Today marks a historical push towards the healing of our country as Ohio has officially launched a lawsuit against 5 major drug companies: Purdue, Endo Health Solutions, Teva, Johnson and Johnson, and Allergen. The lawsuit centers around Drug companies hiding and misleading figures in an attempt to minimize the addictive properties and dangers of synthetic opioids. American families have been hit hard from opioids, losing roughly 277,500 American lives from 2002-2015 due to opioid and heroin overdose alone.
Caption: To put this striking figure into perspective, that is more American lives lost than in World War I, The War in Vietnam, The American Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, The Korean War, Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operation Iraqi Freedom, COMBINED.
American Families have had war declared upon them, not by any standing army, but by the pharmaceutical industry and importers/distributors of heroin. I feel that history will show that this was nothing less than systematic genocide and a means to extreme transfer of wealth.
Why is the Pharmaceutical Industry to blame for deaths related to Heroin and Fetanyl?
In the community of addiction, “Gateway Drug” is a term that gets thrown around quite frequently. When I look at our current heroin/fentanyl crisis I find it self-evident that the prescription opioid boom from 1993-2012 to be the undisputed cause of our current epidemic. During this time, the black market was flooded with hundreds of millions of DEA approved synthetic opioids. Pain Management clinics , commonly referred to as “Pill Mills”, operated with immunity distributing as many pills as possible from sunup to sundown. These clinics often prescribed anywhere from 120-240 30mg Roxicdone per monthly prescription, and would often carry their own, in-house, free standing pharmacy for low-key distribution. Often times, a line of patients in their pajamas could be seen awaiting their visit with the doctor that extended all the way outside of the office doors and curving around the building. During this period, there was no database to track each patient activity, and therefore “Doctor Shopping” ensued - Patients would often venture to multiple Pain Management Clinics a day to receive multiple prescriptions. In 2012 alone, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids.(1)
Now, these pharmaceutical companies will have you believe that these pills are made for the sole intention of treating chronic pain. However, after looking at the data available, conclusions can be drawn that the enormous increase in production was not to treat an increase in chronic pain stricken patients, but to meet the exponentially increasing demands of the black market. That is what needs to be addressed and proven in an open court.
Here’s the data:
- The International Narcotics Control Board estimates 10.4 tons of Oxycodone (or 56.98 lbs/days) were produced worldwide in 1998. (2a)
- By 2007, the start of the boom, this number had inflated six-fold to 68.2 tons for the year, in which 82% was consumed by the U.S., which comes out to 46.8 tons a year (or 256.43 lbs/day). (2b)
- By 2009, we had hit our record high at 123.3 tons of Oxycodone produced in the year. That is 675.61 lbs/day. So that means in an 11 year span we saw an increase of distribution from 10.4 tons to 123.3 tons of Oxycodone. (2c)
- Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers. (3)
After 2009, production of Oxycodone started to plateau as regulations began to ensue. By 2012, supply had decreased significantly and demand was higher than ever, leading to an increase in street price. By 2012, the street price of 30mg Roxicodone had increased to $20-25 a pill. It was at this time that dealers started to look to heroin to make-up for the shortage in synthetic opioids. Heroin came in from Mexico in surplus, extremely cheap, and those already addicted to opioids made the transition, as this was the only affordable and viable option to avoid severe withdrawal symptoms.
*A survey was conducted in 2014 on individuals in treatment for opioid addiction. 94% responded that they chose to use heroin because prescription opioids were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.” (4)
Caption: This graph clearly implicates the effects that the mass production of synthetic opioids between 2002-2012 had on heroin overdoses after production took halt, and also adds to the evidence that synthetic opioids served as a “Gateway Drug” to heroin and ultimately, death.
The data clearly shows that massive amounts of narcotics were legally distributed within the U.S. virtually unchecked for over a decade. Families have lost mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, lifelong friends, and so on and so forth. Personally, I lost my two best friends at the age of 27 and 28 and they both started with Roxicodone made by the companies Actavis and Malinkrodt. Their ultimate demise came from a heroin overdose. My home city of West Palm Beach, Florida has been absolutely ravaged and heroin use has become the norm. In local corner stores they have cutting agents for sale that are readily on display and addicts are on almost every corner.
It absolutely sickens me that these pharmaceutical companies either knew that they were increasing their supply to meet the demands of the black market or were grossly negligent resulting in the same outcome. Either way, justice must be served and it is time that we hold the creators of this epidemic responsible.
The financial burden of addiction has fallen upon bankrupted families, frustrated insurance companies, and bewildered nation. There is no sum of money that can ease the pain of losing 277,500 people, however the funds can be used to save others. I believe that it is time for all other states that have been terrorized by opioids and heroin to join Ohio in their legal battle against big pharma. We must realize that this is one of the single greatest threats to our society in the modern age and unless something monumental is done, hundreds of thousands more people will die.
I also believe that the tax payers and insurance companies should not have to pay to clean up these pharmaceutical company's manufactured epidemic. These companies have profited 100’s of billions of dollars from the sale of Oxycodone. Purdue who is included in the lawsuit, profited 31 billion dollars alone from the sale of the notorious brand named Oxycontin. (5) I don’t know about you, but I believe that drug money should not only be seized and used for revolutionary drug treatment and education, but additional fines and jailtime should also come in its wake.
It is time that the evidence comes to light and those responsible for this unprecedented genocide are brought to justice. Ohio has begun this process and it is time for other states to join the fight. I, for one, have had enough.
(1)Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Opioid Painkiller Prescribing, Where You Live Makes a Difference. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/opioid-prescribing/.
(2)(a,b,c) International Narcotics Control Board (2009). Narcotic drugs: estimated world requirements for 2009; statistics for 2007. Report E/INCB/2008/2 (Download PDF) New York: United Nations. ISBN 978-92-1-048124-3.
(3) 8 Jones CM. Heroin use and heroin use risk behaviors among nonmedical users of prescription opioid pain relievers - United States, 2002-2004 and 2008-2010. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2013 Sep 1;132(1-2):95-100. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.007. Epub 2013 Feb 12.
(4) Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The changing face of heroin use in the United States: a retrospective analysis of the past 50 years. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):821-826. 10 National Institute of Drug Abuse. (2015). Drug Facts: Prescription and Over-the-Counter Medications. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Drug Abuse. Available at http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/prescription-over-counter-medications.
(5) More than 1 million OxyContin pills ended up in the hands of criminals and addicts. What the drugmaker knew". Los Angeles Times. July 10, 2016