Viewpoint – Irresponsibility should not lead to profitability

By JW McNay/managing editor

A pharmaceutical company that manufactures opioids may soon profit by offering drugs to help with opioid addiction.

Makers of the painkiller OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, have patented a new treatment for opioid addiction, reported The Financial Times. The opioid crisis is certainly in need of solutions as tens of thousands of people in the U.S. die each year of an opioid overdose.

The treatment of opioid addiction through drugs will be only one piece toward curtailing the opioid crisis. However, a company that profits off a solution to a problem they helped create isn’t right.

But an end to the crisis will take a lot more than new drugs to treat addiction. The opioid crisis in the U.S. was declared a public health emergency by President Donald Trump in October 2017. And since then, several states, including Texas, have sued Purdue Pharma alleging deceptive marketing practices, which minimize the risks and overstated the benefits of OxyContin, an opioid used to treat pain.

“In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and health care providers began to prescribe them at greater rates,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

An opioid addiction may start at a doctor’s prescription pad. Patients should be able to trust their doctors, but doctors in turn may place too much trust in pharmaceutical companies.

It’s easy to be cynical and assume drugs are manufactured for profit-driven reasons. However, medications also have their legitimate uses as long as the public and doctors are aware of any potential dangers. But a lot of the damage has already been done.

Purdue Pharma has donated $3.4 million to help with access to naloxone, which is given to people in the process of overdosing on opioids. And opioid makers should feel some obligation to give back to help solve the crisis.

If Purdue Pharma starts to make money off of a new drug to treat opioid addiction, then maybe they should also use the proceeds to further fund efforts toward ending the crisis.