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Dr. Mercola’s Attackers Sued for Role in ‘Crime of the Century’, Deceptive Opioid Marketing

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | mercola.com

STORY AT-A-GLANCE

  • Between September 2019 and September 2020 alone, opioid overdoses killed 87,000 Americans — a new record-high
  • Various court cases have demonstrated how Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, systematically misled doctors about the drug’s addictiveness to drive up sales, resulting in an avalanche of opioid addiction and subsequent deaths
  • The Massachusetts attorney general is now suing Purdue’s PR firm, Publicis Health, for its role in creating Purdue’s deceptive marketing
  • Publicis is accused of placing illegal advertisements for OxyContin in the electronic medical records of patients and creating training materials for Purdue sales reps on how to combat doctor’s objections to the drugs
  • Publicis also developed strategies to counter opioid guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and created “patient stories” to “humanize” the OxyContin brand and counter negative press about addiction risks

In previous articles, I’ve discussed the central role false advertising played in the creation of the opioid crisis.1

To recap, a single paragraph in a 1980 letter to the editor2,3 (not a study) in The New England Journal of Medicine — which stated that narcotic addiction in patients with no history of addiction was very rare — became the basis of a drug marketing campaign that has since led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people or four times the number of Americans killed in Vietnam.

Between September 2019 and September 2020 alone, opioid overdoses killed a staggering 87,000 Americans — a new record-high.4

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, used this letter to the editor as the basis for its claim that opioid addiction affects fewer than 1% of patients treated with the drugs. In reality, opioids have a very high rate of addiction, have not been proven effective for long-term use5 and, in fact, fail to control moderate to severe pain any better than over-the-counter pain relievers.6

Various court cases have demonstrated how Purdue systematically misled doctors about OxyContin’s addictiveness to drive up sales, resulting in an avalanche of opioid addiction and subsequent deaths.7

Unethical to the core, Purdue also cashed in on the addiction trend it manufactured by secretly founding Rhodes Pharma to manufacture generic opioids,8 and getting into the business of creating overdose treatments.9,10

Facing an estimated 2,600 lawsuits11,12 relating to its role in the opioid epidemic, Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019,13 as a way to avoid litigation losses. Just over a year later they pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges, including violating a federal anti-kickback law, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, and violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.14,15

The company agreed to pay $8.3 billion in fines, forfeiture of past profits, and civil liability payments to settle the charges,16 but short on cash — having transferred more than $10 billion of the company’s funds into family trusts and offshore accounts17 — the company was dissolved and its remaining assets used to erect a “public benefit company” owned and controlled by the U.S. government.18 Future earnings will supposedly be used to combat the opioid crisis.

Purdue’s PR Company Sued for Deceptive Marketing

While Purdue’s owners, the Sackler family, got off scot-free, states struggling with the exorbitant cost of opioid addiction aren’t ready to bury the hatchet just yet. Instead, some are going after the PR firm Purdue hired to run their deceptive marketing campaigns.

As it turns out, that PR firm is none other than Publicis, a partner of the World Economic Forum, which is leading the call for a Great Reset. As detailed in “The Web of Players Trying to Silence Truth,” Publicis appears to be coordinating the global effort to suppress information that runs counter to the technocratic narrative about COVID-19, its origin, prevention, and treatment — suppression and censorship that has been repeatedly aimed at this website specifically.

At the beginning of May 2021, the Massachusetts attorney general filed a lawsuit19 against Publicis Health, accusing the Publicis subsidiary of helping Purdue create the deceptive marketing materials used to mislead doctors into prescribing OxyContin.20,21,22,23 As reported by Yahoo! News:24

“The lawsuit alleges that Publicis ‘engaged in myriad unfair and deceptive strategies that influenced OxyContin prescribing across the nation,’ a statement by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office said. Those strategies were carried out through dozens of contracts between 2010 and 2019, worth more than $50 million …

Tactics included combatting doctors’ ‘hesitancy’ to prescribe the medication, and persuading them to prescribe OxyContin over lower-dose, short-acting opioids, thus increasing the risk of addiction. Massachusetts is asking that Publicis Health pay ‘compensatory damages’ of an unspecified amount for having ‘created a public nuisance.’”

