The abuse of and addiction to opioids such as heroin, and prescription pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone, vicodin, codeine, morphine are all known to interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and the brain to produce a euphoric effect that can be easily misused to lead to dependence and eventually drug-related overdose incidents and deaths.
As the opioid epidemic grows, it doesn’t come as a surprise that millions of Americans are now suing big pharmaceutical companies, physicians, pharmacists, and drug wholesalers for getting them addicted to opioid pills, no thanks to the increase in the number of prescription opioids being dispensed in America.
West Virginia, McDowell County town, to be specific, is probably the hardest hit. It has had the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in all states since 2015 and has filed countless lawsuits against 5 of the largest out-of-state drug distributors. According to the lawsuit and research, drug wholesalers have delivered over 780 billion prescription pain pills of hydrocodone and oxycodone, which has allegedly contributed to the town’s alarming increase in the negative consequences related to their abuse.
McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen Drug Co. make the list of some of the largest companies that account for about 90% of all revenues from drug distribution in the United States and examples of the Big Pharma’s being sued the growing problems of prescription pain relievers and heroin abuse of an estimated 2.1 million people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the consequences of this global problem has seen the death toll from drug overdoses surpass 52,000 in 2015 with 33,000 of the deaths involving prescription pills.
As one of the country’s largest drug distributors, Cardinal Health faces hefty fines to the tune of $44 million dollars for not comply with the Drug Enforcement Administration reporting requirements for suspicious orders of potent drugs by drugstores in New York, Maryland, and Florida.
A pharmaceutical company known as Merck was also recently exposed by two of its scientists for doctoring the results of its clinical trials and for suppressing any test whose results put their product at risk in order to make its vaccine appear more effective. In fact, a commonly used diabetes drug known as Avandia was recently at the center of one of the biggest drug-safety scandals and was pulled from the market because almost every diabetic who took it experienced heart problems.
Stimulants, central nervous system depressants, and prescription opioids are three of the medications that present abuse liability and added to the severity of the current prescription drug abuse problem. The fact that there is an increase in the number of prescriptions written and dispensed, an aggressive marketing by pharmaceutical companies and a general social acceptability of using medication for something other than its intended purpose has largely contributed to the abuse of prescription medication.
While prescription opioids are undeniably powerful clinical allies, we need a balanced approach that minimizes the inherent risks of addiction.