Part-2 of a Continuing Series Focused on America’s Deadly Opioid Addiction
Opioid Addiction: Is It Illegal? Doctors Paid Millions By Drugmakers To Promote Safe Use Of Opioids.
Pharmaceutical companies were already facing a barrage of lawsuits across the U.S., culminating in closer government scrutiny over distributing an oversupply of prescribed opioids. Opioids are deemed responsible for “thousands of questionable overdose deaths.” Pharmaceutical companies are in the crossfire again for paying off “millions of dollars” to influence doctors to promote the highly dangerous, addictive opioids, as safe to use. In fact, prescription opioids like Oxycontin, Hydrocodone and fentanyl, are more likely to cause unwarranted addiction, and worse, these type of opioids can cause overdose deaths.
As reported in last week’s NewsBlaze opioids story, according to Centers for Disease Control, approximately 60-plus thousand people died of drug overdose in the U.S. in 2016. That averages 174 deaths per day. These figures are a 21% increase when compared to 2015, and at least four times the number of such deaths in 1999.
Recent studies at Boston Medical Center discovered a bombshell indicating from 2013-2015, 68,177 doctors received more than $46 million dollars in payments from pharmaceutical companies. They engaged in a massive marketing campaign to promote and sell the powerful, addictive painkillers. In 2014, a Harvard University study showed that prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in America.
Researchers said the study may be the first groundbreaking analysis to investigate the practice of pharmaceutical companies. Purdue Pharma, Amerisource, Bergen, Cardinal Health, and others marketed opioids to physicians and pain management doctors.
“The next step is to understand these links between payments,” said Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and author of the study. Hadland further point out how the continuing study will focus on the “prescribing practice and overdose deaths.”
Doctors were compensated the most money for the promotion of Fentanyl, an opioid typically used in hospitals to treat post-surgical pain and to ease pain for cancer patients. The maker of Fentanyl has been indicted in federal court for paying bribes to doctors to prescribe the Fentanyl spray for patients with or without cancer.
“It’s an indicator that opioids are being heavily marketed for pain,” Hadland explained during interviews with news media outlets. What alarmed Hadland was the surprising fact that family physicians received the largest number of payments.
Further, according to Hadland’s study, published in the American Journal of Health, that approximately two-thirds of the payments came from speaking fees. About 700 doctors pulled in almost 83 percent of the total money spent marketing to physicians.
Propublica investigative reporter Charles Ornstein told CBS news: “It’s illegal to give kickbacks to a doctor to prescribe drugs but it is legal to give money to doctors to help promote your drug.”
Ornstein, added, “Many leading academic medical centers and bioethicists say it’s perfectly responsible for to work with pharma on the creation of drugs, but leave the marketing to sales representatives, not to doctors.”
Here is a link from Propublica called “doc for dollars” that show the amount of money given to doctors and medical experts by pharmaceutical companies.
Purdue Pharma Cease Paying Doctors For Opioid Promotion
Hadland’s study is gaining widespread attention over allegations that major drugmakers paid off doctors to promote opioids as a safe medication to use for pain. At the same time, Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin announced last month the company would stop promoting Oxycontin drugs to doctors and reduce their salesforce. Oxycontin is Purdue’s biggest-selling drug and is estimated to have raked in $1.8bn of sales last year, down from $2.8 bn, five years earlier. Purdue is owned by the Sackler family.
Drug Watch have uncovered additional ways that pharmaceutical companies spread money around to have opioids promoted by professionals, to sell addictive pain medication.
Additional findings at https://www.drugwatch.com/feat
- Pharmaceutical companies funded continuing education courses or paid teachers of those courses who provided information that encouraged opioid prescribing.
- Pharma made financial contributions to organizations that oversaw and rated health care facilities, creating incentives to dispense more opioids.
- Drug manufacturers have been sued in civil court, penalized and faced criminal prosecutions for pushing opioids for off-label uses, some of which could be deadly to patients.
- Pharma paid doctors who spread the misleading message that opioids were safe and predominantly non-addictive when given to pain patients, and that denying those drugs was cruel.
Opioid Billionaire Indictment Highlights Drug Epidemic
This past fall, Dr. John N. Kapoor, 74, Founder and CEO of Insys, was indicted with co-defendants on federal racketeering/ conspiracy to commit fraud including a related charge of conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback law. Prosecutors accuse Kapoor of using his company Insys to pay “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to doctors in exchange for doctors to prescribe a spray called Subsys.
Subsys is a spray for cancer patients that contained the powerful and addictive synthetic opioid called fentanyl. Approved by FDA, Subsys is 100 times stronger than morphine. A whistleblower told the Feds that doctors were bribed to prescribe the spray for patients even if they didn’t have cancer. Fentanyl opioid caused 71 deaths in 2017, with 47 deaths reported in 2016.
A whistleblower identified as Patty Nixon, a former Insys employee, told the Feds how employees were trained to bribe doctors into prescribing the drugs for patients who didn’t need it.
Indicative of the scandal surrounding Dr Kapoor’s opioid operation is the federal indictment of five doctors on March 16, 2018. Federal prosecutors said the prominent doctors received hefty kickbacks and entertainment benefits in exchange for prescribing Kapoor’s Subsys opioids.
New York Doctor Eugene Gosy, 55, was hit hard. The Federal government indicted Gosy in November 2017, for the overdose death of six of his patients, according to news media accounts. Gosy claimed in a radio interview he was a victim of “wild character assassination.” Gosy, through his attorney, insists he is innocent – and that all prescriptions he wrote were for “legitimate purposes.”
The Federal indictment accuses Gosy of handing out prescriptions for opioids which included fentanyl, oxycodone and morphine without a medical basis to patients who were clearly abusing the medications that have fueled a national drug epidemic crisis.
“Today’s charges cannot bring back the loss of those who died, but is a message to traffickers and rogue doctors that their actions have irrevocable consequences,” said DEA special-agent-in-charge James Hunt.
NewsBlaze Journalist Clarence Walker will report on the deadly opioid crisis as new developments happen. He can be reached: [email protected]
Find Out If Your Doctor received Money from Drugmakers.