Big Pharma Hires Army of Lobbyists to Fight Against Limiting Opioid Use

Big Pharma Hires Army of Lobbyists to Fight Against Limiting Opioid Use

Susanne Posel ,Chief Editor Occupy Corporatism | Media Spokesperson, HEALTH MAX Group

The drug companies making painkillers such as opioids have employed hundreds of lobbyists and invested millions in campaign contributions for the sake of taking their crisis to all fifty states.

Makers of OxyContin, Vicodin and other like them know that these drugs are highly addictive which is why they’ve spent an excess of $880 million across the nation from 2006 to 2015. These efforts to influence lawmakers have included groups including the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Cancer Action Network (CAN), privately-owned organizations that have employed 1,350 lobbyists to go to state capitals from Olympia, Washington to Tallahassee, Florida.

According to the Center for Public Integrity , Michigan saw drug corporations register lobbyists at an increase of 5.33%. In 2006 there were only eighteen lobbyists, but in 2015 that number rose to ninety-six.

For the last decade, more than $24 million has been spent on 7,100 state lawmakers and candidates for state government. This includes governors, house speakers, senate presidents and health committee chairs.

This includes Pain Care Forum who invested $740 million to lobby in all fifty states; and on top of the $140 million donated to political campaigns, $75 million to candidates on Capitol Hill, political action committees (PACs) and political parties in general.

For reference, that is 200 times more than other special interest groups spent in that same time period. However with opioid sales worth $9.6 billion in 2015, all this spending makes sense.

Take Prude Pharma for example. They were granted approval last year by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for children as young as 11 to treat pain.

The FDA “requested” that Prude “ perform studies evaluating safety and other important information about oxycodone and OxyContin when used in pediatric patients” in order to support new uses of OxyContin in patients ages 11 to 16.

Before the FDA approved OxyContin for children, it was used off-label for addiction in teenagers.

In 2012, Purdue began paying doctors across the nation to document the outcomes of OxyContin used to treat children in pseudo-clinical trials.

By 2004, a US District Court in Manhattan ruled that Purdue was guilty of “of deliberately misleading federal officials in order to retain exclusive patents and prevent cheaper generic versions of OxyContin from hitting the market.”

And again in 2007, Purdue executives were court ordered to pay $634 million for misbranding OxyContin “with the intent to defraud or mislead” patients by promoting the drug as “a safer, less-abusable opioid drug”.

Elliot Krane, professor with Stanford University Lucie Packard Children’s Hospital, criticized the use of highly addictive OxyContin with pediatric patients: “[Purdue is] doing [the pediatric trial] for patent exclusivity, there’s no doubt about it in my mind – not out of largesse. That’s important for their bottom line.”

Off-label use is a practice concocted by the pharmaceutical corporation and the doctor in order to use medication for an unapproved indication or unapproved age group, unapproved dose or unapproved form of administration.

Children are a main target for off-label use. In 2008, a study produced by the RAND Corporation showed that 62% of pediatric outpatient visits resulted in the prescription of a drug for off-label use.

As a pain medication, the number jumps up to 86%.

Purdue patented OxyContin in 1996 as another pain medication to add to their array of other drugs such as:

• Hydromorphone
• Oxycodone
• Fentanyl
• Codeine
• Hydrocodone

This patent was granted because of a time-release additive, regardless of the fact that this opioid-based drug was not traditionally used for painful conditions in the past.

In order to change public perception of OxyContin, Purdue recruited 5,000 physicians, pharmacists and nurses to be well-paid speakers for the corporation.

These spokespeople were armed with coupons offering free 7 – 30 day trials which became a favorite with physicians.

This scheme assisted Purdue in earning $1 billion in OxyContin sales in 2001.

However, this practice quickly became a point of abuse when doctors began over-prescribing the drug. In fact, by 2003, OxyContin accounted for 50% of prescriptions written by primary care physicians in the US.

By 2004, Purdue had reported $2.8 billion in OxyContin sales.

Susanne Posel

Susanne Posel

Chief Editor | Investigative Journalist

Tags assigned to this article:
big pharmacorporationsFDA

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