Re: “Money blocks opioid limits,” (TNT, 9/18).
This front page article was an excellent examination of Big Pharma’s unscrupulous marketing of opioids for chronic pain.
When I began practice as a family physician in the 1970s, opioids were prescribed for persons with chronic pain due to terminal cancer, but rarely for other kinds of chronic pain. At that time most opioids were generic and did not make much money for pharmaceutical companies.
In 1996 Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin, a new and very expensive long-acting preparation of oxycodone. At exactly the same time, articles began appearing in medical journals and the public press announcing that chronic pain of all kinds could and should be treated safely and effectively by long-acting opioids.
Doctors were accused of patient neglect, of callously ignoring their patients’ suffering, if they did not use the new opioid drugs to relieve chronic pain. I, along with thousands of primary care colleagues, revised our practices and began treating chronic pain with Oxycontin and similar new (expensive, patented) opioid drugs.
Purdue’s patent on Oxycontin expired in 2013. Only then did articles begin appearing exposing the lack of evidence for safe and effective use of these drugs for chronic pain.