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Going After the Pain Profiteers


Going After the Pain Profiteers

Sarah Anderson

Travis Bornstein never told his friends about his son Tyler’s drug problem. He was too embarrassed.

Then, on September 28, 2014, Tyler’s body was found in a vacant lot in Akron, Ohio. The 23-year-old had become addicted to opioid pain killers after several sports-related injuries and surgeries. Unable to afford long-term treatment, he ultimately turned to a cheaper drug — the heroin that killed him.


As I understand it, the real origin of the epidemic is indeed in profiteering on pain, that opioids were never approved for treatment of chronic pain, but sold to and through doctors on that false premise. My long-time primary physician was recently forced to retire when he was found to have backdated prescriptions. (I choose to think he was mostly trying to help out a patient(s) through his own frustrating unavailability for medical issues.)

And now pharma is marketing new drugs to deal with the unpleasant side effects of long-term opioid use, such as constipation. Sigh.


Don't expect Trump and the GOP controlled Congress to put any effort into cutting opoid use or illicit heroin production/distribution.

Many of our local hardcore Trump supporters are opoid users. Trump cannot afford to lose these voters. Most of their drugs are paid for by Medicaid, Medicare and other programs likely to be gutted by Trump and Congress. Without gubmit programs they will not be able to afford opoids and, like Tyler Bornstein, will turn to less costly street heroin.


Narrow your brush, Ray, or show some sources. I'll bet that "most" opioids are paid for by private insurance. It starts with misapplication to chronic pain.


Love of money is the root of all evil. And boy, does America love MONEY. What used to be called racketeering and loansharking is now mainstream business practice. If there is a profit to be made, the social harm is irrelevant these days in the land of the Golden Calf. Opioids to the masses? Why not, if there is a profit to be made.


Cannabinoids not opioids. Cannabis is a great pain killer, not addictive and not deadly


If you want to take down big pharma, stop supporting them. Support cannabis instead and start cutting into pharma's profits


Actually opioids are a valuable part of the "pain relief toolkit" for chronic pain sufferers. Just like any medication, it works better for some people than others (and not at all well for some people). Blanket prohibitions on an effective medication are no solution.


That's a blanket statement and not true for everyone. Some pain patients exclusively use cannabinoids, many use both cannabinoids and opiates, and others find cannabinoids are ineffective or even make things worse.


Its cannabis thats prohibited, not opiates


The revolving door with ex-Justice Dept. officials and DEA officials also plays into this:

"For example, the drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, faced a civil suit in West Virginia in 2001 for their aggressive marketing of OxyContin. Their company had claimed that their drug had “reduced addiction risk” and even asserted that opioids posed an addiction rate of “less than one percent.” Purdue Pharma should have faced much more than a civil suit, but their defense attorney, Eric Holder, negotiated a sweetheart $10 million settlement. That was only a fraction of the profits from the sales of OxyContin".

"The production of drugs like OxyContin are not dictated by the supply and demand forces of most consumer goods. No. Drug companies, such as Purdue Pharma, meet privately with officials from the DEA to discuss their production goals. In turn, the DEA’s Diversion Control Division decides the limits for production for each drug. To be perfectly clear, the DEA dictates the exact market size for all controlled substances. However, their agency remarkably continued raising the limits for prescription opioids while this epidemic worsened".

"These reports clearly demonstrated the corrupting power of the revolving door between the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control and the private sector. One article revealed that 42 former DEA officials (31 with the Office of Diversion Control) had taken jobs at pharmaceutical companies or law firms representing them since 2005. In most instances, they joined those companies only weeks after leaving the agency. Consequently, several field agents noticed a drastic shift in protocol as more ex-DEA officials began working for the drug companies. In fact, these agents insisted that their supervisors were often working against them to prevent their cases from coming to fruition".

"He encountered pushback even when implementing limited actions against major drug distributors. As mentioned earlier, the DEA suspended the license of Cardinal Health’s Lakeland facility in 2012 when the agency was armed with a mountain of evidence. Nonetheless, Rannazzisi described the events leading up to that decision for The Washington Post. That included multiple encounters with top DOJ officials who pressured him to not suspend Cardinal Health’s license. These DOJ officials had been contacted by former members of the Justice Department who were presumably working on behalf of Cardinal Health".

