Aug 21, 2017
Fatal overdoses from drugs made from opium have become a major health crisis in the U.S. And the main cause of the U.S. overdose epidemic is the rapacity of the pharmaceutical industry.
For pharmaceutical companies to make big profits out of dangerous products like opium and its derivatives, they needed to create the medical conditions to enlarge the market. They needed more customers than just the addicts who were the main users until then. This business plan, as the boards of directors of these companies would call it, worked better than imagined – up through the current catastrophe, which is out of control.
A campaign addressed at patients with chronic pain was launched in the early 1990s. More than five million Americans suffering from back pain were given morphine or a much pricier blend of drugs promised not to have the same risk of dependence and overdosing.
The industry knew that these claims were not based on fact. They were even ready to pay when they were caught making false claims in advertising. Purdue did so with its product Oxycontin. A few hundred million dollars paid in fines means little when these drugs bring in billions!
The industry systematically and insistently pushed American doctors to prescribe painkillers. Revenue from these sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. In 2012 there were over 259 million prescriptions, roughly one for each adult in the country. In some states and especially in the Rust Belt states devastated by the economic crisis, there were more prescriptions than people, adding all age groups together.
The number of new addicts exploded. Now there are 25 million, and 90 percent do not have access to drug rehabilitation because they lack the right medical coverage. Opioid overdose became the leading cause of accidental death: 52,000 per year, many more than the 38,000 fatalities in traffic accidents.
Mafias get colossally rich drowning the world in hard drugs. The fact that capitalists do the same under the legal cover of the pharmaceutical industry makes them no more respectable – and no less dangerous.