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Pseudoaddiction: OxyContin Sacklers Invented a Fake Disease to Sell More Opioids

“Are you kidding me?”

That’s what I blurted when I read the section of the Massachusetts’ Attorney General’s complaint against Purdue Pharma that detailed the invented illness of “pseudoaddiction.”


. Purdue Pharma’s leader, Richard Sackler, instructed sales reps to tell doctors that if their patients showed signs of addiction, it really wasn’t addiction. It was “,” a condition cured by …

wait for it …

More OxyContin!

What a shocker. Purdue Pharma has been fighting on all fronts to keep people on OxyContin or its other opioids, and failing that, opioid side-effect treatments (including stool softeners) since its unfavorable 2007 judgment when the company agreed to stop its hard-sell, deceptive, and — as charged in state and local lawsuits and the prior Federal lawsuit — illegal sales tactics. The company threatened to sue the in 2016 because the published an in-depth report making a strong case that OxyContin’s 12-hour time-release formula led to a greater chance of addiction.

OxyContin’s “magic” isn’t relieving pain — the time release, long-lasting formula really does lead to a greater risk of addiction. Which, if one reads the entire Massachusetts’ AG complaint, is exactly what Richard Sackler wanted. It is Purdue Pharma’s specialty.

Massachussetts is one of 40 states (so far) that are suing Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers for their role in the opioid crisis.

Here’s Colorado’s succinct summary of the “pseudoaddiction” ploy for patient addiction and ongoing profits.

To translate from pharmaspeak, KOLs are physicians recruited by companies like Purdue Pharma to act as “key opinion leaders.” In other words, Purdue paid these guys to give talks, write articles, and invent fake conditions like “pseudoaddiction” to convince other doctors to prescribe as many OxyContin pills as possible … and then increase the dose.

I’m far from a medical expert — [’] but unlike Sackler, I’m still human.

This situation with opioids is causing large numbers of people to question the entire medical field, from toxic pharma drug dealers like Sacklers to invasive, painful and ineffective cancer or other disease treatments, to shameful health disparities among communities of color and women, to bald-faced lies like “America has the best health care in the world!”

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk on the toxic pharma business model at one of the colleges where I teach. I focused on the business model of Sacklers/Purdue ().

A charming lady with a Dutch accent was in the audience. When I said I still heard people saying, “The United States has the best health care system in the world,” she burst out in peals of laughter.

I know sometimes we gotta laugh to keep from crying. But it’s really not funny any more.

So, I’m not a medical expert. I’m a sci-fi writer. You may prefer bleak futures written by unimaginative and depressed individuals enslaved by our toxic corporatist capitalism — for whom the best possible future consists of armies of vampires or zombies combing a devastated post-nuclear landscape for little kids to eat — be my guest.

What I’m writing about here is holding our society back as firmly as the Inquisition suppressed scientific inquiry or Victorian-era sexual repression held back healthy sexual relationships.

This society’s worship of money, power and deification of murderous greed and callous disregard is what’s keeping us sick, overworked, miserable, and violent.

Somebody like me who points out that being a brutal molester like many of our politicians, or being a greedy lying thug masquerading as a doctor like Richard Sackler, isn’t really a worthwhile goal — doesn’t get much traction. Saying that these behaviors don’t comprise the best parts of ‘being a man’ and aren’t even good for the people who live that way much less anybody else — well, it’s hard to get heard in a society where H.E.B. is wallpapering the universe with “Game of Thrones” recipes and my email is filling up with invitations to pay Joe Biden to ‘fight Trump’ or wouldn’t I just love to vote for a Presidential Dream Team of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton?

How kind of them! No, thank you :)

So, the more I read the Massachusetts’ AG complaint against Sacklers/Purdue Pharma, the more I thought, this company basically sold one drug: OxyContin. And, it sold it for 20+ years. Richard Sackler told his sales and marketing team way back in 1999 that he foresaw a blizzard of prescriptions for OxyContin.

So, guess what Purdue Pharma spent its research and development dollars on? The family paid themselves $4 billion in profits between 2007 and 2018.

Crush-proof tablets to prevent illegal drug users from snorting Oxy. Research! Yeaaaahhhh!

Oh yeah — this too!

Gotta spend money to make money!

So here’s the situation. I’m sure much smarter ‘futurists’ than me will absolutely get this problem and solve it within seconds.

Just about 100% of Purdue Pharma’s efforts since the company’s marketing and sales of Valium in the 1960s and 70s have been devoted to making billions for the Sackler family. It’s amazing the family paid itself as much as $4 billion after the company’s unfavorable 2007 federal judgement, especially considering the kind of cash they were spending on sales, marketing (they honestly should have considered an in-house lapdance expert like Insys but that’s water under the bridge, innit?) and ‘research’ into how to get as many people as possible as addicted to OxyContin as quickly as possible.

I just finished some work for a client about management problems. It turns out that at least 50% of Americans have left a job because of a bad manager and that 70% of productivity losses can be tied to management-related issues. Among these would be greedy, venal, heedless Bond-villain-style owners.

How’d ya like to work for a guy like Richard Sackler?

Dream come true, baby.

This is why every young chemist goes to school and takes out massive student loans: so they can work to addict and kill thousands in pursuit of the goal of making a guy like Sackler richer than Croesus.

Every young intern or resident is just biding their time to go into private practice to make a fortune, right?

I’m thinking there’s more than a punny, catchy motive for the DEA’s naming of its February bust of So Cal physicians and other healthcare professionals : “Operation Hypocritical Oath.”

The answer to this equation is simple.

Our society has heretofore told us that excellence in any endeavor is rewarded by monetary compensation.

The opposite, in the majority of cases, is true.

Deception, financialism, and addictive behavior drive monetary compensation at present. All of these are exemplified by Purdue and Rhodes Pharma and the Sacklers.

A lot of people would be happy to be paid for the hard, beneficial work that they do. Teachers should not have to work weekend jobs at WalMart to avoid becoming homeless. Purdue Pharma funded a vast number of “pain institutes” at the most prestigious universities and schools of medicine to promote its medications. These institutes’ research consisted of studies supporting pseudoscientific concepts like “pseudoaddiction.”

This circle of badness really is all tied together. Our society is as trapped by money and deference to false authority as the Victorians were trapped by their false ideals of sexual morality and propriety.

Only 30% of millennials are happy in their jobs, and the numbers in other age cohorts aren’t much better. The main complaint is a lack of purpose and ability to develop and grow.

I’ve made the case before that the human waste in our society costs us vast and incalculable amounts in lives lost — and economic unproductivity.

According to Altarum, the opioid crisis has cost the U.S. $1 trillion since 2001 and the Sacklers have paid themselves $6 to $7 billion. They have some ROI for all the money they paid to convince their super-prescribers to keep doling out the pills.

The rest of us? When are we going to get the message through our thick skulls? We need to spend our lives doing for ourselves and others. And that worth won’t be worth anything as long as it consists of earning somebody else’s money.

According to Harlan Ellison and my grandmother, “You’ll go far Amy, because you have heart.” Author of 40 books, former exec., Nebula Award nominee, Poor.

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