The prescription narcotic epidemic in America is banging on our national consciousness, almost as loudly as the issue of skyrocketing drug prices. The pharmaceutical industry and its front groups have tried in the past to conflate safe international online pharmacies with the illegal and dangerous online sale of controlled drugs, including prescription narcotics, and I’ve called them out over the years. Safe international online pharmacies do not sell prescription narcotics at all. But, unlike safe international online pharmacies, which sell non controlled medications at much lower prices, is Big Pharma pushing narcotics and fueling drug addiction in America? Apparently, yes.
As reported in The Fix, a documentary film called “Prescription Thugs” explores the connection between the pharmaceutical industry, the power it wields in Congress, and the painkiller addiction epidemic. It is the story of people who were introduced to painkillers when their doctors prescribed them, only to find themselves addicted. For years, the industry was making a certain formulation of the popular prescription opiate OxyContin that was easily abused by addicts and therefore driving astronomical sales. When a new form of the drug made it harder to crush and therefore inject intravenously, its sales tanked by 80%. You can view the film’s trailer at http://www.prescriptionthugs.com/.
The title of an investigative article written by Lee Fang in The Intercept that explores Big Pharma’s role in our nation’s drug abuse problem speaks volumes about what is going on: “Makers of OxyContin Bankroll Efforts to Undermine Prescription Painkiller Reform.” According to Mr. Fang, pharma front groups, under the guise of patient care, are actually hindering reforms to prescribing practices, ones developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sharply reign in overprescribing of prescription narcotics. It’s pretty simple actually: the CDC is proposing that doctors and other licensed healthcare practitioners prescribe narcotics as more of a last resort – not for a toothache – so that fewer people get hooked on opiate-based medication. The pharma front groups are apparently sowing doubt and fear that these reforms are worthy, and powerful enough to postpone them. How many thousands more will die from overdoses (over 16,000 in 2013!) as Big Pharma fights reforms?
That script by Big Pharma is familiar. We also know that Big Pharma funds “non-profit” groups, such as Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies and Partnership For Safe Medicines, to propagate the position that it’s unsafe for Americans to order lower cost medications over the Internet that are personally imported. How many Americans are not taking needed medications because of their efforts? How many more millions of Americans will go without prescribed medications due to Big Pharma’s scare tactics?
Real data shows that the Internet is not a major source of illegally obtained prescription narcotics and DEA officials are on record as saying it is an insignificant channel of abuse. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, shows that only .2% of illegal prescription narcotic purchases are made online.
I’ve backed that position up for the past few years because, well, it reflects hard data – but, admittedly, I’ve milked it out of frustration over Big Pharma lackeys saying “Oh, we have to stop international online pharmacies because of the prescription abuse problem in the U.S.” – when they are unrelated. I’m taking a step back to recognize that I do continue to see rogue websites pushing controlled drugs without a prescription, foreign and domestic. They are still out there! Online sales of controlled drugs need to be vigilantly tracked. The online drug pushers, whatever their number, need to be stopped. But since we know that overprescribing is the real culprit, a practice seemingly supported by the same people who make and sell those drugs, isn’t it time to clamp down on pharmaceutical industry drug dealers!?Tagged with: Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, Big Pharma, controlled drugs, Partnership for Safe Medicines, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration