via Green Med Info
Prescription drugs kill nearly fifteen times as many Americans per year than the casualty toll of domestic terrorist attacks from over thirteen years combined, but still natural alternatives are suppressed and maligned despite a growing body of evidence supporting their far greater safety and efficacy.
Since 1997, when the United States became one of only two developed nations that allows direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, addiction to prescription drugs and prescription drug overdoses have quadrupled (Real Leaders, 2016). In fact, last year, deaths due to prescription drug overdoses surpassed 50,000 per year, dwarfing the number of deaths due to motor vehicle accidents (37,757) and to gun violence (36,252) (Chicago Tribune, 2016).
Especially culpable are synthetic opioids, a class of central nervous system depressants such as tranquilizers, sedatives, and pain relievers, which claimed a death toll of 9,580 people in 2016, representing a 73% increase (Chicago Tribute, 2016). Although abuse of prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin only increased by 4%, they took the largest toll, killing 17,536 (Chicago Tribune, 2016). In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that for the first time in twenty years, the nation’s life expectancy declined, and cited drug overdoses as a significant contributing factor (Chicago Tribune, 2016).
Although the hyper-politicized war on terror receives far more publicity, prescription drugs kill nearly fifteen times as many Americans per year than the casualty toll of domestic terrorist attacks from over thirteen years combined (Real Leaders, 2016). Rather than stemming from an illicit transaction on a dimly lit street corner with an unscrupulous character, eighty percent of opioid addictions originate from a stethoscope-wearing, prescription-pad wielding physician dispensing legitimate prescriptions for pain medication (Real Leaders, 2016). Furthermore, instead of being distributed via drug trafficking rings commandeered by international drug lords, the opioids are manufactured in pristine labs by Big Pharma, with legal sanction from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (Tough, 2001).
How Big Pharma Engineered an Epidemic of Opioid Addiction
Much of this is due to a Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, which introduced the opioid analgesic OxyContin, a sustained-release oxycodone preparation, onto the market in 1995. A close cousin of other opium derivatives such as heroin, morphine, fentanyl, methadone, and codeine, OxyContin was developed in a German laboratory in 1916 (Tough, 2001). Its sales ballooned from $48 million dollars in its first year to $3.1 billion a decade later, with over 14 billion prescriptions being dispensed in 2001 and 2002, leading Purdue to corner nearly one-third of the painkiller market (Mariani, 2015; Van Zee, 2009).
One of the three founding brothers of Purdue Pharma, Arthur Sackler, was one of the first pharmaceutical advertisers to cultivate reciprocity relationships with doctors to incentivize physicians to prescribe the drugs they promoted, a model which would later become the modus operandi for the entire pharmaceutical industry (Mariani, 2015). Although OxyContin offered no advantage over its opioid relatives, an aggressive marketing campaign in excess of $200 million pursued by Pharma led to its dominance in the market (Van Zee, 2009).
Purdue employed perfidious tactics such as compiling databases of the highest and least discriminate opioid prescribers and targeting reps to frequent those health care professionals (Van Zee, 2009). According to Van Zee (2009), “A lucrative bonus system encouraged sales representatives to increase sales of OxyContin in their territories, resulting in a large number of visits to physicians with high rates of opioid prescriptions, as well as a multifaceted information campaign aimed at them”. In a single year alone, Purdue paid out over $40 million in sales bonuses to its pharmaceutical reps (General Accounting Office, 2003).