Thursday, June 01, 2017

Change their use, make them deadly


The makers of various prescription opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone are finding themselves on the defensive as the State of Ohio has filed suit against them for enabling the epidemic of deaths from overdoses of their big selling drugs.
The State of Ohio filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the pharmaceutical industry over the opioid epidemic, accusing several drug companies of conducting marketing campaigns that misled doctors and patients about the danger of addiction and overdose.

Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, sued the drug makers in a case similar to one that was filed by Mississippi in 2015 and is still pending. In another case, West Virginia went after major drug distributors and has reached settlements that will pay the state tens of millions of dollars. The City of Chicago, and counties in New York, California and West Virginia, have all started litigation.

In 2015, more than 25,000 people in the United States died in 2015 from overdosing on opioids like fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone, more than twice as many as a decade earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. The drugs, either derived from opium or synthetic analogs of those narcotics, now kill more Americans than homicide, and are approaching traffic accidents as a cause of death.

Middle-aged white men suffer disproportionately from opioid abuse, and the states with the highest overdose tolls are Ohio, Kentucky, New Hampshire and West Virginia.

The drugs were once used primarily for acute, or short-term pain, but over the last two decades, doctors have increasingly prescribed them to treat chronic pain, giving them to patients for months or years at a stretch. Drug makers promoted that change, Mr. DeWine charged in his suit, spending “millions of dollars on promotional activities and materials that falsely deny or trivialize the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits of using them for chronic pain.”

In addition, he said, the companies provided funding to prominent doctors, medical societies and patient advocacy groups to win their support for the drugs’ use. By 2012, the suit says, opioid prescriptions in Ohio equaled 68 pills a year for every resident of the state, including children.

Defendants in the case include Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and others.
The shift to long term use may have increased company profits but it also guaranteed serious problems. And what is more damning, the companies ship far more product than the inflated prescription needs can account for. But as usual they are deeply concerned about the problem and are doing all they can about it without hurting profits.

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