In Search of Justice: Holding Big Pharma Accountable for the Opioid Epidemic
Recent news has been inundated with lawmakers and health care providers discussing the opioid crisis and what to do about it, very important and complex issues with no easy answers.
But what we don’t see often discussed is what caused this epidemic to begin with? The answer is astonishingly simple. We, the American people and our medical doctors are victims of fraud at the hands of a number of pharmaceutical companies.
We didn’t get here overnight. This fraud has been perpetrated on the American people over the scan of two decades. We have finally reached a tipping point where the problem can no longer be ignored. We all know someone who has been affected by this crisis. We have seen the devastation it has caused to families in our communities.
How did they do it?
Certain drug companies, like Purdue Pharma, maker and aggressive marketer of OxyContin, intentionally misled doctors with aggressive marketing—including pamphlets, posters, advertising, promotional videos, and direct sales tactics. Although Opioids have never been proven appropriate to treat chronic pain because they carry a high risk of addiction and death, these promotional materials were filled with lies telling doctors the risk of addiction to opioids is miniscule.
Sales reps for the companies were paid huge bonuses and were encouraged to disseminate false information to physicians. The companies went so far as to hire researchers to publish articles based on junk science. The most often quoted “scholarly article” used by the companies to support their claim that the risk of addiction was low is a three-sentence letter to the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine stating so.
Why did they do it?
Again, the answer is simple. The almighty dollar. In 2010 alone, Purdue generated $3.1 billion in revenue from Oxycontin sales. Other drug makers benefited too.
What can we do?
Ohio has already brought a lawsuit alleging negligent misrepresentation, fraud, and unjust enrichment. But the state isn’t the only one harmed by big Pharma’s fraud. County and City governments have paid huge costs as a result of this crisis too, and should also seek justice from the appropriate drug companies through the courts. The drug companies need to pay our communities back not only for what we have already paid in direct and indirect costs for this crisis, but also for the future costs to repair the damage that has been done. We need to take a stand.