This column is written as a voice for the true victims of the prescription drug epidemic – patients and family members whose physicians were encouraged by the medical establishment to prescribe large doses of opioids. Some, like my daughter, paid for that advice with their lives.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee announced it was investigating the financial ties between pharmaceutical companies and their funded pain organizations — one being the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). Last week, American News Report published an interview with Lynn Webster, MD, president elect of the AAPM.
I would like to address the issues discussed with Dr. Webster — from the perspective of the tens of thousands of families throughout the U.S. and Canada dealing with opioid addiction and death in epidemic proportions — escalating as much as 400% in the last decade.
Contrary to what Dr. Webster stated, the senators “do have all the facts.” That is why an investigation is being conducted. Parents and professional organizations such as Physicians for Reponsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) have flooded Congress with facts and asked for an investigation into the loss of life — especially of young people — in the over-production and irresponsible prescribing of opioids for every level of pain.
These pain foundations have been influenced by industry — and very lucratively too. If they didn’t want to be influenced, they should have refused to have their pockets lined by Big Pharma.
Physicians told there was “little harm” from opioids
Dr. Webster said that “physicians, including myself, for a decade believed that there was very little harm associated with the prescribing of opioids and that, frankly, there was no upper limit to what we could or should give to individuals. That didn’t come out of industry; that belief, that philosophy came out of the field of medicine.”
Then Dr. Webster admits “we just didn’t have all the knowledge that we have today.”
Dr. Webster, that knowledge had been very well publicized in every state in the country and in every news publication — and our children are now dying because of the push to prescribe and use opioids.
Maybe the Senate will be convinced that this pro-opioid philosophy stopped several years ago, but I wouldn’t take it to the bank, Dr. Webster. The rise in prescription drug addiction and death does not substantiate that theory — not even close.
According to Dr. Webster, “There was a time, 10-15 years ago, we didn’t know that there were really as many people out there that probably wouldn’t benefit from an opioid.”
Dr. Webster, your pain foundation helped convince the medical profession that if patients exhibited addiction to opioids, it was actually a condition called “pseudoaddiction,” a phrase coined by Dr. J. David Haddox after a study of one patient.
The AAPM and other pain societies joined with Haddox in telling physicians that some patients exhibiting addiction to opioids may not really be addicted, but were showing signs of under treatment caused by “inadequate prescription of analgesics.” Incredibly, the recommended solution for pseudoaddiction was more opioids, not treatment for addiction. Dr. Haddox moved on to work for the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, where he is still gainfully employed as a vice president.
Which raises the question: Why isn’t the Senate Finance Committee investigating Dr. Haddox, the gatekeeper of opioid prescribing?
It is very noble, Dr. Webster, that you and others have been working hard at trying to solve this problem for more than six years, “long before it came on the radar” of the senators or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the prescription drug epidemic is not a six year old problem. It goes back to the falsehood of pseudoaddiction and the push to prescribe opioids. Let’s hope the Senate Finance Committee gets to the bottom of what happened and doesn’t conduct a “pseudo-investigation.”
Marianne Skolek is an activist and investigative reporter for Salem-News.com who lost a daughter to prescribed OxyContin in 2002. Marianne writes from the perspective of families devastated by the prescription drug epidemic.
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