The overprescribing of opioid medications has become a public health crisis responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, widespread addiction and millions of destroyed lives. Centers for Disease Control statistics show 20,101 people overdosed on prescription opioids in 2015. This is almost twice the number of people who overdosed on heroin that same year.

Millions of people are addicted to these medications. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, 2.1 million Americans are suffering from addiction caused by prescription opioids. People addicted to these drugs can lose everything; their families, homes, friends, careers, and eventually their lives.

Despite the damage these drugs have done to our society, doctors continue to hand out prescription opioids like candy. Doctors write more than 250 million opioid prescriptions every year. How did we get to this point?

Did Drug Companies Lie to the Country?

The truth is, the businesses responsible for creating and marketing these medications understated the dangers. These companies knew prescription opioids posed a risk of addiction, but to make billions of dollars, they marketed the drugs as if they were safe. Tens of thousands of health care professionals were manipulated into prescribing these medications under the assumption they were not addictive. Other health care professionals were tempted by drug companies with lavish benefits.

The drug company Purdue spent hundreds of millions of dollars marketing OxyContin for non-cancer related pain management, despite the risk of addiction. In fact, Purdue faced criminal charges for downplaying OxyContin’s addiction risk. In 2007, Purdue and 3 company executives pled guilty to criminal charges for misbranding OxyContin. They were fined $634 million for claiming OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid medications.

According to a publication by the American Public Health Association, Purdue trained sales representatives to tell physicians and other health care professionals that the risk of addiction posed by OxyContin was less than 1 percent.

Why would a company push for such aggressive sales tactics and conceal dangers? The answer is simple. Money. Since the mid-1990s, OxyContin has generated more than $35 billion in sales.

We have only touched the tip of the iceberg with today’s blog. Much more can be said about how drug companies use aggressive and manipulative marketing tactics to encourage doctors to write prescriptions. Our blog will continue providing updates on the American opioid epidemic.

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