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Nobel Laureate Takes on Purdue Pharma and OxyContin as a Corporate Fraud

Maureen Meehan

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opioid epidemic, big pharma

At the recent 2017 Allied Social Sciences Association (ASSA) meeting in Chicago, Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton described the American healthcare system as “optimally designed for rent-seeking and very poorly designed to improve people’s health.”

Using the OxyContin epidemic as as example, Deaton referred to the Purdue Pharma-OxyContin situation as a prime example of government-induced fraud.

Deaton analyzed health and mortality records that showed a troubling rise in the death rates among middle-aged white Americans and concluded that it was driven by an epidemic of suicides and diseases related to substance abuse, particularly heroin and prescription opioids.

“There are around 200,000 people who have died from the opioid epidemic, were victims of iatrogenic [physician caused] medicine and disease caused by the medical profession, or from drugs that should not have been prescribed for chronic pain but were pushed by pharmaceutical companies, whose owners have become enormously rich from these opioids,” said Deaton at the conference.

He pointed to the massive, “deadly fraud” perpetrated by Purdue Pharma on the American people and the agency whose job it was to prevent it—the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An investigative report by the Los Angeles Times, OxyContin’s 12-Hour Problem” (which found that OxyContin, the nation’s bestselling painkiller, wears off much quicker than Purdue Pharma claimed), prompted the Wall Street Daily—reporting on the ASSA conference last week—to ask the following: What do you do when a pharmaceutical company creates a drug that doesn’t do what it says it does, the FDA approves anyhow, then literally thousands of people die?

Culling over thousands of pages of internal documents, the reporters found that Purdue Pharma knew about the product’s problem even before it was released to the public in 1996 but continued to insist that it worked for 12 hours despite growing evidence from doctors and others that it did not.

Consistent with Purdue’s own internal research, “the drug wears off hours early in many people.”

Nevertheless, Purdue continued to blatantly and knowingly lie to its users.

As a result, more than half of long-term OxyContin users were taking doses that public health officials consider to be dangerously high, thus driving the opioid addiction epidemic to deadly levels.

OxyContin, one of the most abused pharmaceuticals in U.S. history, is a chemical cousin of heroin. When it doesn’t last as long as it should, patients can experience excruciating withdrawal symptoms, including an intense craving for it. People suffering from intractable pain need to take more and more.

And to make things worse, the FDA also lied by participating in this corporate fraud.

According to the LA Times, Purdue admitted in a detailed questionnaire that the FDA “approved OxyContin as a 12-hour drug.”

While all this was going on, Purdue Pharma owners, the Sackler family, made it onto Forbes’ 2015 list of America’s Richest Families, having raked in $31 billion.

The FDA’s cozy relationship with the industry it is supposed to be regulating has ended up costing thousands of lives.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over the last 20 years more than 7 million Americans have, in some way, used and abused OxyContin, which is widely blamed for setting off the nation’s prescription opioid epidemic.

Over 183,000 people have died from overdoses involving OxyContin and other painkillers since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Isn’t it time to face the facts about opioids and legalize the safe and inexpensive alternative that is staring us in the face?

Related: Can Cannabis Rescue the Opioid Overdose Epidemic in 2017?

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