Publicis Knowingly Promoted Over-Prescription

Publicis Health argues that its work for Purdue was entirely lawful and limited to “implementing Purdue’s advertising plan and buying media space.” Publicis also claims the specific activities listed in the lawsuit fall outside the statute of limitations.

Some of those activities included placing illegal advertisements for OxyContin in the electronic medical records of patients, creating training materials for Purdue sales reps on how to combat doctor’s objections to the drugs, developing strategies to counter opioid guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and creating “patient stories” to “humanize” the OxyContin brand and counter negative press about addiction risks.25,26

According to the lawsuit, one patient vignette featured a 40-year-old man who had his dose increased from 10 milligrams a day to 20 mg in just three weeks. It also claims Publicis was responsible for creating and sending thousands of deceptive emails to doctors, encouraging them to not only increase patients’ dosages but also to prescribe the drug to patients who were already on less dangerous pain meds.27

Publicis also instructed Purdue to target doctors who were already writing out dangerously high numbers of prescriptions, even in the midst of a raging opioid epidemic,28 all while agency executives gleefully discussed the record fees they’d collect from the Purdue account. A March 2016 email exchange reveals the Publicis subsidiary was expecting to make up to $12.28 million from Purdue that year alone.

Publicis Also Represented Addiction Center

According to the complaint:29

“Publicis helped create a public nuisance of opioid use disorder, overdose, and death. By design, Publicis’s schemes worked to counter public health measures intended to reduce unnecessary opioid use, because more opioid use generated more profits for Publicis’s opioid clients.”

Like Purdue, Publicis also cashed in on the opioid addiction it helped create by pitching its services to organizations working to end addiction. As reported by Forbes,30 the agency “won the account to work on drugfree.org after touting how it’s been ‘immersed in the evolving national opioid medication dialogue going on between pharma companies, the government and FDA, and the public via inside access as a trusted and informed consulting partner.’”

In an interview cited by Courthouse News, Amanda Pustilnik, a senior fellow on law and applied neuroscience at Harvard Law School who also teaches at the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital, noted that:31

“The story of the opioid epidemic is often misrepresented as a story of irresponsible patients and over-prescribing doctors. This prosecution gets at the heart of the matter.

Patients and doctors were not, on average, irresponsible. They acted under the influence of a concerted plan of misinformation and over-promotion orchestrated up and down the supply chain for these medications.”

Publicis Admits Role in Censorship Push

As mentioned earlier, Publicis appears to be playing an important role in the global censorship of information relating to COVID-19, and Publicis Health admitted its involvement in this agenda as recently as April 27, 2021. In a tweet,32 the agency announced its partnership with NewsGuard, “to fight the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation about COVID-19 and its vaccines.”

In short, Publicis Health is dedicated to suppressing any information that hurts its Big Pharma clients, which include Lilly, Abbot, Roche, Amgen, Genentech, Celgene, Gilead, Biogen, AstraZeneca, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, and Bayer, just to name a few.

Publicis is more than a partner with NewsGuard, however. NewsGuard actually received a large chunk of its startup capital from Publicis, as detailed in “New Thought Police NewsGuard Is Owned by Big Pharma.” NewsGuard, a self-proclaimed arbiter of truth, rates websites on criteria of “credibility” and “transparency,” ostensibly to guide viewers to the most reliable sources of news and information.

In reality, however, NewsGuard ends up acting as a gatekeeper with a mission to barricade unpopular truth and differences of opinion behind closed gates. Its clearly biased ranking system easily dissuades people from perusing information from low-rated sites, mine included.

Extensive Propaganda Network Works Against the Public

As detailed in “The Web of Players Trying to Silence Truth” (hyperlinked above), Publicis is part of an enormous network that includes international drug companies, fact-checkers and credibility raters like NewsGuard, Google and other search engines, Microsoft, antivirus software companies like Trend Micro, public libraries, schools, the banking industry, the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense, the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum.

Mind you, this is not a comprehensive review of links. It’s merely a sampling of entities to give you an idea of the breadth of connections, which when taken together explain how certain views — such as information about COVID-19 and vaccines — can be so effectively erased.

