After decades of lies and obfuscation about the neatly packaged premature death it was selling to Americans, Big Tobacco finally saw its light dim on the home front, so the industry decided to make up for the shortfall by exporting with a vengeance. Big Pharma is now on a similar trajectory in regards to opioids. As notoriety about the tremendous damage done to U.S. (and Canadian) citizens threatens the sector domestically on an existential level, it endeavors to pivot to a world stage, looking enthusiastically for wounds to numb.
Following up on yesterday’s post about the wake of a needless epidemic driven by greed and aided by wealth inequality, I read “OxyContin Goes Global,” a Los Angeles Times piece by Harriet Ryan, Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, which notes that as North America goes through withdrawal, other nations are just now being enticed. The opening:
OxyContin is a dying business in America.
With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.
Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.
So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.
A network of international companies owned by the family is moving rapidly into Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other regions, and pushing for broad use of painkillers in places ill-prepared to deal with the ravages of opioid abuse and addiction.
In this global drive, the companies, known as Mundipharma, are using some of the same controversial marketing practices that made OxyContin a pharmaceutical blockbuster in the U.S.
In Brazil, China and elsewhere, the companies are running training seminars where doctors are urged to overcome “opiophobia” and prescribe painkillers.•