This week was a breakthrough for holding accountable the
pharmaceutical industry for fueling
the opioid crisis, which is responsible for approximately 400,000 deaths
in the U.S. alone. In a landmark ruling, a judge in Oklahoma fined Johnson
& Johnson $572 million for deceptive and aggressive marketing practices of
opioid drugs that contributed to 6,000 deaths in that state. State prosecutors
were successful by charging the drug company under laws relating to “public
nuisances.” To remedy and remove the nuisance, the fine will go toward treatment,
education and prevention programs related to opioid drugs. This resonates
powerfully with me because, for years, I’ve observed how the drug industry abused
the opioid crisis as a lobbying and public relations tool against prescription
drug importation and to crack down against safe international online pharmacies,
and even against
PharmacyChecker. It has done so through its own trade associations and
companies and by funding organizations to do their bidding.
Groups such as the National Association of Boards of
Pharmacy (NABP), Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), and the
Partnership for Safe Medicines (PSM) have spent considerable money publicizing
the dangers of opioids accessed on the Internet and imports of fentanyl coming
in through the mail. Meanwhile it was the drug industry itself that was fueling
the opioid epidemic. It deflected attention away from its own malevolence while
providing a story to justify cracking down on personal drug importation, thus
protecting its profits from lower priced drug imports. What a diabolical tactic:
Johnson & Johnson was listed as a member of ASOP; that is, until recently.
Johnson & Johnson was a sponsor of PSM’s Interchange Conference.
Johnson & Johnson was a sponsor of the NABP’s annual conference.
If the links below showing the affiliations mentioned above don’t
work, that’s because they have been removed by the mentioned groups.
Drug dealers, rogue online pharmacies that sell prescription
narcotics to people with substance abuse problems do operate on the Internet
and cracking down on them is obviously good. But the government’s own data
shows that the Internet is responsible
for 0.1% of prescription narcotics used for non-medicinal purposes. The
problem is offline for the most part and shouldn’t be used as a pretext to disparage
prescription drug importation programs and the use of online pharmacies by
Americans to buy less expensive medications outside the U.S. But
that’s what’s happening.
Drug companies using the opioid crisis to aggravate the
crisis of high drug prices. Shocking.