Usually, when someone tries to blame some huge, terrible occurrence on the government or corporations, they get labeled as a conspiracy theorist. Such theories are believed by some but are discounted by many. Sometimes, however, a huge, terrible occurrence is caused by the powers that be, whether we want to admit it or not. When it comes to the 21st-century opiate addiction epidemic that our country now seems completely smitten with, this is a problem that was brought upon us by American pharmaceutical companies.
Let’s look at the facts here. Americans use more opiates than any nation does. In 2013 alone, sixteen-thousand Americans died from overdosing on opiate painkiller drugs. The pharmaceutical industry actually created the opiate epidemic by introducing three times as many pain drugs in the early 2000s as were being made in the 1990s. The industry further created the epidemic by changing prescribing guidelines to ensure that their drugs were the first choice for “acceptable pain management” when in actual fact there are many other ways to treat pain that are drug-free.
The simple truth here is that the pharmaceutical industry makes a lot of money when people buy and then become addicted to opiate pain pills. From a business standpoint, pharmaceutical companies profit when people take drugs for pain, and those profits increase dramatically when addiction is involved as such pill pushers then have convenient, lifetime customers.
One would think that this would be a lesson well learned shortly after it was taught when millions of Americans became addicted to such pills practically overnight in the early 2000s. Not so. Now, the pharmaceutical industry is profiting again by making pill drugs to counteract the effects of a patient’s addiction to other pill drugs! The same companies that manufacture oxycodone, Vicodin, Percocet, Opana, Dilaudid, Morphine, and Fentanyl (all very powerful and addictive pain drugs) also manufacture opioid antagonists like Suboxone, Methadone, and Subutex. This is not just a conspiracy theory here, these are facts.
Painkillers are lethal. Every day, almost ninety Americans die from an overdose on or misuse of these drugs. Take Alabama for example. In the state with the highest opioid prescription rate in the country, one-hundred and forty-three prescriptions for opiates are written for every one-hundred people. The result? More people in Alabama die from painkiller overdoses than from illicit street drug overdoses.
Looking to a broader, nationwide scale, the prescribing of opioid pain relievers is up three-hundred percent over the last decade, with Americans consuming eighty percent of the world’s supply of opioids annually. In 2013, roughly twenty-three-thousand Americans lost their lives because of an overdose on prescription drugs. Painkillers accounted for more than sixteen-thousand of those unfortunate deaths.
Several pharmaceutical companies have been caught lying about not only the supposed benefits of their drugs but also the negative characteristics of them. Several states have sued pharmaceutical companies for their deceptive products, and rightly so. More recently, the State Attorney General’s office of New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, making the bold accusation that the company was using deceptive marketing in their products and that they were, “Misrepresenting the risks and benefits of long-term opioid use for chronic pain.” New Hampshire did not get far with the 2016 case, but at least it set yet another stage for holding drug companies responsible for the legalized addictions they were and are still creating.
An older case was swept under the rug as much as possible by pharmaceutical giants, but three executives in Purdue did actually plead guilty to 2007 criminal charges regarding misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the risk factor of addiction and abuse as pertains to OxyContin. OxyContin is arguably the most common and highest prescribed opiate pain reliever drug there is in the U.S.
The above two cases are only a brief insight as to how much the American people try to hold pharmaceutical conglomerates accountable for pushing such drugs. Unfortunately, in spite of what are now almost countless lawsuits and hundreds of millions being paid in fines and fee-payments by guilty drug companies, very little has been done to physically reign in the actual use of prescription pain relievers in any of the fifty states. Sure the drug companies can get caught and fined, but they will just make that money back again through the sale of their addictive drugs.
Since 1999, more than two-hundred-thousand people have died from overdosing on opiate pain reliever drugs. Among women, the overdose rate has increased by four-hundred and fifty percent since 1999. Suing drug companies is one tactic and certainly laudable in its own way, but we must commit ourselves to a cessation of such rampant use of prescription drugs in our society if we are going to make any real progress here.