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Scapegoating Opioid Makers Lets True Offender Get Away

April 24, 2019 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

April 24 (UPI) — John Oliver is a brilliant comedian with
a large platform, and he has been using it of late to
demonize
the pharmaceutical companies that produce opioids.
Major targets of his attack are Purdue Pharma and its Sackler
family principals, developers of OxyContin, which, until around
2010 was a drug of choice for non-medical users.

Like the tobacco companies in the 1990s, it is understandable to
focus indignation at companies, driven by the profit motive, that
purvey products that can cause harm and even death. It is
reasonable to question and criticize their marketing ethics and
aggressiveness.

But at the end of the day, extracting a pound of flesh from the
Sacklers won’t stop the overdose rate from climbing. That’s because
the standard narrative that overprescribing of opioids caused the
overdose crisis is based upon misinformation — as is the
belief that opioids have a high overdose and addiction
potential.

Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, as well as
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clearly show

no correlation
between the number of opioid prescriptions
dispensed and “past month non-medical use” or “pain reliever use
disorder” among adults over age 12. As high-dose opioid
prescriptions dropped 58 percent from 2008 to 2017 and overall
prescriptions dropped 29 percent in that time period, the overdose
rate continued to climb. Decreasing the availability of
prescription pain relievers for diversion into the black market
only drives non-medical users to more dangerous heroin and
fentanyl.

The real villain is the
war on drugs. Yet it’s getting off scot-free.

In 2017, heroin and fentanyl
comprised
75 percent of opioid-related overdose deaths. Deaths
from prescription pain pills also involved drugs like cocaine,
heroin, fentanyl, alcohol and benzodiazepines 68 percent of the
time. Less than 10 percent of overdoses from prescription pain
pills in 2017 did not involve other drugs.

Opioids prescribed in the medical setting have been repeatedly
shown to be safe. Researchers following over 2 million North
Carolina patients prescribed opioids noted an overdose rate of

0.022 percent
, and nearly two-thirds of those deaths had
multiple other drugs in their system. A 2011 study of chronic pain
patients treated in the Veterans Affairs system found an overdose
rate of
0.04 percent
. A larger population
study
found an overdose rate of 0.01 percent.

Researchers at Harvard and Johns Hopkins universities recently
found
a total misuse rate of 0.6 percent in over 560,000
patients prescribed opioids for acute and post-op pain between 2008
and 2016.
Cochrane
<a target=_blank href="http://thblack.com/links/rsd/Addiction2012_publ_online_Oct18_DevDependafterTxwOpioids4PainReliefREV.pdf" …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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