The potent painkiller OxyContin has been under scrutiny for years because of several issues surrounding the opioid drug. The Los Angeles Times reported that the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company responsible for the painkillers is now cutting down on the promotion of its opioid products.
The recent announcement indicated that around 200 Purdue Pharma representatives from all over the U.S. are no longer allowed to promote OxyContin or any other opioid products from the company.
However, Brandeis University researcher Dr. Andrew Kolodny noted that while Purdue Pharma’s announcement is welcomed, it came in too late. He believes the company and other opioid manufacturers are accountable for the millions of Americans now addicted to opioid drugs.
Blind eye to illegal trafficking
Aside from criticisms for its aggressive marketing of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma is also facing lawsuits for the alleged illegal trafficking of the said drug based on an investigation by The Los Angeles Times in 2016.
According to the report, the illegal distribution of OxyContin goes back to 2008 when Lake Medical was set up by a convicted felon and a businessman. The pair hired a physician who began prescribing extremely high quantities of the painkiller, which reached over 73,000 pills in a few months.
The suspicious number of prescriptions was allegedly tracked by Purdue Pharma at its Stamford headquarters. The sales manager who looked into the mounting prescription asked company officials in 2009 about whether or not the Lake Medical case should be reported, but nothing was heard from the company.
By refusing to disclose the case to authorities, 1.1 million pills ended up in the hands of criminal groups, and they sold the drugs to people without a prescription. The Los Angeles Times asserted that if the company chose to inform the local law enforcement, it could have stopped the rampant flow of OxyContin.
By the time Lake Medical was out of business, the opioid epidemic had already spread.
The dangers of opioid drugs
The opioid crisis in the U.S. is estimated to have exceeded $1 trillion in 2017 already, according to a study by Altarum. The damages sustained include lost wages, productivity and health care expenses, and tax revenue. Additionally, money was also spent on social services, education, and criminal justice to address the crisis.
Moreover, the study revealed that if the current situation continues, an additional $500 billion will be spent on the epidemic by 2020. Aside from being costly, the opioid epidemic has also resulted in the loss of countless lives.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the drug overdose and opioid-related deaths in the country continue to grow. In 2016 alone, the number of deaths caused by opioid addiction was five times higher compared to 1999’s death toll. On average, at least 115 Americans from an opioid overdose every day.
One of the side effects of opioid drugs like OxyContin is developing a higher tolerance to the painkiller the more it is used. This means that some users will need to take more of the opioid drug to get the same pain relief they got when they first tried it. This is also the major reason why the opioid addiction in the US had reached a critical level.
Purdue Pharma’s recent announcement may have come too late as the damage has already been done, but hopefully, it aids in controlling the opioid epidemic. Still, the increasing lawsuits against the company are a sign that many are still hoping those responsible will be held accountable for their actions — or in this case, inaction.
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