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Jul-13-2014 14:35printcomments

National Conspiracy Involved in Prescription Painkiller/Heroin Epidemic by FDA

And again I ask -- how many pharma pockets was the FDA picking while they put blinders on their eyes and allowed this national conspiracy to ravage the U.S. and Canada?

OxyContin and Money
California and Illinois are holding pharma responsible and listed in their lawsuits "Defendants Knew That Their Marketing of Chronic Opioid Therapy was False, Unfounded and Dangerous and would Harm (California/Illinois) Residents." Photo Courtesy:

(MYRTLE BEACH, SC) - My recent articles have referred to lawsuits filed by Santa Clara and Orange Counties, California and Chicago, Illinois against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and several other pharmaceutical companies.

A highlight of the lawsuits references "Defendants" Marketing of Opioids for Long-Term Use to Treat Chronic Non-Cancer Pain was False, Misleading, Imbalanced, and Unsupported by Science."

California and Illinois are holding pharma responsible and listed in their lawsuits "Defendants Knew That Their Marketing of Chronic Opioid Therapy was False, Unfounded and Dangerous and would Harm (California/Illinois) Residents."

These lawsuits against pharma fortunately do contain pertinent information on the paid pharma physicians, their books and pain foundations or societies that misled the medical profession in all 50 states as well as Canada on the "safety" of prescribing opioids with relatively low risk of addiction and death.

And again I ask -- how many pharma pockets was the FDA picking while they put blinders on their eyes and allowed this national conspiracy to ravage the U.S. and Canada?

Did the FDA "play the stock market" or did they have their own private pharma stock portfolio?

In the California and Illinois lawsuits, Russell Portenoy, MD is quoted as saying "Addiction, when treating pain, is distinctly uncommon."

In the lawsuits, J. David Haddox, MD and Purdue Pharma executive was referenced as to his coined word "pseudo-addiction" which did not concern a population study at all, but rather, simply reported the possible phenomenon in a single cancer (leukemia) patient with pneumonia and chest wall pain. Haddox convinced the medical profession that if patients exhibited signs of addiction, it was "pseudo-addiction" and the patient required a higher dose of opioids.

Lynn Webster, MD advised in his book "Avoiding Opioid Abuse While Managing Pain" to give patients more medication when unsure whether a patient is showing signs of addiction.

Perry Fine, MD in his CME program sponsored in part by Purdue Pharma devoted the presentation entirely to opioid prescribing and, despite its title, presented no other potential treatments; rather it promoted opioid therapy as the only solution even for common chronic pain issues such as back pain.

Scott M. Fishman, MD in his book "Responsible Opioid Prescribing - a Physician's Guide" endorsed by the Federation of Medical Boards and distributed to physicians and medical boards all over the U.S. and Canada contained many misrepresentations notably the concept of "pseudo-addiction" and the claim that opioids improve function.

The American Pain Foundation (APF) funded by pharma wrote a "Policymaker's Guide 2011 and made a particularly callous representation that less than 1% of children prescribed opioids would become addicted. APF closed its doors the day after the US Senate launched an investigation into their questionable practices in fueling the opioid epidemic.

So where is the accountability? These lawsuits are a good start and holding the FDA complacent in this national crisis should be investigated...

Below is a piece written by Steve Berman. Steve Berman is founder and managing partner of national plaintiff-focused law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, LLC. Mr. Berman's law firm is a named counsel in the lawsuits against pharma.

By Steve Berman Steve Berman , Contributor Published: Jul 8, 2014

Big Pharma's Love Affair With Opioids

I don’t know if it is human nature or a symptom of the increasingly chaotic nature of our lives that allows us to become accustomed – even accepting – of things that would have caused us angst, anger or frustration in years past. I could list a legion of things that fall into this category – the lack of civility in everything from rush-hour driving behavior to political discourse in Washington, to the now-common use of profanity as a part of civil society. Most of these things are minor annoyances; we can change the channel when the talking heads begin blathering on Fox News or CNN, we move over to the slow lane on the freeway. But our acclimation to once-troubling behavior can also be manipulated and used against the public interest. We believe that is exactly what Big Pharma has been doing now for years with opioids. Let me explain. Today, we don’t think twice when we hear of a friend or neighbor taking prescription pain medication for a bad back, or for any number of conditions or injuries. Trademarked words like Percocet, Vicodin and Oxycontin are as much a part of the layperson’s medical vocabulary as Tylenol and aspirin were for our parents. And our perception is borne out by the facts: Opioids have become the most widely prescribed class of drug in the U.S. But here is the alarming part: Opioids were never intended for use for long-term, chronic pain. Historically, physicians prescribed them for a very narrow window of uses, typically for pain around post-surgery discomfort or other short-lived situations. So what happened? In a recent court filing we made on behalf of a group of California counties, we believe five of the world’s largest narcotics manufacturers – Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Cephalon Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions Inc. – began a campaign to stack the deck in favor of wider use of opioids. One tactic was to tout the broader use of opioids to physicians by finding – and hiring – other physicians to write papers and speak at events.

At the same time, the drug companies mounted a campaign encouraging patients, including the elderly, to ask their doctors for the painkillers to treat common conditions such as back pain, arthritis and headaches. The results are toxic. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that the number of first-time abusers of prescription opioids increased from 628,000 in 1990 to 2.4 million in 2004, that emergency room visits involving prescription opioid abuse increased by 45 percent from 2000 to 2002 and that treatment admissions for primary abuse of prescription opioids increased by 186 percent between 1997 and 2002. Opioid overdoses now account for more deaths in the U.S. than car crashes, cocaine, heroin and suicides combined. If you’re finding this a bit hard to stomach, know that this isn’t the first time a company has mounted a campaign of deception with such blatant disregard for the public’s well-being. Think Big Tobacco. It seems like common sense to us now that cigarettes contain harmful chemicals and are wildly addictive, but back when I led my firm’s work on behalf of 13 states against Big Tobacco, we saw these same tactics used to misinform the public.

We beat them then, and I believe we can beat this new incarnation – Big Pharma – today. At the end of the day, we may not be able to change how people drive, or the amount of venom the politicians spit at one another, but if we are successful with this case, we should be able to slow – or stop – the insidiousness of this scheme. Next week Scott M. Fishman, MD in his new role.


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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.