Follow the Money

Addiction Epidemic from Financial Greed

Drug Addiction Making BILLIONS for One Family

On July 1, Forbes Magazine’s announced its 2015 list of “Richest U.S. Families,” and a few hours later the New Hampshire Chief Medical Examiner announced its tally of 132 drug overdose death thus far in 2015.

There seems to be is a connection between the $14 billion fortune of one Connecticut family on the Forbes list and the funeral costs facing 132 families retrieving a loved one’s body in New Hampshire.

The Sackler family, ­­dubbed “The OxyCotin Clan” by Forbes, owns 100% of Purdue Pharma, the tiny Connecticut company that developed, introduced, and then viciously marketed OxyContin. According the February 23, 2015 article “Poison Pill: How the American opiate epidemic was started by one pharmaceutical company,” after unprecedented, meteoric sales of just one drug, by 2010, “a single private, family­-owned pharmaceutical company with non­-descript headquarters in the Northeast controlled nearly a third of the entire United States market for pain pills.”

Does it then logically follow that the Sackler family initially controlled nearly one third of the OxyContin that found its way onto the street?

The History of OxyContin

Oxycodone ­­ a generic narcotic painkiller ­­ has been around since the 1910s, but in 1995, the Sacklers patented a special sustained release coating that would deliver the effects of oxycodone over 12 hours. They called it OxyContin.

The advantages of OxyContin over regular, generic oxycodone? Basically, every-four­-hours dosing became every­-12­hours dosing. That’s it. Total practical benefit of the supposed miracle painkiller OxyContin.

Drug addiction, the Sackler way.

The early marketing of OxyContin as a drug offering little risk of addiction –­­ a claim driven by profits so large that it catapulted the Sacklers to their $14 billion fortune –­­ lulled physicians in small towns throughout America to distribute a supposedly benign tool to ease the suffering of factory workers with bad backs and roofers with bad shoulders and truck drivers with diabetes and little old ladies recovering from knee replacement. Because Sackler marketing encouraged a much broader application of its “safe” opioid product, ­­ to a market beyond cancer pain management, ­­primary care doctors felt armed to address the chronic pain complaints of patients and quadrupled pain killer prescriptions of all types in the first decade of the 21st century.

The American Journal of Public Health reports that with the introduction of OxyContin, between 1997 and 2002, fentanyl prescriptions increased by 226%. Morphine prescriptions increased by 73%. And generic, every­-four­-hour­dosing oxycodone prescriptions increased by 402%. Doctors, now able to ease immediate suffering, became desensitized to the implications of long-­term prescription narcotic use. In one of healthcare’s greatest bait and switch schemes, OxyContin was marketed to alleviate temporary or chronic suffering for the individual, yet by deliberately minimizing the risks of addiction, OxyContin instigated long-­term suffering for the tens of thousands eventually felled by a nationwide epidemic of addiction and death.

The Connection Between OxyContin and Heroin

The American Journal of Public Health explains that the jump from 316,000 OxyContin prescriptions written in 1996 to the 14 million prescriptions written between 2001 and 2002, “correlated with increased abuse, diversion, and addiction, and by 2004 OxyContin had become a leading drug of abuse in the United States.” OxyContin, simply because there was so much of it, “trickled down from pharmacies and hospitals and became a street drug,” explains “Poison Pill.” This “trickle down” cascade is also known as “diversion,” meaning the drug finds a detour from the legal intention of a doctor’s prescription pad to the pocket of a street customer willing to face the risk of addiction in exchange for a Saturday night of euphoria.

The Oxy high carries a big bang.  Four years after the FDA approved an 80mg version of the pill, it approved a 160mg tablet specifically for opioid­ tolerant patients. “Poison Pill” concludes that

These high­ milligram pills were probably one of biggest reasons that OxyContin became such a popular street drug. Recreational users and addicts could crush, sniff, and inject the pill for a powerful high that, as promised, lasted over eight hours. The euphoric effects and potential for abuse were comparable to heroin.

Enter Heroin.

Abundant, accessible, and much less expensive than OxyContin, heroin use has merged with prescription drug abuse to create the exploding opioid epidemic of addiction, crime, incarceration, rehabs, homelessness, heartbroken parents, and premature death. “Poison Pill” calls this merging of prescription and street opioids an evolution, that, much like a virus, mutates and spreads to better invade its hosts or victims.

Call it a virus, a mutation, an epidemic, a public health crisis, a tragedy. The New Hampshire Medical Examiner calls it a tally. Forbes Magazine calls it a fortune.

Republished with permission from www.whenweloveanaddict.com.

Copyright 2015 Kay Ryan

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