To understand the power that PR companies such as Publicis wield, you also need to realize that PR has, by and large, replaced the free press. In decades past, pro-industry advertising stood in stark contrast to the free press, which would frequently expose problems with products and industries, thereby serving as a counterbalance to industry propaganda.

When a free press with honest reporting based on verifiable facts actually does its job, ineffective or toxic products are driven off the market. All of this changed in the late 20th century when media outlets started relying on advertisers for the bulk of their revenues.

As intended, journalists quickly came under the control of advertisers, who suddenly had the power to kill stories they didn’t like. Today, news organizations simply won’t run reports that might harm the bottom line of their advertisers, and, not surprisingly, the drug industry is among the top-paying advertisers.

By further partnering with the “big guns” of media — such as the Paley Center for Media, which is composed of every major media in the world33 — Publicis and its industry clients have been able to influence and control the press to virtually eliminate your ability to get the truth on many important issues, including COVID-19.

Seeing how Publicis represents most of the major pharmaceutical companies in the world and funded the creation of NewsGuard, it’s not far-fetched to assume Publicis might influence NewsGuard’s ratings of drug industry competitors, such as alternative health sites. Being a Google partner,34,35 Publicis also has unprecedented ability to simply bury undesirable views that might hurt its clientele.

NewsGuard’s health-related service, HealthGuard,36 is also partnered with the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) — a progressive U.K.-based cancel-culture leader37 with extensive ties to the government and global think tanks that have labeled people questioning the COVID-19 vaccine as “threats to national security.”

The CCDH has also published a hit-list of 12 groups and individuals it wants Big Tech to bury, deplatform, and ban for disseminating COVID-19 information that runs counter to status quo propaganda. Not surprisingly, Mercola.com is on that list, and a ramp-up of personal threats that cannot be defended against in a court of law recently forced me to delete many of the articles discussing alternative treatments for COVID-19 from my website.

The Crime of the Century

If you get the chance, I recommend watching Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary “The Crime of the Century,” which details how the opioid epidemic was manufactured. In a Wall Street Journal television review, John Anderson writes, in part:38

“In Mr. Gibney’s two-part ‘Crime of the Century’ … the cinema is as exhilarating as the journalism is exhaustive. Still, the style remains in service to the story: how big pharma lied and bribed its way into billions of dollars while leaving death and devastation behind, through a seemingly conscience-free crusade to sell stronger and stronger opiates to more and more people.

It’s a success story, from the industry’s point of view. It’s also a story of villainy, with a catalog of villains — not just the Sackler family of Purdue Pharma, but their sales representatives; the U.S. congressmen to whom they made outsize donations … former prosecutors hired as lobbyists … and officials of the Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration …

‘The business of criminal cartels and pharmaceutical companies are connected,’ Mr. Gibney says in voiceover — the very obvious example being the drift to heroin by addicts thwarted by the increased expense and reduced availability of opioids. The director then goes about establishing how and why that is so.

The default argument of Purdue Pharma and its defenders is that drug users, not drug makers, are responsible for addiction. But as the miniseries points out, the information that was fed to doctors and on which patients based the use of prescriptions — including the claim that delayed-action OxyContin wasn’t addictive — was simply untrue.”

Unethical Behavior Is Par for the Course

While Publicis is trying to downplay its role in what has been described as the crime of the century, the lawsuit against it will hopefully result in a reevaluation of marketing ethics. The agency, knowing full well there was an epidemic of opioid abuse underway, resulting in tens of thousands of premature deaths each year, took on the job of increasing Purdue’s profits by making that lethal trend worse.

Publicis claims they were just doing what advertising agencies do — they created promotional materials that boost client revenue. However, this argument circumvents any notion of ethics and concern about public health. They’re basically admitting that it’s all about making money, regardless of the cost.

So, even if their actions were within legal limits (which the Massachusetts case will eventually establish), their actions were immoral and clearly undermined public health.

They now want you to believe they are protecting public health by supporting COVID-19 censorship, but this too is working against the public good. How can you possibly make an educated decision about whether or not to participate in this gene therapy experiment if you’re not allowed to hear anything about the risks?

