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.
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