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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Big Pharma's Frankenstein Monster Unchained

"It is a farce to call any being virtuous
whose virtues do not result from
the exercise of its own reason."
-Mary Shelley

"Treating pain with opiates became the norm in the late 1990s,"
Orman Hall, director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services said.

Hall explained, "This not only increased the dangers of addiction,
but also of opiate-induced hyperalgesia,
or an increased sensitivity to pain."

"That switch in the 1990s was sparked
by a surge in direct-to-consumer prescription advertising.
Pharmaceutical companies’ ad spending
more than quadrupled from 1995 to 2000,
when about $22.5 million was spent," he said.

"This marketing effort led
to patients seeking certain drugs from their doctors."

(Pat Holmes and Deanna Pan, "Death Toll Drops In Drug War,"
The Columbus Dispatch, April 4 2012)

If you really care about entering the fight against prescription drug abuse, you should study Mr. Hall's words very carefully. The language is very specific, but, on first reading, the meaning is likely to breeze past your ears like another insignificant sound bite. Why? Our nation has been willingly desensitized to pharmaceutical-induced destruction. Big Pharma, mass media, and, yes, gullible and greedy medical professionals have successfully numbed the senses of Americans by over treating their pain.

I know this sounds like the rantings of a lunatic bent on jousting with deeply ingrained, cherished institutions. And, I realize that any efforts I make toward revealing the underbelly of the beast are likely to be in vain; however, please consider some addition statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

* The quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices was four times larger in 2010 than in 1999.

* Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month. Although most of these pills were prescribed for a medical purpose, many ended up in the hands of people who misused or abused them.

Hall, himself, tells of a staff member taking his son for treatment of a sore throat. The patient received a prescription for medicine to treat his throat and one for an opiate painkiller. Stories like these are commonplace in every community in the United States.

Ohio State Senator Dave Burke, a pharmacist who sponsored last year’s pill-mill bill, said,
“We started down this path where patients joined up with the (pharmaceutical company).
That matured significantly in the 2000-to-2010 window,
where people developed arts of deception realizing physicians
would do as you asked them to do
because they’re just trying to help people."
He added, “And until you know you’ve been deceived,
you don’t know you’re being deceived. ...
The physician and the pharmacists no longer acted in collaboration.”

Richard Whitehouse, executive director of the Ohio State Medical Board, stated, “Despite whatever background or experience, folks may still not appreciate the addictive properties of these medications. Governor of Ohio John Kasich said the next step for Ohio should include redefining the treatment of pain. “Long term, we’re going to need the medical schools to begin to instruct physicians about the way to use these highly addictive drugs,” Kasich said.

Burke agrees. “If we’re going to treat this as a disease, then we need to treat it as a disease,” he said. “We’ve got to legitimize the art of pain treatment and management."

The biggest, seemingly insurmountable problem, is to put reins on distribution. Of course, this means taking on Big Pharma and simultaneously re-sensitizing the American public about pain itself. This, folks, is something few seem willing to tackle. Why? Just consider the unpopularity of any effort that has, at its core, the goal of redefining and controlling pain management.

America in the 21st century seems to echo Shelley's Frankenstein monster in its simple understanding of such a cerebral issue: "Pain... Bad! Pill... Good!" While medical schools have instructed doctors to treat patients with extreme compassion and never under treat pain, the doctors have responded by putting far too much faith in the good intentions of both pharmaceutical companies and their self-diagnosing, commercial-fed patients. Now, people go to doctors and convince the professionals to script them popular opiates.

The source of the problem is not the Frankenstein monster -- in this case, an addicted legion of its maker. The monster is an opiate-dependent public.

Dr. Frankenstein -- in this case, Big Pharma, is the maker and the source of the national epidemic. Read the history for yourself. What are the duties of the creator towards its "creature"?

In Mary Shelley's novel, when Victor Frankenstein understands that his monster causes the destruction of everyone dear to him, he realizes he must destroy it. The creation of Frankenstein's monster is presented as an unsurpassed feat of scientific discovery, yet one which brings sorrow, terror, and devastation to mankind. Frankenstein, like Big Pharma, is simply a bad parent. He bestows life upon his "child," yet refuses in any way to care for it.

We can forever debate that "the pill" is just "an inanimate object" until the dependent, himself or herself, takes the willing action to consumes it. This blame game will not help solve the problems of rx drug abuse. And, this mindset will not save the lives of millions of innocent future addicts. It's time to put the blame exactly where it belongs.

I've said this many times before: Look into your mirror to begin the steps toward needed change. You see the one thing you control that can effect change in a very ill nation -- your face. As you place "your face" in person, in words, in some active movement for reform, you begin to eliminate the cause of the epidemic. This problem requires the efforts of millions of "faces."

Yes, I believe you and I caused this terrible scourge to happen. We did it by complacently sitting for decades in our pain free environments until the entire medication-dependent culture became so immense and entrenched that it grew out of control. Even after we knew the scope of the problem, we chose to trust those in charge of our meds with blind faith and, instead, blame the junkies and the drug cartels and the street dealers and the devil and whoever else we could scapegoat for the cause.

It is up to you and me as individuals to tackle what we have let prey upon us all. I honestly believe that greed and the need for powerful influence have driven Big Pharma to use us and to abuse us. Unless we come together, en masse, as a caring, committed public, we will continue to be in the comatose state of passive acceptance. New and more powerful medications sit posed to reap the huge profits of the market.

We should assemble and march on Washington to convince those in charge of the nation's regulatory bodies to legislate adequate controls and restraints. How many more prescription drug deaths and dependencies and addictions? How much longer must we be under the hold of those whose only concern is profit and/or power?  Are you still looking into your mirror? I wonder if anyone is smiling?

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