Doctors, Big Pharma or the FDA — Who’s Really to Blame for the Opioid Crisis in America?
In 2013, wereported a devastating statistic: Properly prescribed drugs were claiming the life of someone every 19 minutes. This included pharmaceuticals of all types, from diabetes medications to prescription weight loss pills topain killers. In 2015, we, sadly, had to update the statistics of that article changing it from every 19 minutes to every 13 minutes as the evolving drug crisis was creating a much larger problem than the 2013 figures accounted for.
Now, four years after our original article on the pharmacuetical crisis, we’re in the face of statistics that are even more troubling.
The toll the opioid epidemic is taking on American lives is staggering. And despite the widespread attention its receiving by both mainstream and alternative media outlets, the opioid crisis is only intensifying, with blame being shot back and forth on all sides.
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Earlier this year, the CDC updated statistics on deaths related to properly prescribed opioid pain killersand,according to the recent numbers, painkillers ALONE now kill more Americans than any illegal drug.Here are some of their shocking findings:
- One in three (ONE IN THREE) U.S. adults has been prescribed an opiod.
- Opioids were involved in more than33,000 deathsin 2015.
- 63%percentof drug overdose deaths in 2015 involved an opioid.
- Every day,91Americans thats 91 children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles die from an opioid-related overdose. That’s one person every 15 minutes.
- The number of overdose deaths involving opioids hasquadrupledsince 1999.
- Springboarding off of this problem, heroin-related overdose deaths increased by21%from 2014 to 2015.
- In 2015,12,989people died from a heroin-related overdose. Most of these people first become addicted due to an opioid prescription.
These are shocking numbers. And sadly, most people dont realize that the majority of these deaths occur in patients who are given the prescriptions based on medical board prescribing guidelines.
Thats right now, the prescriptions for pain management given to you by the doctor you trust are more likely to lead to a serious drug problem than any other so-called gateway drug.
The truth is that a large majority of opioid addicts didnt get that way by choice. In many cases, it all begins when a patient is prescribed a seemingly innocent pain medication by their doctor. A pulled back, a tooth extraction, knee problems, wrist pain, post-operation recovery these are all perfectly common reasons a doctor might prescribe a pain medication. Then, once the patient starts taking it, he finds it difficult to stop. And virtually no one is immune.
Take Kelly McLaughlin of Andover, OH, for example. A mother of two, Kelly raised her children in the quintessential family home. She was a devoted Head Start caseworker who enjoyed hosting potlucks with friends and playing with her kids. But things took a suddenly drastic turn for the worse when she had neck surgery and became addicted to OxyContin.
What was once prescribed as a means to mitigate the post-operative pain quickly turned into a heroin addiction, as she depended on the opioid to live. And her children suffered in numerous ways, living in a filthy house without food while their mom would disappear for hours on end to feed her hopeless addition. (You can read Kellys full story here.)
Or how about Adam Abubaker of Richmond, VA, who abruptly passed away at the young age of 21 from an overdose of heroin. His father, Dr. Omar Abubaker, chair of Virginia Commonwealth Universitys School of Dentistrys Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, fully realizes how the typical prescribing practices of doctors all around the country have directly fed the rapidly increasing opioid epidemic. Dr. Abubaker believes that his sons heroin addiction was the result of over-prescribed opioid painkillers following surgeries during his teenage years.
What doctors dont realize is that even cutting the patient off once the prescription has run its course doesnt prevent further complications, as those who are cut off can simply turn to the illegal versions of their painkillers, which is how heroin and fentanyl addictions arise among everyday people like you and me. This is the only disease created by doctors. And it could be fixed by doctors, said Dr. Abubaker. (Check out the full story here.)
This is a crisis that needs to be addressed today, but nobody within the conventional medical system seems to be taking responsibility.
A Lot of Finger-Pointing, But Not Much Action
It couldnt be more evident that both our trusted doctors and Big Pharma (the big-wig advocates being paid to get your doctors to prescribe these deadly cure-all pills) are largely to blame (more on that in a bit), but instead of tackling the problem head-on, politicians, physicians, wealthy pharmaceutical CEOs and other players are wasting a lot of time playing the blame-game.
In fact, the only efforts to mitigate the problem thus far have been lofty attempts at legal action.
Attorney Generals in at least three states Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma have launched lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies. They say that the companies intentionally misled patientsthat they marketed fraud and deception which fueled the opioid epidemics in their states.
The West Virginia Supreme Court has also jumped in. In an effort to help the citizens of what is considered the epicenter of the nationwide opioid crisis, the court has opened the doors to allow patients to sue doctors and pharmacies for negligently prescribing these drugs and enabling addiction.
Meanwhile, the Cherokee nation has filed against companies such as Walmart, CVS and Walgreens for supplying the drugs.
But who is ultimately accountable for this epidemic… and how can it be stopped?
Lets Take a Look at the Facts
- Fact #1: Sales of prescription opioids in the U.S. nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014. During this time period, deaths from prescription opioid overdoses increased by about the same amount. But heres the thing: Rates of pain have not increased! In other words, these days, doctors are choosing to prescribe opioid medications over non-opioid analgesics.
??Doctors are to blame.
- Fact #2: Back in 2007, Purdue Pharma, who introduced OxyContin in 1996, pled guilty to charges that they misled the FDA, doctors and patients about the addictive properties of OxyContin. In fact, Purdue executives admitted that for six years they marketed the drug as one that had fewer narcotic effects and was less prone to abuse than similar drugs. Despite this deception, OxyContin remains on the market today.
