March 17, 2016

Prescription: Death

I wonder how much "support" the major pharmaceutical companies gave to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations when they recommended that doctors should initiate discussions about pain management with all their patients. From the UK Daily Mail:
Fifteen years ago, a report by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a nationally recognized medical society which accredits hospitals, stressed that pain was vastly undertreated in the United States.

The report recommended that physicians routinely assess pain at every patient visit.

It also suggested that opioids could be effectively and more broadly used without fear of addiction.
Of course there were pain medications available for this. Lots and lots of medications.
The report was heavily publicized, and today it is widely acknowledged that it led to massive – and sometimes inappropriate – increases in the use of prescription opioid drugs to treat pain.

With more opioids being prescribed by well-meaning doctors, some were diverted from the legal supply chain – through theft from medicine cabinets or trade on the black market – to the street for illicit use.

As more opioids leaked out, more people started to experiment with them for recreational purposes.

This increase in supply certainly explains a large part of the current opioid abuse epidemic, but it doesn't explain all of it.
Oxycontin is one of those medications and Perdue Pharma has made billions from it.
According to the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, Americans consume 80 percent of the world’s pain pills.1 Misleading pain statistics are used to push increasingly stronger narcotics into the marketplace.

Since OxyContin was introduced in 1996, Canada has recorded the second-highest number of prescription opioid painkiller addictions and the world's second-highest death rate from overdoses. In the US, narcotic overdose deaths now surpass deaths from murders and fatal car accidents.

[...] Because of its insatiable demand, some patients with legal prescriptions begin selling OxyContin tablets to drug dealers for a profit. The pharmaceutical company earned billions while watching their “miracle drug” turn ordinary citizens into hardened addicts and criminals.

How many people have died as a result of OxyContin? A firm number is difficult to ascertain. A variety of numbers have appeared in media reports, usually lacking citations or references, and many deaths involve a combination of drugs and alcohol.3

What is known is that narcotic overdose deaths have quadrupled in the last decade. Deaths from overdoses of drugs like hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and oxycodone/OxyContin rose from 1.4 per 100,000 in 1999 to 5.4 per 100,000 in 2011.

In 2009, 1.2 million emergency department visits involved the “nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals or dietary stimulants” (which includes abuse). Oxycodone alone or in combination with other drugs accounted for 175,949 of those visits.
When crack cocaine hit American cities in the mid 1980's it quickly became the drug of choice. Now heroin has come roaring back in a big way. This taste for opioids was no doubt fueled by prescription drugs such as Oxycontin. Our county is the poster child for fatal drug overdoses.


Gorges Smythe said...

I couldn't believe that I was offered morphine when I was recently in the hospital for a defibrillator implant. I told them "no thanks."

sig94 said...

Gorges - My brother just went through withdrawal; the VA had him on a pain management program (morphine) for eight years. He knew he had to get off it and toughed it out. His condition has not improved but he uses other means for the pain.