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Opioids are the largest killer of people under 50

62,000 moms, dads, kids, friends, uncles, aunts died from drug overdoses last year.

Thank you, opioid manufacturers.

Let’s be very clear – this would not be happening if the “legitimate” pill pushers hadn’t co-opted, bribed, lied, and sleazed, funded fake patient advocacy groups, paid hundreds of millions to lobbyists, all in the name of profit.

This is going to get a lot worse – and there is NO indication it’s going to get better.

Drug overdose deaths are skyrocketing in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Florida. Researchers estimate Ohio’s death rate jumped by 25% last year.

The drugs users are taking are so powerful that Narcan – the “get out of jail free” injectable antidote – is becoming increasingly impotent. “E.M.S. crews are hitting them with 12, 13, 14 hits of Narcan with no effect,” said Mr. Burke, likening a shot of Narcan to “a squirt gun in a house fire.” (NYTimes)

More than two million of us are addicted, and over a quarter of us used prescription painkillers last year. That’s more than used tobacco.

States are suing opioid manufacturers in an attempt to recoup some of the billions of dollars this disaster is costing taxpayers, as well they should. But those efforts are happening at the same time the FDA is approving new “abuse deterrent” opioids.  FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb is focusing on opioids, which is a very good thing. And truth be told, today’s FDA has pretty limited ability to address the problem, in large part because drug manufacturers are going to make damn sure the FDA’s powers stay limited.

Over the last decade, opioid manufacturers spent close to a billion dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying against state laws limiting opioid prescribing. That’s eight times more than the NRA and the gun lobby.

Sounds like a lot of money, right?

Nope – according to Business Insider, in 2015 alone, Purdue, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, made $2.4 billion from opioid sales.

You may recall Oxycontin was marketed as “abuse deterrent”; Purdue told Business Insider last year “We support policies that align with the FDA and The White House’s view that opioids with abuse-deterrent properties are a public health priority.”

They are certainly a profit priority.

What does this mean for you?

You know someone who’s died, a family destroyed, lives ruined by opioids. There are more coming.





10 thoughts on “Opioids are the largest killer of people under 50”

  1. The fact that Narcan is now being sold over the counter speaks to the widely spread and adopted use of opioids at a very dangerous level.

  2. What isn\\\\\\\’t discussed is who usually finds the users who have OD\\\\\\\’d from opioids, most notably their children. Unfortunate, aftermath are the orphaned children. The only winners seem to be the drug companies. Lawsuits aren\\\\\\\’t a deterrent when the profits are in the billions of dollars. To the drug companies it\\\\\\\’s a cost of doing business.

  3. Looking at the resources list for the NY Times article, I think the 62,000 figure would be, sadly, higher since the information for California does not include 3 out of the five most populous counties. Missing are Los Angeles County which has 10 million people (to #2 San Diego County with 3.1 million), Orange County at #3 with 3.1 million and San Bernardino County at #5 with 2.1 million based on 2012 census figures. The County Coroners figures uses for California only represent about 30% of the state\’s 35 million residents.

  4. So there’s no blame to be given to the doctors prescribing these things? They are supposed to be experts and protect their patients but are not and just for profit.

    This is also the fault of every healthcare practitioner that isn’t educating every person they see in the office about this issue.

    I give every person education and provide the 3 to 7 day guidelines or you might eventually DIE information. Also about opioid induced hyperalgesia and they all are in the dark about it except a few.

    It’s time to take a stand together and stop blaming just the pharmacy lobby for it all.

    1. Adam – Of course there is blame for many – prescribers, manufacturers, law enforcement, users. Nowhere did I say this is just a manufacturer issue.

  5. There is blame enough for all and big Pharma should take the most. However, as patients, we need to understand and educate ourselves, too many people have the mentality that ‘I’m not a drug addict- the doctors prescribed these meds’. Many times the docs just give them an RX and don’t explain the consequences – as the previous reply indicates.

  6. I see far fewer opioids being prescribed by physicians who treat workers’ comp patients than a few years ago. Our state medical board has issued some harsh sanctions in the past couple of years. I would think that with physicians being a lot more careful, and fewer initial prescriptions, there would be fewer people becoming addicted in the first place. Many of those who now use heroin were initially addicted to prescription opioids – when the source of the prescriptions dried up, they moved on to heroin. But the heroin we are seeing now is not just heroin – it is laced with Fentanyl, which is much, much stronger than heroin. Some of the so-called “heroin” that police are confiscating now can actually kill the officers who come into contact with it. I’ve heard this stuff is all over the country. Point being, (and this sounds harsh, apologies) – with fewer people getting addicted to prescription opioids in the first place (because physicians are afraid of the legal consequences of prescribing) and the current addicts dropping like flies, wouldn’t the problem eventually get better? (It’s not looking like access to treatment will improve any time soon, unfortunately.)

  7. This is a much deeper issue. Why are people seeking opioids in the first place? We need to get to the root cause. Escape, vs., addiction vs. pain due to chronic illness, musculoskeletal issues? Our health status in this country is poor and getting worse. Until we address some of these other issues people will seek out relief. Very sad. No other country uses opioids like the US. We could learn from what others are doing.

  8. As Chris stated, this is a much deeper issue. I think it’s relatively simplistic to put all the blame or most of the blame on the big pharma companies. I see you often blaming these companies and not placing any responsibility on the consumer. Consumers have to educate themselves more. I know folks that are addicted to opioids. There are a variety of issues and one is also the “culture” in the US of, “I have pain, I need to take something for it”, which is just not the case for most other Countries. I talked to an ER doc the other day who said, “human beings are going to have pain, it’s simply a natural part of life”. Anyways, the larger issues besides blaming big pharma, is simply the mindset of Americans today in regards to pain and suffering. If we don’t feel “perfect” we take something.

    1. JT – thanks for the comment. Couple points.
      1. the pharma industry is what has convinced people that pills are the easy solution to all that ails us. Make no mistake, DTC advertising and the insatiable drive for profits are what’s behind the opioid crisis.

      It’s not simplistic at all to place most of the blame on pharma. Their well-documented behavior is the primary cause of the opioid crisis.

      2. are patients responsible? of course they are. no matter what condition one has, how one reacts to that condition and deals with it is a personal decision and requires that person to accept responsibility. I’m just as mad as anyone at people who want me to pay for their poor health decisions.

      3. Until and unless these lousy corporate actors are forced to take responsibility for their culpability, they will continue putting profits above people. They are paying meaningless fines and avoiding criminal prosecution for their actions. Jail the execs, force them out of business, make THEM take responsibility.

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Joe Paduda is the principal of Health Strategy Associates




A national consulting firm specializing in managed care for workers’ compensation, group health and auto, and health care cost containment. We serve insurers, employers and health care providers.



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