Sunday, April 17, 2016

One of the Greatest Mistakes in Medical History

I highly recommend the commentary in today's Star Tribune about the opioid prescribing crisis. I won't go into much of what the writer has to say, except for these two things. One is a fact I suspected and the other a fact I never knew:

  • "Doctors were misled in this misadventure and should be angry at their leadership, which allowed the capture of continuing medical education by the likes of Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin. As has been widely documented, the company spent $200 million for 20,000 opioid training lectures given to doctors, often at tony resorts, and the investment paid off. The drug has earned Purdue $35 billion so far. The messages in these lectures depicted the potential for addiction from opioids as minimal. State medical boards were persuaded to inform doctors they could be punished for not prescribing opioids for chronic pain."
  • "Designers at Bayer* picked the name Heroin for their cough syrup opiate because they wanted users to believe they were taking something heroic. They were trying to make a safer form of morphine, but accidentally made a stronger form instead. They lied about that, too, and eventually heroin was banned."
I'm not one to get bent out of shape about "big pharma" generally, but in the case of synthetic opioids -- distrust and anger are warranted. Not only do these drugs get people hooked -- they don't even work effectively for pain in the long run.


* Bayer, synonymous to my generation with the word "aspirin." Today, they're one of the primary defenders of neonicotinoid pesticides that contribute to colony collapse in bee populations.

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