids grew by ten-folds in just 20 years. The consequences of the opioid epidemic have been far worse than anyone could have imagined just two decades ago. Opioids are now reported in 39 percent of all emergency room visits for non-medical drug use. Even worse, the direct health costs of opioid users have been estimated to be more than eight times that of nonusers.
The opioid addiction is affecting Americans in every part of the country. Now, there needs to be an increase in awareness in educating on how to prevent deaths from overdoses. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.