??Big Pharma is the culprit.
- Fact #3: Amidst this crisis, the FDA single-handedly approved a new hydrocodone product, Zohydro, in 2013. By single-handedly, I mean that their own advisory panel voted 11 to 2 against the approval. Still, the FDA the entity we expect to protect us and our health pushed it through. Moreover, in 2015, the FDA approved the use of OxyContin in children as young as 11 years of age. This was a mind-blowing move that perplexed medical experts across the U.S.
??The FDA is responsible.
While each arm of the medical industry plays a significant role in contributing to the ever-increasing tragedy of opioid deaths and addiction, there is one that must be held to higher standards than all others
The Fox Thats Guarding the Henhouse
When faced with the consequences of the opioid epidemic, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D., publicly announced acomprehensive action planto take concrete steps toward reducing the impact of opioid abuse.
However, theres not a lot of action in it. Nor is there anything that appears to be concrete.
First, he promised that the FDA will be more transparent about the approval process for these drugs. In fact, he actually commits to convening an expert advisory beforeapproving any new opioid drug application. But we can hardly have faith in this, given they had expert advisory before approving Zohydro and opted to ignore their expert advice.
Second, Califf announced that theyre going to enhance safety labeling to improve communication with the medical community. Im not sure exactly how much of an impact officials expect this to make, but Im guessing not much.
Third, the agency is planning to work to improve the information available about opioid use. In a nutshell, theyre going gather more evidence on the risks of misuse, abuse and addiction risk associated with these drugs. (Isnt there enough evidence, already?)
Fourth, the FDA is going to focus on approving drugs that have the potential to help mitigate the crisis. In other words, they arent actually planning to address the crisistheyre only planning to introduce more drugs, which is the exact opposite of whats needed.
In the Face of This Crisis, The FDA Has NOT Been Our Friend
Califf isnt immune to conflict of interest. As a matter of fact, an article he wrote in the European Heart Journalin 2015 revealed that he receives funding and personal fees from more than 20 different pharmaceutical companies.
This doesnt even include the huge fees the FDA charges for the application and approval for a drug.
In other words, the FDA isnt working for the American people. Theyre working against you. Theyre working for Big Pharma. And its doing nothing good for your health.
To give you a solid perspective on the ramifications of this immense deception, here are a couple statistics Id bet you never imagined:
The U.S. consumes more than 84% of all theglobal oxycodone supply and 99% of the hydrocodone supply.
I concede that there are times that critical pain management is absolutely necessary. But there are other, less addictive drugs available for this purpose. And when it comes to systemic chronic pain, there are plenty of natural alternatives readily available to you..
Dont let Big Pharma fool you. And dont allow the FDA to be the guardian of your health. Never take your doctors advice at face valueits important to do some research and always put your foot down if you think a prescription drug may be harmful to your health.
Pharmaceutical drugs kill. And this goes beyond drug abuse. Properly prescribed prescription drugs kill over 100,000 Americans every year (excluding prescription drug abuse). So its crucial you understand that just because your doctor prescribes you a drug, it doesnt mean its safe by any means.
Its time to take your health and your livelihood into your own hands.
To learn more about the alarming extent of our countrys opioid epidemic, as a result of over-prescription, check out the NBC News segment here.
Fighting Opioid Overdose. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated Apr 2017.
Manchikanti L,et al. Opioid epidemic in the United States.Pain Physician.2012 Jul;15(3 Suppl):ES9-38.
[Opioid Overdose] Prescribing Data.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated Dec 2016.
Changing course: A new approach to opioid pain medication at FDA.U.S.Food and Drug Administration. Feb 2016.
Manchikanti L, et al. Zohydro approval by food and drug administration: controversial or frightening?Pain Physician.2014 Jul-Aug;17(4):E437-50.
CDER Conversation: Pediatric pain management options.U.S.Food and Drug Administration. Last Updated Aug 2015.
Califf RM. LCZ696: too good to be true?Eur Heart J.2015 Feb 14;36(7):410-2.
Lurie, Julia, (July/August 2017). Children of the Opioid Epidemic Are Flooding Foster Homes. America Is Turning a Blind Eye. Retrieved August 14, 2017 from the Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress website:http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/07/children-ohio-opioid-epidemic/
OConnor, Katie (2017, August). VCU professor who lost son to overdose aims to change opioid prescribing practices. Retrieved August 20, 2017 from The Roanoke Times website: http://www.roanoke.com/news/local/vcu-professor-who-lost-son-to-overdose-aims-to-change/article_79a78da9-5d3f-5a2d-a5e1-35cd64e9935b.html
Joshua Corn – Editor-in-Chief
Josh is a health freedom advocate and veteran of the natural health industry. He has been actively involved in the natural health movement for over 15 years, and has been dedicated to the promotion of health, vitality, longevity and natural living throughout his career. Josh has successfully overcome several personal health challenges through natural means, and believes that sharing information can empower people to take control of their health so they can solve their own problems and live life to its fullest potential. Josh is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Live in the Now. Additionally he serves as CEO of Stop Aging Now, a company that has been formulating premium dietary supplements since 1995. Josh is currently working on his first book about natural health, and is gearing up to launch the Live in the Now radio show. In addition to his work in the natural health field, Josh is an avid outdoorsman, animal lover and enjoys “living in the now” with his wife and two sons.