Patients Are Not Clients

Clientes no pacientes

Last Saturday, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin–the most prescribed and addictive opioid narcotic in the U.S.–announced that it will stop promoting this medicine to doctors and cut its sales force in more than half.

Why? Perhaps it is a delayed conscience attack due to the 35 billion dollars they acquired by destroying the lives of more than seven million Americans since 1996.

Actually not. For more than 10 years Purdue has been developing through Mundipharma–its international network–emerging markets in Europe, Latin-America, Asia, Middle East, and Africa.

In other words, when the U.S. market became toxic, a mine-field of lawsuits and negative corporate image, they moved abroad.

Los Angeles Times published on December 18, 2016, the third part of a comprehensive investigation into Purdue and Mundipharma titled “OxyContin goes global-“We’re only just getting started” in which they cite a YouTube ad produced by the pharma giant in Spain. In this example, celebrities tell the viewer, “rebel against chronic pain.”

Although the commercial doesn’t mention a specific medicine, it was the first step in the treasure hunt. Just as they did in America two decades ago, the pharmaceutical companies began the introduction of the concept called “pain management” outside of the United States.

The report also references the so-called “ambassadors” that Mundipharma has been paying in Mexico, Brasil, and Colombia. The marketing m.o. is exactly the same they used in America. They invite the target group of doctors to luxury seminars–all expenses paid–with one mission: convince them that opioids are not bad, they just have been utilized incorrectly.

OxyContin was launched in 1996 with the promise that a patient with chronic pain will only need a pill twice a day, compared to the competition that needed at least 4 pills a day. OxyContin beat them out of the gate.

However, multiple studies presented during the lawsuits against Purdue Pharma since 2000 have demonstrated that even though OxyContin did provide pain relief, the effect lasted shorter than advertised, producing withdrawal symptoms among patients.

The most recent data from the CDC,  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 46 people died every day in 2016 due to opioid overdose in America.

Despite that three of its executives pleaded guilty and paid over $635 million in fines in 2007, Purdue Pharma is still on top of the charts with more than 5 million prescriptions of OxyContin filled a year.

The human pain threshold is subjective and impossible to measure. Purdue Pharma deliberately took advantage of this and found a loop-hole to put narcotic-pain medicines in the hands of more patients, not only the terminally ill. They knew no doctor would say to the patient, “Don’t be weak. Just suck it up!”

Before I wrote this post, I asked my youngest aunt–who has rheumatoid arthritis since she was 16–her opinion about the use of narcotic analgesics. Her response was that, in the case of chronic and irreversible diseases, the benefit is higher than the cost because they improve the quality of life.

In the past, her treatment included opiates (another narcotic derived from the opium poppy) and currently she is taking a biological medication known as Humira, which also has the cost-benefit dichotomy.

For more than two-thirds of her life, my aunt has battled her disease showing us in our family remarkable strength. She knows more about her condition than her own doctors, therefore, each and every decision she makes about her treatment protocol is well planned and carefully reviewed.

For better or for worse Colombia has emulated many American examples, whether in business, fashion, music, or lifestyle in general. Nonetheless, popularizing opioid prescription drugs is a model we can’t copy. Patients are not clients.

The tentacles of this drug addiction in the U.S. don’t discriminate based on race or social status. Thus, knowing somebody who overdosed taking opioids, is anything but a rarity anymore.

Thank you for reading and sharing.

Xiomara Spadafora

This column was sponsored by Zellner Insurance Agency. Many things in life don’t have insurance. For everything else call Zellner (888) 208-8119


Where is the gold and the peace?

Colombia Oro y Paz
Photo by Cycling News

For months I had been following the arrangement details of the first edition of the cycling race Colombia Oro y Paz (Colombia Gold and Peace) pioneered by the world-class stars Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana and Fernando Gaviria. The purpose was to put Colombia back on the map of competitive world cycling.

I thought about the thousands of fans who would have the chance to enjoy the beauty of the Colombian topography and varying climates, as well as the opportunity to support the generation of “escarabajos”–beetles in English–that have made our country proud with their success. Continue reading “Where is the gold and the peace?”

Digital Love

Digital love

A couple of weeks ago, I met a girl named Catalina, the cousin of one of my best friends from Colombia; she was visiting the U.S. to attend a conference in Orlando. She is beautiful, successful, and studied to receive her masters from a German university. She is somebody my Granny would call “a good catch.”

When the small talk ended, I asked her if she was dating. Immediately, she burst out laughing. I guess my puzzled look told her I needed some insight, so she took the time to explain what’s going on with the love-lives of single women between 28 and 40 around the world.

The first thing she clarified was that, for the past two years, seldom has she gone out with a man she met by chance or through friends. Now, she looks for her soul-mate as she looks for an apartment, via smartphone apps. And she is not alone. Continue reading “Digital Love”

Endless Love

Amor Filial

Last Saturday I learned about a real-life story that seemed fictional. Two sisters, inseparable according to their relatives–Lucila lived in Bogotá and Faustina lived in Ft Lauderdale–both said goodbye to this world under inexplicable circumstances within a few hours of each other.

The younger sister, Lucila, had suffered a cerebral aneurysm on Thursday, January 11 and she remained in an induced coma. The older sister, Faustina, flew from the U.S. to Colombia on Wednesday, January 17th, leaving her daughter and three grand-kids in Florida.

On Thursday, January 18th, the doctors diagnosed Lucila as brain dead and told the family there was nothing else they could do. While still at the hospital, Faustina called her daughter to give her the sad news. The daughter was consoling her mother when suddenly she went silent. Continue reading “Endless Love”

2018 Presidential Election. The time is up.


The curtains of the 2018 presidential election theater in my home country Colombia opened officially last week. The possible break-up inside the right and left coalitions are proof that, at least for the moment, there are more players than coaches and they are willing to fight to be the head instead of the tail of their presidential ticket.

The lack of trust among the electorate, caused by the widespread reach of the most recent corruption scandals in every branch of the government, combined with the beating fear of a dictatorship contagion coming from neighboring Venezuela, keeps the future of the country in the shadows feeding the daily drama in the electoral stage. Continue reading “2018 Presidential Election. The time is up.”

Lawless Paradise

Paraiso sin control Xiomara Spadafora

2018 began and so did work and my son’s school routine. However, I am still on a mental vacation somewhere in a paradise of the Colombian Caribbean Sea.

For the first time in almost 13 years of my self-exile in the U.S. and sponsored by my beloved Granny, I had the privilege to welcome the new year surrounded by my entire maternal family in the city known as The Heroic, Cartagena de Indias.

From December 30th until last Saturday, January 6th, I took deep breaths of warm air and ate fish until I developed fins. I danced, sang, and enjoyed the unique smell of the Colombian Atlantic Coast, which is a mix of fried food, salt, sweat, and rum. Continue reading “Lawless Paradise”

Under the Tree

pexels-photo-260184 (1)

Last Thursday, December 14th, was the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Out of the long list of recent massacres in America, this one, in particular, hurts me to the core.

Perhaps it is, because the 20 little angels that were murdered that day, were in first grade just as my son is right now. The pictures of the smiling children, missing a few teeth, and the pictures of the six teachers that gave their lives protecting the innocents in their care, reminded me how fortunate I am. And I thank God daily. Continue reading “Under the Tree”