What Publicis calls “misinformation” is simply information that contradicts the propaganda being put out by the hands that feed it, i.e., the drug industry. History tells us companies driven by profit interest make poor truth-tellers, as negative information will clearly have a detrimental impact on their bottom line. So, they lie and obfuscate. It’s that simple.

Public relations firms like Publicis are mere arms of these notoriously untruthful industries. They do their bidding because that’s what they’re paid to do. To think that Big Pharma and paid propagandists are looking out for anyone but themselves is dangerously naïve.

It is ironic doublespeak that Publicis claims to defend against misinformation that puts the public at risk, while being clearly guilty of crimes against humanity, having played a crucial role in one of the deadliest health care schemes involving lies and deceit.




Russell Brand: Why Are Drugmakers Who Caused Opioid Crisis in Charge of Solving the Pandemic?

By Children’s Health Defense Team | The Defender

Russell Brand wants you to know that the transnational global mega-companies creating vaccines for COVID-19 are the same drugmakers responsible for the opioid crisis that has killed more people than COVID.

In his latest video, Brand cites a Feb. 3 study in JAMA Psychiatry showing that from March 2020 to October 2020, opioid overdose cases were up by 29%, suggesting that society is now “more susceptible than ever to addiction.”

Judgments like the one against Johnson & Johnson, ordered by the state of Oklahoma to pay $572 million for “aggressively marketing” opioids, have had little impact on drugmakers for whom “profits override all other considerations,” Brand says.

Is it any wonder, Brand asks, that some people might question the motives of these same companies when it comes to their role in solving the pandemic?

“I suppose what we can learn from the opioid crisis is that a situation that was already bad, i.e. mental illness and addiction, was exacerbated by the agendas of certain transnational corporations, aided and abetted by an impotent FDA and a government unwilling to intervene in practices of big businesses. And I suppose it’s interesting that these very same companies are now charged with solving the biggest problem the world has seen for some time in the form of a pandemic.

The brand then asks the $64,000 question:

“How can you use the same mentality, and the same individuals, and the same organizations to solve that problem?”

If there’s an answer to that question, Brand says, at least you can be sympathetic when people have doubts and fears, not just about the vaccines made by these companies, but about “the power of these organizations and the manner in which they practice.”

Watch the video:




As Overdose Deaths Hit Record High, Study Shows Cannabis Significantly Reduces Opioid Use

By Matt Agorist | The Free Thought Project

Despite the state spending thousands of dollars a second – ticketing, kidnapping, caging, and killing evil drug users, the rate of lethal drug overdoses in the last 15 years has skyrocketed at near-exponential rates.

According to the most recent data on overdose deaths, despite the state’s immoral war on drugs, 2020 will go down as the deadliest year in history for overdoses.

In fact, according to recent preliminary data from the federal government: More Americans died from a drug overdose in a 12-month period than at any other point in history.

Drug overdoses were linked to more than 81,000 people’s deaths between June 2019 and May 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, jumping 18 percent compared to the previous 12-month period. Such deaths rose 20 percent or more in 25 states and the District of Columbia, the report said.

These rates are increasing as the lockdowns persist. However, though many of the overdoses can be attributed to the state’s tyrannical lockdown orders, the spike in deaths began before the lockdowns.

Across the board, drug use and deaths associated with drug use have increased at alarming rates. No amount of AR-15s, SWAT police, MRAPs, or any other military gear has had a hand in lowering these statistics. In fact, the increase in overdose deaths nearly perfectly coincides with the increase in militarization in the last decade and a half.

One drug, or rather plant, which is still viciously sought after in the state’s immoral war on drugs could be the key to slowing this epidemic.

In spite of some form of cannabis being legal in some fashion in well over half the country, the government still violently and with extreme prejudice continues to seek out those who dare possess it.

This barbarous prohibition is especially insidious given a recent study out of Victoria, Canada showing that the use of medical cannabis by qualified patients over a six-month period is associated with significant decreases in the use of prescription opioids and other medications.

According to data published in the journal Pain Medicine, opioid drug use patterns over a six-month period were assessed in a cohort of 1,145 authorized medical cannabis patients. Researchers discovered that baseline opioid use was reported by 28% of participants. At the completion of the assessment, opioid use among participants dropped to 11% at 6 months. What’s more, all the participants’ mean opioid dosage fell by 78 percent over the trial period.

