Where the Buck Stops and Where It's Hiding

Arizona brought a case to the Supreme Court that sought to stop the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, from transferring billions of dollars from the company in an attempt to avoid paying the claims made against them concerning flooding communities with the prescription opioid painkiller Oxycontin. The Court said they would not hear the case – the justices like to hear rulings from lower courts first.


One of the places the Sackler’s have hidden their money is in an estate in England. A recent article* states: “A complex web of companies and trusts are controlled by the family, and an examination reveals links between far-flung holdings…The estate is proof of the great wealth belonging to the family accused of playing a key role in triggering the US opioid epidemic. But there’s little evidence of that connection. On paper, the land is owned by a handful of companies, most based in Bermuda, all controlled by an offshore trust.” Read the rest of the article which cites the Associated Press’ findings of the deceptive and convoluted practices of a family dynasty that has lived like kings and queens off the misery and deaths of millions of people world-wide. Our son was one of them.

An estimated 10.3 million Americans aged 12 and older misused opioids in 2018. These estimates are likely too low. How many people who are taking opioid Rx’s for pain that could be relieved by physical therapy or a change in lifestyle actually report they are “mis-using” them? My next blog will delve further into this aspect of a country that has become averse to pain…

For recent facts and info on the opioid crisis and addiction, including selected litigation and a timeline, see the article from CNN below*. Here are a few highlights:

1980 – A letter titled “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated with Narcotics” is published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It looks at incidences of painkiller addiction in a very specific population of hospitalized patients who were closely monitored. It becomes widely cited as “proof” that narcotics are a safe treatment for any chronic pain.

1995 – OxyContin, a long-acting version of oxycodone that slowly releases the drug over 12 hours, is introduced and aggressively marketed as a “safer” pain pill by manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

1996 – American Pain Society institutes the “Pain as the 5th vital sign” campaign based on quality improvement guidelines published the previous year. The campaign was widely supported by medical societies, regulatory org’s and pharmaceutical companies…I wonder who was behind promoting those guidelines? But pain is a symptom. Pain is not a vital sign, nor is it a disease. Yes, for many soldiers returning home with serious and debilitations injuries, or for patients with life-long or terminal illnesses, their pain needed strong medication. But had we all been made aware of the highly addictive nature of opioids, much more care would have been taken when prescribing them and then deciding when to discontinue use.

2007 – Purdue Pharma pleads guilty. PP & three executives are charged with “misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers” that OxyContin as safer and less addictive than other opioids.

2010 – FDA approves an “abuse-deterrent” formulation of OxyContin, to help curb abuse. However, people still find ways to abuse it.

2015 – The DEA announces that it has arrested 280 people, including 22 doctors and pharmacists, after a 15-month sting, “Operation Pilluted”, centered on health care providers who dispensed large amounts of opioids.

So, where does the buck stop with the responsibility for the Opioid Crisis? I don’t think we can hold pharmacies or pharmacists responsible (other than those who filled Rx’s for Pill Mill’s).Their job is to fill prescriptions that doctors write. And doctors? If they were writing thousands of Rx’s for patients they knew were addicted, and if they were getting kickbacks from the drug companies (vacations, meals, etc), then yes. But for most physicians, they were relying on the information they were receiving from the drug companies and medical societies.

This is an excerpt from a great article “Turbocharged” by Patrick McGraw, link below*. Read the entire article if you want your stomach to turn and your blood to boil: “…legal papers released during a lawsuit against Purdue and members of the Sacker family revealed that McKinsey & Co, the world’s most prestigious consultancy firm, had advised Purdue on how to “turbocharge” their sales of oxycontin…meant to double annual sales by introducing opioids to markets where they weren’t needed as well as inventing strategies to sell to communities that had already experienced widespread trauma because of opioids.”
No, the place where the buck needs to stop is with those, like Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family, along with the marketing companies and others who knew what they were doing was immoral and who were profiting from it at an immoral rate.

References:

@theopioidcrisis_lookbook / www.theopioidcrisislookbook.com

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/09/politics/supreme-court-sackler-arizona-opioid/index.html

https://www.timesofisrael.com/where-did-the-sacklers-move-cash-from-their-opioid-maker/

https://edition.cnn.com/2017/09/18/health/opioid-crisis-fast-facts/index.html

Pain become the 5th Vital Sign: British Journal of Anesthesia
https://bjanaesthesia.org/article/S0007-0912(17)54182-3/fulltext

Great article from 2013 in Physicians Weekly on the error of “The 5th Vital Sign”
https://www.physiciansweekly.com/pain-5th-vital-sign/

Author: Jude DiMeglio Trang

My husband, John, and I are parents of a young opiate addict who died of an accidental heroin overdose at 25. These are our credentials for writing and working towards reversing the exponentially rising statistics for opiate addiction and deaths in our country and the world.

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