"To wrap up, the DEA has deftly avoided accepting any culpability for this opioid crisis. For instance, the DEA Chief, Chuck Rosenberg, made an appearance last year on CBS This Morning. He was asked why his agency hasn’t significantly cut back the production quota for prescription opiates. Rosenberg replied that had the DEA had reduced the limits that year, but he didn’t mention the specifics. The production limit for oxycodone was reduced in 2016 to 108 tons, which is a 1300% increase from 20 years earlier".

*108 tons = 216 thousand pounds, one hell of a bunch of oxicontin pills!


I'm talking about people using medical marijuana for pain relief. Hopefully decriminalization/legalization is on the way, though Trudeau is irritatingly vague about it.


"Unable to afford long-term treatment, he ultimately turned to a cheaper drug — the heroin that killed him."

If drugs were legal, well labeled as to ingredients, proper dosage, drug interactions, etc., reflected their true costs and so on, overdoses would be infrequent and users would not hesitate to seek help.

But like war profiteers, Big Pharma, Big Booze, Big Tobacco, etc must increase demand. Drug prohibition protects their monopolies.


This article is about pharma, and specifically about opioids. Let's keep it there and educate ourselves. I'm fortunate that opioids make me puke, so I can't take them outside of hospital supervision. But the way to prevent turning to heroin, in this case, is to stop the prescription of opioids for chronic use.


A lot of insurers have taken steps to reduce the distribution of opioids. Unfortunately, the steps are a bit late in the game for many people.


"As I understand it..."

You don' understand it and the CDC Health Insurance Industry and DEA are helping you not understand. Opioids and Opiates are the most effective way of treating chronic pain but the new studies are flawed because they were meant to be flawed.

The drug companies have cooked up some expensive pain killers that do work and can be patented so they make big money. Wonderful pain killers can be made from Opium which is grown by peasants and is cheap.

The Health Insurance Industry is balking at the high prices on the "patented" drugs. So instead of telling the truth and making the cheap pain killers available..., hundreds of thousands if not millions of pain sufferers are being forced to suffer chronic pain because of the CDC's propaganda "Guidelines" about the alleged "epidemic". Politics has no place in medicine


Indeed, "politics has no place in [the practice of] medicine," and you provide no verifiable basis (including what training and certification you may claim) for your polemical statement.

The truth is that the kinds of pain medications that are the topic of this article were never required to be shown to be safe and effective for long-term use. As stated in the FDA (and whatever you may think of government agencies, they're what we have that has procedures for examining evidence) fact sheet on their opioids action plan from September 2016,

the evidence base to guide the use of opioid medications, particularly in the setting of long-term use, is substantially lacking.

Because of that prior failure, "the FDA is strengthening the requirements for drug companies to generate postmarket data on the long-term impact of using ER/LA opioids."

Opium may be grown by peasants, but it's been and is horribly expensive in nonmarket ways, including the deaths of people like Tyler Bornstein, told they can go on playing, working, stressing their injured bodies because these drugs, demonstrated safe and effective only for short-term use in close supervision, will mask their pain. These are analgesics, not treatment of any kind for Tyler's sports injuries. He is a victim of too-easy prescription for too long a time, not of being denied access to opium in its peasant-produced form.


If you succeed in stopping " the prescription of opioids for chronic use" you would be dooming me and thousands of people like me to a lifetime of agony. I've been taking Percocet for over a decade now with no problems -- still on the original dose. I got a bottle of 100 on March 8 of last year and there are still 25 or so left. I use alternative methods (exercise, heat, etc) when appropriate for me but there are still times when taking a Percocet is a sensible and reasonable thing to do.

The reason that you don't hear about people like me is that we are going peacefully about our lives and don't make headlines. But if short-sighted thinking leads to our being denied medication that helps us live our lives we will not sit back and suffer in silence.


Right. Thousands of people are going to be under-treated for pain because of the hysteria as it is now.

Yes, Commondreamers, we need to divert hundreds of millions of more dollars to the DEA, because they are so successful at prosecuting the anti-drug war.


Sorry, I should have said something like "be more careful about prescribing opioids for chronic use." You haven't said what your condition is (nor should you have to), but look at the ads, particularly for more meds to deal with the side effects (such as constipation) of opioid use: "I hurt my back," "My joints were damaged in my professional athletic career," and even the case in this article: sports injuries, surgeries. Your level dose and and prn self-regulation demonstrate the difference. But when you have to have more prescriptions to keep up with the secondary effects, it says something very different. When Tyler Bornstein's sports injuries weren't fixed by the surgeries, the pain not relieved by surgical treatment, he should not have just been given more opioids and sent back out onto the field.