As Norml.org points out, researchers also reported declines in subjects’ use of prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepines, and anti-seizure medications.

“Study subjects also reported improvements in their overall quality of life, including changes in their physical and psychological health, over the course of the trial,” according to the report.

“The high rate of cannabis use for chronic pain and the subsequent reductions in opioid use suggest that cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the opioid overdose crisis, potentially improving the quality of life of patients and overall public health,” the researchers concluded.

These findings are not a new discovery. It simply backs up a trove of research already published. In fact, TFTP has been reporting on it for years.

As TFTP previously reported, in a recently published study in a peer-reviewed journal, Melvin D. Livingston, Tracey E. Barnett, Chris Delcher, and Alexander C. Wagenaar, set out to see if any association existed between Colorado’s legalization of marijuana and opioid-related deaths in the state.

The researchers looked at all of the available data from the year 2000 to the year 2015. What they discovered may come as a shock to many. While the rest of the nation struggles with a burgeoning fatal opioid and heroin overdose crisis, the State of Colorado saw opioid deaths reduced while its population exploded.

It has long been stated that cannabis is a “gateway” drug, which leads users to experiment with other drugs, leading up to the most deadly, such as heroin. But the researchers in the study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the availability of safe and legal cannabis actually reduced opiate deaths:

“Colorado’s legalization of recreational cannabis sales and use resulted in a 0.7 deaths per month…reduction in opioid-related deaths. This reduction represents a reversal of the upward trend in opioid-related deaths in Colorado.”

The researchers concluded, “Legalization of cannabis in Colorado was associated with short-term reductions in opioid-related deaths.”

It’s not just that study either. There were other studies showing that deaths from opioids plummet in states with legal cannabis and that 80 percent of cannabis users give up prescription pills. A Feb. 2017 study confirmed that opioid dependence and overdoses dropped significantly in medical cannabis states.

In January 2017, the National Academies of Science published an exhaustive review of the scientific literature and found that one of the most promising areas in medical cannabis is for the treatment of chronic pain.

As TFTP previously reported, an experimental study showed exactly how cannabis works to treat actual opioid addiction – by actually blocking the opioid reward in the brain.

“This study sought to determine whether the cannabis constituent cannabidiol attenuates the development of morphine reward in the conditioned place preference paradigm. Separate groups of mice received either saline or morphine in combination with one of four doses of cannabidiol using three sets of drug/no-drug conditioning trials. After drug-place conditioning, morphine mice displayed robust place preference that was attenuated by 10 mg/kg cannabidiol. Further, when administered alone, this dose of cannabidiol was void of rewarding and aversive properties. The finding that cannabidiol blocks opioid reward suggests that this compound may be useful in addiction treatment settings.

Those who continue denying the evidence, while continuing to lock people in cages for a plant, will ultimately be judged by history. They will not be the heroes they claim to be now, however, they will be remembered as the ones responsible for mass incarceration, fostering the police state, and dealing a near-death blow to freedom.

About the Author

Matt Agorist is an honorably discharged veteran of the USMC and former intelligence operator directly tasked by the NSA. This prior experience gives him unique insight into the world of government corruption and the American police state. Agorist has been an independent journalist for over a decade and has been featured on mainstream networks around the world. Agorist is also the Editor at Large at the Free Thought Project. Follow @MattAgorist on TwitterSteemit, and now on Minds.

**This article (As Overdose Deaths Hit Record High, Study Shows Cannabis Significantly Reduces Opioid Use) was originally published at The Free Thought Project and is re-posted here with permission.**




Can Ibogaine Solve the Opioid Crisis?

By Dylan CharlesWaking Times

The opioid crisis rages on behind the scenes of Covid and every other thing occupying public attention and in many big cities last year the crisis deepening. For example, in heavily locked down San Francisco, 360% more people died from overdoses than Covid-19.

We’ve been reporting on this issue for years but unfortunately, this is one of those public health issues, like medical cannabis, where the war on drugs is at odds with rationality, common sense, and compassion.

