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September 18, 2016

Who will go after the biggest (legal) drug dealers still contributing to the biggest modern drug harms?

The question in the title of this post is prompted by this new AP article headlined "Drugmakers fought state opioid limits amid crisis."  Here is how the article starts:

The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.

The drugmakers vow they're combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on their drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince's death.

The industry and its allies spent more than $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006 through 2015 — more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent and eight times more than the influential gun lobby recorded for similar activities during that same period, the AP and Center for Public Integrity found.

The drugmakers and allied advocacy groups — such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network — also employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in state capitals from Olympia to Tallahassee during that span, when opioids' addictive nature came under increasing scrutiny.  "The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing," said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an outspoken advocate for opioid reform. "They are reaping enormous profits from aggressive prescribing."

Prescription opioids are the cousins of heroin, prescribed to relieve pain. Sales of the drugs quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, rising in tandem with overdose deaths. Last year, 227 million opioid prescriptions were doled out in the U.S., enough to hand a bottle of pills to nine out of every 10 American adults....

Doctors continue to prescribe opioids for ailments such as back pain and headaches, even though studies have shown weak or no evidence that the drugs are effective ways to treat routine chronic pain — and even though they come with the risk of addiction.  In 2007, executives at Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the drug's addictive nature and agreed to pay $600 million in fines.

Lawmakers across the country have started attempting to limit the flood of prescribing and prevent overdoses. In 2012, for example, New Mexico considered a bill to limit initial prescriptions of opioids for acute pain to seven days to make addictions less likely and produce fewer leftover pills that could be peddled illegally. The bill died in the House Judiciary Committee. "The lobbyists behind the scenes were killing it," said Bernadette Sanchez, the Democratic state senator who sponsored the measure.

September 18, 2016 at 09:14 PM | Permalink


The low-grade opiates and opioids need to be prescribed less and more carefully. Not sure how you accomplish that exactly, but reining in drug companies might help, for sure. The irony of it is the rescheduling of hydrocodone cut too many people off too abruptly, leading them to heroin. But basically the federal gubmint and DEA can't do anything right in this arena.

I suspect that we will find that the resurgence of heroin propelled by the rescheduling of hydrocodone, and this non-recovery recovery we've been in are responsible for the crime surge in certain cities.

There needs to be more effort expended on, and consideration of, the demand-side in the drug policy debate. Supply-side only is a grotesque failure.

Posted by: Fat Bastard | Sep 18, 2016 11:32:02 PM

When A Ceo if a majir dryg company makes $200 million a yr, drugs are going to keep flowing. Its gonna take the Feds to reel in the largest if all drug rings and their King Pins.

Pfiser, and all if the rest of slugs that make the stuff. Just look at the price of a Epipen, drug compsnies took it from $100 to $600. These dudes could care less, its big bucks and they pay our politicians to keep them in business.

So whats the odds of getting rid if it? Gonna take some character and guts, something Ive seen very little of.

Maybe if it benefits Hillary Clintons labled Parkinsons disease, then wham bam, be done in a flash.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Sep 19, 2016 6:11:50 AM

On the drug issue ..

"Criminal Justice and the Myth of a Rising Tide"


Posted by: Joe | Sep 19, 2016 10:47:29 AM

It has long been known that, like any other industry, Big Pharma wants to: 1) promote their products to those in decision-making positions (i.e. doctors); 2) protect their intellectual property rights in their products (extending the lifetime of those rights as much as possible); and 3) avoid as much government regulation as possible (preventing new regulations and repealing existing regulations). As such, it should not be any surprise that Big Pharma is fighting any laws that would cut into their "legal" profits with every tool at their disposal.

Reducing the demand side for legal opiates is hard as many doctors primarily gain their information about medications from pharmaceutical companies. Laws intended to reduce the favors that companies can do for doctors have led to the pharmaceutical industry taking their advertisement for products directly to the ultimate consumers (aided by an interpretation of the First Amendment that is even more favorable for commercial advertisement than it is for quasi-political speech). When customers believe that doctors have a magic pill and the pharmaceutical companies treat doctors like mushrooms, it should come as no surprise the prescription patterns do not reflect the actual need for certain medications including strong painkillers.

Posted by: tmm | Sep 19, 2016 12:01:50 PM

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