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Drug companies aren't giving up on opioid painkillers By Steve Tarter - News - Nurses Arena Forum

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Drug companies aren't giving up on opioid painkillers By Steve Tarter by Idowu Olabode : October 15, 2016, 06:19:39 PM
While opioid painkillers have been identified as playing a big role in the nation's overdose crisis, opioid pills like OxyContin, Demerol and Vicodin remain readily available.

The pharmaceutical companies that make these pills are not only actively involved in the sale of a highly profitable product line but have invested big money to keep the market open. A recent Associated Press report noted that drugmakers like Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, spent more than $880 million — roughly $98 million a year — on lobbying and campaign contributions in support of the drugs. Purdue Pharma made $2.4 billion from opioid sales last year alone.

Dr. Kirk Moberg, executive director of the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, 5409 N. Knoxville Ave., noted that Purdue Pharma, fined $634 million in 2007 for misleading the public about the risk of addiction from OxyContin, isn't exactly hiding in shame. "When you go to a conference, the same companies are present, promoting their products. Purdue Pharma still has a booth. OxyContin is still out there."

The availability of opioid painkillers — along with an abundance of cheap heroin — are the two biggest reasons why drug overdoses have skyrocketed in recent years, Moberg said.

The profusion of opioid painkillers available to American consumers brought U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to Peoria in August to meet with local health professionals.

"The amount of opioids prescribed has jumped from 76 million in 1991 to 245 million in 2014. We have five pharmaceutical companies in this country producing 14 billion (opioid) pills a year," said Durbin, who spoke at the Heartland Community Health Clinic, 2214 N. University St.

The ready availability of painkillers that can be addictive also brought Sam Quinones to town in August. The author of "Dreamland," a book about the nation's heroin epidemic, Quinones detailed how the country has been victimized by Mexican drug dealers who have made heroin more prevalent and more affordable while large U.S. pharmaceutical companies have flooded the market with pills that could lead to heroin addiction.

"Twenty years ago, this was a country in pain but we had the solution: opiate painkillers like OxyContin that changed everything when produced in 1996," he told a gathering at the Peoria Public Library this summer. Companies proclaimed the medicine as "virtually nonaddictive" in treating pain, said the author.

While drug companies no longer make that claim, opioids remain a problem, noted Moberg, who holds classes for doctors on the dangers of prescription painkillers.

While making up just 5 percent of the world's population, the United States consumes 80 percent of the opioids in the world, he said. That explains why the federal government is taking a hard look at the opioid issue, Moberg said. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced in August new requirements for boxed label warnings and medication guides for nearly 400 prescription opioids, he said. The FDA also announced that overdose deaths involving opioids nearly tripled from 2004 to 2011.

Moberg said both doctors and patients face problems in dealing with opioid painkillers.

"Physicians would like to prescribe something other than opioids, but they don't always have an alternative. Patients need to explore 'non-pharmalogical' treatments for pain such as meditation, yoga and physical therapy," said Moberg, adding that opioids still have a role to play in fighting cancer pain and acute pain that follows surgery.

"Opioids still pose a major problem, but we have some things in place to help," said Dr. Stephen Hippler, chief clinical officer at OSF HealthCare. "We can review a patient's prescription history and check pharmacy records while limiting the number of pills prescribed.

"A multi-faceted approach to the problem involves prescribing less (opioid medication), giving people more robust treatment options while having Big Pharma do more research on non-opioid medicine."

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Source : PJStar

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