Regarding opioids, there is a very promising natural cure for the deadly withdrawals which keep so many from detoxing, but the DEA has it listed as a Schedule I drug, outlawing its possession. Ibogaine is the psychoactive alkaloid in the visionary drug iboga, which is the root bark of a small African shrub, and for decades it has been known to be very effective in treating opioid addicts.

The government however criminalizes possession of ibogaine, because according to the DEA, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

This is from an article I wrote in 2014, Opiates, Iboga and the Roots of Self Destruction

“Iboga is a psychoactive plant medicine derived from the root bark of a small African shrub, tabernanthe iboga, and has been used for perhaps thousands of years as a shamanic medicine and healing sacrament for tribal Africans of the Bwiti tradition and Pygmy peoples. The bark of the roots is removed, shredded, then ingested in raw form, or an extract of the primary psychoactive alkaloid, ibogaine, can be derived. Discovered as an anti-addictive medicine and potential cure for heroin addiction by Howard Lotsof in 1962, when properly administered as part of a comprehensive opiate detox program, it interrupts chemical dependence, remarkably stopping withdrawal symptoms almost immediately.

Most importantly, though, iboga reveals and can heal the root causes of addiction by triggering an intensely profound spiritual journey that can uproot and overcome the psychological basis of compulsive behavior.”

As the war on drugs grinds on leaving a generation’s deep trail of death, destruction, and terror in its wake, it appears inevitable that drugs will eventually win. This is frustrating to those who need help now, of course, but as things go in this capitalistic world, changes often come when profitability enters the picture.

In a remarkable look at how ibogaine has become the most promising potential treatment for the opioid crisis, Bloomberg financial news produced this informative and honest look at the emerging market for this incredible treatment.

The film features footage from the African village where 10th Generation Mossoko Bwiti Shaman Moughenda Mikala teaches and works with this sacred medicine. The footage was commissioned by the proprietor of Iboga Wellness, an outstanding iboga retreat center in Costa Rica.

About the Author

Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and host of the Battered Souls podcast. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong, and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.

Dylan is available for interviews and podcasts, contact him at WakingTimes@gmail.com.

This article (Can Ibogaine Solve the Opioid Crisis?) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Dylan Charles and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.




Oxycontin Maker Pleads Guilty And Shuts Down

opioid prescription pills

Dr. Mercola | Waking Times

In March 2019, facing an estimated 2,600 lawsuits1,2 relating to its role in creating the opioid epidemic, Purdue Pharma — the maker of OxyContin — announced the company was considering filing for bankruptcy protection.

Around that same time, New York expanded its lawsuit against the company to include allegations that company funds had been fraudulently transferred into trusts and offshore accounts owned by members of the Sackler family in an effort to shield assets from litigation.3,4 In all, court documents reveal the Sacklers transferred more than $10 billion of the company’s funds into family trusts.5

How this does not fall under the fraudulent conveyance statutes, which is attempting to avoid a debt by moving assets to another person or legal entity, boggles my mind. It appears the only reason they got away with this is they found the loophole of transferring their assets offshore.

The New York complaint also charged Purdue with secretly setting up a new company, Rhodes Pharma, in 2007 while the company was being investigated by federal prosecutors, as a way to protect the Sacklers from the mounting OxyContin crisis and continue their profit scheme.6 Rhodes Pharma makes generic opioids, allowing the Sacklers to benefit from the opioid epidemic both in terms of brand name sales and generic sales.7

Rhodes Pharma and Richard Sackler also hold the patent to a new, faster-dissolving form of buprenorphine, a mild opioid drug used in the treatment of opioid addiction,8 allowing the Sacklers to further profit from the addiction crisis they helped instigate, the economic burden of which is costing the U.S. an estimated $504 billion a year.9

Indeed, according to a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts,10 Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers sought to increase opioid prescriptions while simultaneously developing overdose treatment to boost its profits.

US Government Enters Opioid Business

Purdue finally filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019.11 At the end of October 2020, Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges relating to its role in the opioid crisis, including violating a federal anti-kickback law, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and violating the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.12,13

To settle the charges, Purdue is supposed to pay $8.3 billion in fines, forfeiture of past profits and civil liability payments.14 However, the company doesn’t have enough cash to cover the payments so, instead, Purdue Pharma will be dissolved, and its assets used to erect a “public benefit company,” in other words, a government-owned and controlled drug company.

