Opioids. Medication. Addiction.
Addiction is all around us. We have become a culture of addiction – addiction to drugs and alcohol – addiction to food – addiction to cosmetic surgery – addiction to the internet and social media, and much more.
There is one addiction however, that may dwarf all the rest, at least in terms of volume and in its effect on people’s health and safety. And what makes this addiction more frightening is that it is largely caused by corporations and doctors.
Yes, I’m referring to the addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. Latest available records show that in 2012 there were roughly 259 million prescriptions written. Many were legitimate, I’m sure, but others were written for pure profit and greed with little to no regard for the health of the patients.
For decades, we have read news stories about pharmaceutical companies rewarding doctors who prescribe certain drugs to patients in large volume. These rewards range from cash kickbacks to expensive “junkets” in exotic locations. Rarely have we witnessed any substantial repercussions for these unethical and dangerous practices.
Maybe things are about to change, but that’s doubtful considering big pharma arguably has huge support in the incoming administration. We are bound to see more quid pro quo relationships between many doctors and pharmaceutical companies, and consequently, more addicts being born.
CBS News ran a story on December 22nd about six former executives and managers from an Arizona based pharmaceutical company who are facing federal charges for what prosecutors are calling a “racketeering crime.”
Insys Therapeutics developed the spray version of the opiate fentanyl, usually prescribed to cancer patients. The six former employees allegedly rewarded doctors with bribes and kickbacks for prescribing the medication, even when it wasn’t medically warranted. The shady doctors allegedly received five and six-figure payoffs.
The CDC calls opioid addiction and overdose an epidemic. Research shows that one in four people who have been on long-term opioid treatment suffer from addiction. After all, heroin is an opioid and we all know how addictive and deadly it can be. Heroin is illegal and if convicted for selling it, you will receive stiff prison time. Isn’t it about time that the same consequences apply to unethical pharmaceutical companies and doctors?
The six plaintiffs are scheduled to appear back in court later this month. Maybe…just maybe…this case will be the one to put these white-collar drug pushers on notice.
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups, Google+ Circles. Feel free to subscribe to my newsletter.