Exposing the nexus between opioid manufacturers and patient advocacy groups, a recent Senate report has found that five pharma companies paid nearly $9 million to such groups to drive an agenda encouraging the use of prescription painkillers in the United States. Released on Feb. 12, 2018, the report is the outcome of an extensive investigation conducted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee under the leadership of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri.
According to the report findings, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Depomed, Mylan, and Insys Therapeutics made cash payments to 14 external groups working in the area of pain management and problems involving opioids between 2012 and 2017. Further, doctors associated with these advocacy groups received additional bribes of over $1.6 million from the five opioid makers starting 2013 till date. On the whole, the five drug manufacturing companies have disbursed payments of over $10 million to these groups and doctors since January 2012.
Based on the roles of the five pharma majors in developing some of the prescription opioids with record-breaking sales in 2015, McCaskill’s office began the investigation in March 2017 to examine the marketing practices followed by these companies. An earlier report released in September 2017 suggested that some drug makers tampered with patient records to deceive insurance firms and pay bribes to physicians.
According to the latest report, advocacy groups, such as the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) and the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM), received about $1.2 million each during the period. Besides, Purdue Pharma remains the top most payer with an overall payment record of $9 million as bribes. However, in the light of the criticism of its aggressive marketing tactics to push OxyContin, Purdue informed CNN on Feb. 11, 2018, that it would now focus on marketing non-opioid drugs.
Expressing concern about the state of affairs, McCaskill said, “The pharmaceutical industry spent a generation downplaying the risks of opioid addiction and trying to expand their customer base for these incredibly dangerous medications and this report makes clear they made investments in third-party organizations that could further those goals.” The investigation observed that patient groups were severely critical of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) opioid-prescribing guidelines released in 2016. According to Dr. Daniel Carr of AAPM, the guidelines were based on limited sections of clinical science resulting in disproportionate recommendations. Other patient organizations described the guidelines as “biased” and an outcome of “conflicts of interest.”
The report also highlighted the lobbying efforts of advocacy groups to suppress the legal measures to restrict prescribing opioids. A classic example cited in the report is when AIPM joined hands with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in 2014 to protect a 2001 law in Tennessee, which made it tough to discipline physicians who overprescribe opioids.
The report comes at a time when the nation is in the midst of an opioid-related overdose crisis. Statistics suggest that an alarming six out of 10 drug overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. In fact, an opioid overdose kills 91 Americans each day.
Kicking menace of opioid addiction
Prescription opioids are highly addictive in nature. These medications latch on to the brain’s reward centers, triggering a powerful surge of the feel-good hormone dopamine in these areas that result in intense euphoric sensations. Over time, as individuals engage in extended use of an opioid, they end up building greater tolerance to the drug. In such a situation, chronic users require higher doses of the drug to produce the same levels of pleasure, eventually leading to opioid use disorder.
The only way to break free from the clutches of the deadly pills is to seek professional detox at a reputed rehab center to reverse the devastating effects of the drugs. Sovereign Health of San Clemente, one of the leading prescription drug detox centers in the U.S., understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of opioids despite the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized treatments for prescription drug addiction are designed to treat a person holistically. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any prescription drug, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the most effective treatment programs at our world-class treatment centers.