Are children the next market for pain pills?
So in a recent WSJ article, I noticed that a Connecticut pharmaceutical company is performing clinic trials of OxyContin on children to help gain patent protection.
Purdue Pharma LP hopes to gain six extra months next year of patent protection for OxyContin by testing whether the powerful painkiller is safe for children.
The Stamford, Conn. company plans to study the effects that two daily doses of OxyContin have on each of more than 150 children ages six to 16 with “moderate to severe” pain who require opioid analgesics, according to documents filed with the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Purdue’s aim is to submit the results to the Food and Drug Administration.
Not only is this an opioid that will affect the production on neurotransmitters in developing brains, especially GABA, but is also one of the most highly addictive prescription drugs on the market. Having a similar effect to heroin, an addiction to OxyContin is hard to quit and is often the gate-way drug to heroin abuse. While the pharmaceutical is purer and more controlled than heroin, the effects are similar. The price, however is not; Heroin costs about $10 a day totaling to about $3,600 a year, while OxyContin on average costs the user $49,680 annually according to the DEA.
The problem is, with this being a legal drug, addicts “shop” doctors to get prescriptions when their original runs out. According to a CNN report:
…the potential overall cost of painkiller abuse at more than $70 billion a year. Pill addicts who shop around for doctors to score prescriptions cost insurers $10,000 to $15,000 apiece. The toll in lost productivity: $42 billion. The criminal justice bill: $8.2 billion. It all adds up.
Over the past decade, prescription drug abuse in the U.S. has increased rapidly, to the point that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now labels the problem an “epidemic.”
More than 36,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2008, the most recent year for which data has been analyzed, according to the CDC, only a few thousand shy of the total killed by car crashes. Of those drug overdoses, prescription drugs were involved in over 20,000 cases.
Now we are looking to give these drugs to children! It leads one to think that this study may be linked to greed. This drug is a Class II narcotic, and was originally used to treat terminal cancer patients when it was introduced in the 1970’s. As time went by, and laws changed (The FDA no longer does drug testing themselves – They now rely on the manufacturer to do studies and submit them to The FDA), OxyContin became prescribed for a wider variety of patients.
The manufacturer of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma LP, was engrossed in aggressively promoting OxyContin, specifically for noncancer pain. The drug has been a major economic success for Purdue Pharma, accounting for almost 80% of the company’s business (Inciardi and Goode 2003). The number of prescriptions and retail sales have been growing at an enormous rate. According to data by IMS, the annual number of prescriptions for OxyContin, for noncancer increased nearly tenfold, from about 670 000 in 1997 to about 6.2 million in 2002, whereas the annual number of OxyContin prescriptions for cancer-associated pain grew by fourfold in six years from 250 000 to just over 1 million (Katz and Hays 2004). A DEA report indicated that more than 7.2 million prescriptions were dispensed in 2002 and approximately 5.8 million prescriptions were for the single entity product OxyContin. The retail sales of the drug have skyrocketed ever since its market introduction. Recent figures for the drug’s retail sales show that there was a 41% increase in sales from 2000 to 2001, representing sales worth approximately US$1.45 billion (Inciardi and Goode 2003). Retail sales of OxyContin reached nearly US$1.6 billion in 2002 (ABC World News 2003). In dollar amounts, it is almost the highest in retail sales of brand name substances.
From the National Institutes of Health.
Now, we all know that any company, even one like Purdue Phama LP works on profits; They make a product, market their product, sell their product and ultimately make a profit. But where is the line drawn? Is greed good, in the immortal words of Gordon Gekko, from the movie Wall Street? Or should companies be held liable to the public before their stockholder?
In a court case against another large manufacturer of pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline admits to criminal pharma fraud in 3 billion dollar case.
British registered company, GlaxoSmithKline, faces $3 billion in penalties after pleading guilty to the biggest health care fraud case in history. GSK admitted that physicians had been bribed to push potentially dangerous drugs in exchange for Madonna tickets, Hawaiian holidays, cash and lucrative speaking tours. They also admitted distributing misleading information regarding the antidepressant Paxil. The report claimed that it was suitable for children, but failed to acknowledge data from studies proving its ineffectiveness in children and adolescents.
GSK faced charges that they had used the gifts to sell three drugs that were either unsafe, or used for purposes that were not approved. The first drug, Paxil also known as Seroxat, was touted as safe and effective for children and adolescents. The ineffectiveness of Paxil, and the link to suicides, meant that it was banned for kids under 18-years-olds in 2008.
The second drug, Avandia was used in Britain to treat diabetes until it was withdrawn due to safety fears, including increased risk of heart attacks. The US government claimed that GSK had attempted to conceal the data surrounding the dangers.
Learn more here.
So this has to make people wonder whether a study like this, on children, is truly for the benefit of our society or just a corporate policy of replenishing the customer base. Think about the tobacco industry and the fight to halt them form advertising to children. Is this just history repeating itself with a different addictive product? The similarities are shocking: Highly addictive, harmful products, both supported by the medical communities.
There was a time when tobacco companies said
smoking was good respiration, and had doctors to support it. This propaganda campaign was so strong that even athletes would smoke in hopes of increasing performance output. This picture was taken in the early day of the Tour de France – These cyclists were about to approach the first large hill, and are lighting up a cigarette to increase respiration! Cigarettes were promoted by medical doctors for so long as being healthy, even athletes thought they would increase oxygen input. Tobacco is a drug. That is the reasons why they still sell tobacco at the pharmacy: Look behind the counter at your CVS, Rite Aid or local pharmacy next time.
We have to wonder who is to blame. Is it these manufacturers? They now get to advertise directly to the public, and not just the doctors who prescribe their product. Now when patients walk into their medical doctor’s offices they know what they want; They know because they saw it on TV. So is it the doctors who are at fault for giving them what they ask for? According to US attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz said: “The GSK sales-force bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours, to a European pheasant hunt, to tickets to Madonna concerts.” This just shows that profit and looking out for share holders is their goal – not taking care of you or your family.
So what happened? Why are we drugging our children and saying that we’re doing it to help them? This is called a paradigm: the view taken by a society on a certain matter of science or technology. The greatest struggles in any society has been changing these paradigms, or a paradigm-shifts. Without these paradigm shifts we would never have taken to the skies in flight, invented electric cars, or played electric guitars. So what are the paradigms that we need to change?
- Medicine in not the first resort.
- Medicine is not a cure to anything, and only masks symptoms.
- Pharmaceutical companies sell drugs.
- Drugs, whether legal or not, all have side effects.
- Medical doctors profit indirectly from drug sales.
- Children should be cherish, no test-subjects.
So what can you do? You need to start by taking responsibility for our own well-being. You need to eat better, live a more active life. You need to stop believing the reason you are sick or don’t feel well is due to a lack of some artificial chemical in your body, or an over abundance of organs. You need to look at the cause of the problem and not try to hide it. You need to question your doctors, and ask them what the alternative is, and what the benefits and risks are. If it is for your child, ask your doctor if they would give it to their child. We as a people need to educate ourselves on what is best for us, our children and the future generations.