Doctor, Who Was Paid by Purdue to Push Opioids, Will Testify Against Drugmaker

Just this morning I read this article by The Guardian;

Doctor Who Was Paid by Purdue to Push Opioids to Testify Against Drugmaker

“In a newly released statement to an Ohio court hearing a combined lawsuit of more than 1,600 cases, Doctor Portenoy accuses drugmakers of underplaying the dangers of opioids and of pushing them on patients who did not need them. The doctor said the industry overstated the benefits of narcotics painkillers and ‘understated the risks of opioids, particularly the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose’”.

Apparently Doctor Portenoy was the hired gun for Purdue Pharma and others to promote the use of Opioids. Dr. Portenoy “did a study of only 38 patients and the results were mixed with more than one-third failing to benefit from the drugs. It also lacked the standard scientific rigor of control groups.

But the paper had a significant impact and tapped into a frustration among a group of younger pain doctors at their inability to offer anything more than superficial relief to patients whose lives were dominated by debilitating pain.”

Even though Portenoy’s study lacked the numbers that the Jick and Porter study had in their study, I am sure it had a tremendous impact on subsequent sales. It was a more recent study than the 1980 letter detailing the impact of Opioids in a hospital setting.

In the text of my post on April 7th;

The cause of the Opioid epidemic up till recently can be partially blamed on the misuse of a 1980 Jick and Porter letter to the NEJM. The letter cited the risk of addiction from the “use of Opioids in a hospital setting is rare.” Except when cited by people using this letter 608 times, 80.8% (491) of the citations to promote Opioids failed to mention the use of Opioids was in a hospital setting. Purdue Pharma, other companies, and doctors used this letter to promote the use of Opioids.

In 1996 with the introduction of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma, the use and abuse of the letter almost tripled. If we go back to the charts again, we can see that upon introduction of OxyContin in 1996 a year or so later the death rate per 100,000 doubles and continues to increase yearly. “The aggressive sales pitch led to a spike in prescriptions for OxyContin of which many were for things not requiring a strong painkiller. In 1998, an OxyContin marketing video called ‘I got My life Back,’ targeted doctors. In the promotional, a doctor explains opioid painkillers such as OxyContin as being the best pain medicine available, have few if any side effects, and less than 1% of people using them become addicted.” Increases in drug poisoning deaths involving prescription Opioids increases with 37% of all drug-poisoning deaths in 2013 being attributed to Opioids a 4-fold increase from 1999.

In the 2017 letter to the NEJM, The Jick and Porter Letter is cited in the Supplemental Appendix. The bibliometric analysis of the increased numbers of citations of this letter aligns with the introduction of OxyContin in 1995/96.

“the authors of 439 (72.2%) cited it as evidence that addiction was rare in patients treated with opioids. Of the 608 articles, the authors of 491 articles (80.8%) did not note that the patients who were described in the letter were hospitalized at the time they received the prescription”

The increased numbers of deaths due to Opioid use, as shown in the Joint Commission charts, occurred shortly after the introduction of Oxycontin.

The Guardian article affirms what many of us have been thinking over the last couple of years.

There a pretty detailed discussion of the impact of pharmaceutical companies on the use of Opioids at Naked Capitalism as written by Yves Smith; New York Sues Big Pharma for Opioid Crisis Bill Black, Marc Steiner, Letita James, discuss the study and how Purdue and other Pharma companies influenced the market.

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