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The Washington Post recently reported that the pharmaceutical industry’s claims over the past ten years about certain pain- killing drugs, such as OxyContin, not being addictive have been largely false. Who were they kidding? Probably every single American knows someone, or is aware of someone’s adult child, who has fallen prey to the addictiveness of painkillers such as OxyContin. That drug’s label approved by the FDA noted, “the risks of addiction were ‘reported to be small.’”

According to the article, doctors who prescribed OxyContin and thought it was safe apparently did not fully realize the actual addictiveness of what they were prescribing. Barbara Howard, whose daughter Leslie died of an overdose in 2009, developed a drug dependence following knee surgery. (The Washington Post, 12/30/2012)

The epidemic of addiction to painkillers has become widespread throughout the country and is estimated to be greater, in numbers of people addicted, than heroin or cocaine. Powerful opioid drugs include such painkillers as morphine, heroin and brand name prescriptions such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet. In years past, they were prescribed as last resorts for people who struggled with the terrible pain of cancer and other illnesses. In recent years, their applications have expanded to prescriptions for arthritis, back pain and other joint pain.

In the case of OxyContin, its approval by the FDA may have been influenced by the panel that formed its opioid drug policy—outside experts, five of whom had financial relationships with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. James Heins, spokesperson for Purdue Pharma, might be the master of understatement, having said, “it is implausible that our marketing caused an upsurge in overall prescriptions of opioids or in the incidence of abuse” because Purdue controls only a small portion of the market. Is that not the purpose of their marketing?

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