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Revealing the Truth about the Pharmaceutical Industry

 

I recently watched a Youtube video by Gwen Olsen, author of Confessions of a Rx Drug Pusher.  She is a 15 year veteran in the pharmaceutical industry who left in the year 2000.  She is now devoted to revealing shocking information about the process drug companies follow to release prescription medications to consumers. 

 In the video, she said, “I would like to dispel the myth that the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of health and healing because in fact what the pharmaceutical industry is in the business of doing is disease maintenance and symptoms management. They are not in the business to cure cancer, to cure Alzheimer’s, to cure heart disease, because if they were, they would be in the business of putting themselves out of business and that, in fact, doesn’t make sense.  This video intrigued me.  If the industry is only worried about money, what would they do to get painkillers on the market? I started researching and found information on how OxyContin was introduced to the scene and the great impact it had on the addiction rate in our society.

 

There was a day that painkillers, like Oxycodone, were only given out to terminally ill patients.  These patients were not feared as addiction risks because their lifespan was deemed to be short.  Just as OxyContin was introduced to the scene, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHCO) was in the process of changing the checklist for vital signs that medical professionals use with patients. At one time, they monitored based on four principles: blood pressure, temperature, respiration, and pulse rate.  However, JCAHCO added pain to list. Pain is subjective to the patient rather than having tools in which to monitor it, as is the case with the other four vital signs.  Caretakers were now responsible to interact with patients about the location and intensity of their pain. This opened the door wide open for the drug industry to sell more painkillers.

 

To market their drug, Purdue Pharma conducted pain management conferences in California, Florida, and Arizona and even covered the cost of travel expenses for 5,000 doctors, nurses, and druggists to attend.  Between the years of 1996 and 2000, they increased the number of their sales representatives from 318 to 671 and gave out hefty bonuses for the top salespeople.

 

To make people comfortable with the new style of distributing painkillers, they spread propaganda that this drug was not addictive based on results of several studies which observed over 11,000 people who had taken the drug with results.  They also said that only 1% of the consumers became addicted.  However, what they didn’t tell doctors was that those studies were not conducted in people experiencing chronic pain and required to take the pill for months on end, but only on those who had temporary acute pain.  They also did not take into account the group of people who are susceptible to addiction based on genetics or have mental issues such as depression or anxiety and have been found to become addicted to opiates within a week of consuming them.

All of a sudden, OxyContin was not only marketed to cancer care doctors but also primary care physicians.  Primary care doctors started writing out prescriptions for the drug to their patients experiencing chronic pain such as those suffering from arthritis, as well as those who had acute pain from something like a sports injury.  By 2003, half of the prescriptions for OxyContin were written by primary care physicians.  Before long the drug was so widely available that people started selling their extra pills for a profit and this was just the beginning of the drug problem we have today.

 

In 2007, the drug became known for its risks rather than just as a pain reliever.  Purdue Pharma and three of the company’s current executives plead guilty to misleading doctors about the potential of abuse and addiction to Oxycontin and were fined $634.5 million.  In May 2007, they paid more fines because of their aggressive marketing skills, they were promoting the drug everywhere, even on beach hats and pedometers.  They also encouraged people to consume more than the recommended dose of twice daily.  By this time, the National Institute of Drug Abuse projected that about five million people were already addicted to opiates.

 

Purdue Pharma used strategic marketing skills to introduce OxyContin to the painkiller industry.  It took them just 4 years to change their sales rates from $48 million to $1.16 billion.  By 2004, OxyContin was the leading drug of abuse.  Purdue Pharma has made an exorbitant amount of money for themselves, but released a menace into our society. 

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