PAINKILLER LAW: The Oxyverse — Big Pharma’s Alternate Reality

Welcome to the Oxyverse, brought to you by Big Pharma. While the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, and now Johns Hopkins University researchers are all saying that too many doctors are prescribing too many opioids to too many patients, Big Pharma offers medical prescribers a far more palatable take on the prescription drug abuse crisis these companies have helped bring about.

In the real world, there is a rapidly solidifying and credible consensus that opioids taken for chronic pain DO often result in addiction, DO frequently lead to hyperalgesia where the medication fools the body into creating instead of relieving pain, and Johns Hopkins has just found that despite skyrocketing painkiller prescription rates not enough people are actually getting better or finding relief. I continually urge medical providers to change their practices to reflect the changing science, so that they may ensure patient safety and so they can protect themselves from marauding law enforcement investigations.

In Big Pharma’s Oxyverse, though, advocacy groups peddle the tired propoganda that long-acting, extended release opioids are safe and effective for chronic pain, and that a few easy steps can help prevent addiction and abuse. And Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, comes out with a new study that says reducing a patient’s daily dose of opioids “may have limited impact.” According to Purdue, increased risk of overdose is a result of external factors – not the possibility that Oxycontin and other opioids for chronic pain are incredibly addictive and should never have been marketed as anything else. This is what you would expect from the company that’s made billions from Oxy, but that doesn’t mean the company’s study should be taken as reliable advice.

I urge that medical providers rely instead on the information and advice emerging weekly from the federal government and other sources who don’t necessarily have a dog in the pharmaceutical sales race. There is what I call a “compliance window” that is open now, but which will soon shut, in which prescribers can come up to speed on the new science, adjust their prescribing practices accordingly, document everything, and give their patients a range of options on how to reduce opioid consumption and even (safely and enduringly) stop taking these powerful drugs. It’s not an inevitability that pain patients need to be opioid dependent for life. The new scientific advances will have the legal effect of putting doctors on notice that the Oxyverse must be re-thought or altogether abandoned, in favor of what’s real. Best to do a compliance review immediately.

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