“The estimated financial cost of opioid addiction and death in the U.S. was $504 billion in 2015. In addition to health care costs, criminal justice costs and lost productivity due to addiction or incarceration, this figure also takes into account projected lost earnings and the value of statistical life for people who died prematurely.”

This new company will reportedly be controlled by a trust that will “balance the trust’s interests against those of the American public and public health.”15 Future earnings from this public benefit company will be used to pay off the $8.3 billion penalty, which in turn is supposed to be used to combat the opioid crisis.

This is a remarkable development, and one wonders just how functional this setup is going to be. In essence, the government will now be in the business of making and selling opioids, the profits from which will then be used to combat opioid addiction. It seems like a circular and rather illogical setup. According to CNN:16

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, who announced the settlement, defended the plans for the new company to continue to sell that drug, saying there are legitimate uses for painkillers such as OxyContin.”

Sackler Family Walk Away Scot-Free, Again

The Sackler family, meanwhile, have reached a separate settlement in which they will pay $225 million in civil liability for causing false claims about OxyContin to be made to Medicare and other government health care programs.17

While the agreement does not release the Sacklers from potential criminal liability, it seems the family will walk away scot-free. And, considering they already transferred some $10 billion into their family trusts, the $225 million fine is a very small fraction, so they won’t end up wanting financially either.

Proving they have no remorse, Sackler family members, in a recent statement, shifted blame for the company’s illegal activities on its managers, saying they “relied on management assertions the company acted lawfully.”18 This, even though several Sackler family members sat on the company board and were intimately familiar with the company’s marketing strategy.

It’s unclear whether this DOJ agreement affects or includes the Sacklers’ other opioid company, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals. If not, it falls short in that respect too, since they would then be able to continue their opioid business. Between 2009 and 2016, Rhodes’ market share of opioid sales actually exceeded that of Purdue itself.19

Aside from Purdue and Rhodes, the Sacklers have also profited from Napp Pharmaceuticals, a Cambridge-based drug company that manufactures — you guessed it — opioids.20 In 2018, seven family members resigned from their directors’ posts at Napp following a string of bad publicity relating to alleged tax evasion schemes.

Mortimer Sackler, since deceased, was found to have avoided paying income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance taxes in the U.K. by falsely claiming non-domiciled status. The family was also accused of using a Bermuda-based company to avoid paying corporate taxes for Napp Pharmaceuticals.21

Penalties Still Won’t Cover States’ Claims

Even though $8.3 billion is a record-breaking settlement, states have filed claims exceeding $2 trillion in Purdue’s bankruptcy case, and according to a November 2017 report22 by the White House Council on Economic Advisers, the estimated financial cost of opioid addiction and death in the U.S. was $504 billion in 2015.

In addition to health care costs, criminal justice costs and lost productivity due to addiction or incarceration, this figure also takes into account projected lost earnings and the value of statistical life for people who died prematurely.

In response to the Justice Department’s settlement with Purdue Pharma, 25 state attorneys general sent a letter23 to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in which they object to the settlement and argue against the government getting involved in the opioid business. The letter, dated October 14, 2020, reads in part:24

We write to ask you to revise a proposed DOJ settlement agreement that reportedly would wrongly mandate that Purdue Pharma’s infamous OxyContin business be preserved as a public trust.

A business that killed thousands of Americans should not be associated with government. Instead, the business should be sold to private owners, so the government can enforce the law against it with the same impartiality as for any other company …

The role of government in any OxyContin business should be to enforce the law, just as against any other company. The public deserves assurance that no opioid business is given the special protection of being placed under a public umbrella.

Although it may take time to find a private sector buyer, the public should be confident that public officials are seeking to avoid having special ties to an opioid company, conflicts of interest, or mixed motives in an industry that caused a national crisis.”

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong also told CNN:25

“This settlement provides a mere mirage of justice for the victims of Purdue’s callous misconduct. The federal government had the power here to put the Sacklers in jail, and they didn’t. Instead, they took fines and penalties that Purdue likely will never fully pay.

Every dollar paid here is one dollar less for states like Connecticut trying to maximize money from Purdue and the Sacklers to abate the opioid epidemic. Preserving Purdue’s ability to continue selling opioids as a public benefit corporation is simply unacceptable.”

How Purdue Launched and Fueled the Opioid Epidemic

In previous articles, I’ve discussed the role false advertising played in the creation of the opioid crisis.26 To recap, a single paragraph in a 1980 letter to the editor27,28 (not a study) in The New England Journal of Medicine — which stated that narcotic addiction in patients with no history of addiction was very rare — became the basis of a drug marketing campaign that has since led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people.

Purdue Pharma used this letter to the editor as the basis for its claim that opioid addiction affects less than 1% of patients treated with the drugs. In reality, opioids have a very high rate of addiction and have not been proven effective for long-term use.29

Research30 published in 2018 also shows opioids (including morphine, Vicodin, oxycodone and fentanyl) fail to control moderate to severe pain any better than over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen.

Various court cases have demonstrated how Purdue systematically misled doctors about OxyContin’s addictiveness to drive up sales. The inevitable result of Purdue Pharma’s ruthless and immoral marketing campaign has been skyrocketing opioid addiction, which killed 46,802 Americans in 2018 alone.31

Adding insult to injury, when it became clear that people were dying in droves from opioid overdoses, Purdue launched an extensive damage-control operation that included the suggestion that those dying from opioids were already addicts, and that this wouldn’t happen to patients who were not already addicted to drugs. The company also sought to cash in on the rising addiction trend twice by getting into the business of creating overdose treatments.

Opioid Misuse Paves Way for Heroin Addiction

Perhaps most egregious of all has been the reckless prescribing of opioids to young people. Here, dentists have been a major part of the problem, as opioids are frequently prescribed when extracting wisdom teeth.

Insurance claims data from 2016 and 2017 reveal 60% of children between the ages of 1 and 18 with private insurance filled one or more opioid prescriptions after surgical tonsil removal,32,33 and dentists wrote a staggering 18.1 million prescriptions for opioids in 2017.34

As noted by Ronnie Cohen in a March 2019 article35 in The Washington Post, “until recently, dentists seemed to have had no idea they may have been helping to feed an epidemic that resulted in a record 70,237 U.S. drug overdose deaths in 2017.”36

But contribute they have, and according to data37 from the University of Michigan, 31.8%, or just over 1 in 3 people who misused opioids during their high school years ended up using heroin by age 35. Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse also confirms that prescription opioid use is a significant risk factor for subsequent heroin use:38

  • Incidence of heroin use was 19 times higher among those who had used opioids nonmedically than among those who had not used an opioid
  • 86% of young, urban injection drug users had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically before starting heroin. The three primary sources of opioids were family, friends and personal prescriptions. This is the reverse trend from the 1960, when more than 80% of those who started abusing opioids had started with heroin
  • Of those who began abusing opioids in the 2000s, 75% reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug
  • Nearly 80% of heroin users reported using prescription opioids prior to heroin

Struggling With Opioid Addiction? Please Seek Help

Regardless of the brand of opioid, it’s important to realize they are extremely addictive drugs and not meant for long-term use for nonfatal conditions. Chemically, opioids are similar to heroin, so if you wouldn’t consider shooting up heroin for a toothache or backache, seriously reconsider taking an opioid to relieve this type of pain.

The misconception that opioids are harmless pain relievers has killed hundreds of thousands, and destroyed the lives of countless more. In many cases, you’ll be able to control pain without using medications.

In my previous article, “Billionaire Opioid Executive Stands to Make Millions More on Patent for Addiction Treatment,” I discuss several approaches — including nondrug remedies, dietary changes and bodywork interventions — that can be used separately or in combination to control pain, both acute and chronic.

If you’ve been on an opioid for more than two months, or if you find yourself taking a higher dosage or taking the drug more often than you initially did, you may already be addicted. Resources where you can find help include the following.

You can also learn more in “How to Wean Off Opioids.” I also recommend keeping an eye out for my upcoming article about how low dose naltrexone (LDN), an opioid antagonist, is being used at ultra-low micro doses of 1 microgram to successfully treat opioid addiction.