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Big Pharma

Johnson & Johnson Exposed as ‘Kingpin’ Supplier, Seller, Lobbyist of Opioid Epidemic

Elias Marat

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Johnson & Johnson Kingpin Opioid Epidemic

Transnational corporation Johnson & Johnson has been accused of playing the role of “kingpin” in the nationwide opioid epidemic that continues to claim thousands of lives every year, according to an Axios report.

The pharmaceutical, medical, and consumer goods giant–which holds a range of properties including some of the most recognizable U.S. brands such as Band-Aids, No More Tears baby shampoo, and Neosporin, among others–has been accused by officials in the state of Oklahoma of playing the role of supplier, seller and lobbyist in the global opioid market.

J&J’s work in the painkiller market was done through two subsidiaries, Noramco and Tasmanian Alkaloids, which it sold to a private equity firm in 2016 for $650 million, according to Axios.

The company has long depicted itself as a “family company” operating under the credo:

“We are responsible to the communities in which we live and work and to the world community as well.”

But the new revelations cast, in sharp relief, how the company pulverized entire communities and destroyed families while raking in massive profits from a crisis that has fed waves of crime and a crisis of addiction and deadly overdoses that claim over 100 lives per day.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter has requested that the state release a vast tranche of confidential documents numbering in the millions of pages that Johnson & Johnson was forced to submit during the discovery phase of Oklahoma’s legal fight against the key companies who sparked the opioid crisis.

In his request, Hunter noted:

“Oklahomans deserve answers … [we] need to know about how one particular company, J&J, inserted itself into our State and sought to influence every opioid-related decision the State made or considered – from scheduling to swallowing … J&J continues to fight to keep those answers concealed. In the dark. Away from the public.”

He added:

“The public … deserves to know the full extent of J&J’s efforts to influence policymakers at all levels of government in order to increase sales of their (and their co-conspirators’) drugs.”

The litigation hints at how the culpability for the opioid epidemic can hardly be restricted to companies such as Purdue Pharma, the producer of OxyContin. Purdue is currently being sued by Massachusetts for its role in deliberately misleading the public over the lethal dangers of its opioid painkillers.

Yet the new report shows how J&J played a key role in producing the plant materials–such as the raw narcotics from Tasmanian poppy fields–which were turned into the active ingredients of popular opioids, including those produced by Purdue Pharma.

In investor slides, the company also openly boasted of the addictive qualities of its products, noting that its opium poppies “enabled the growth of oxycodone,” while the morphine content of its other poppy was among “the highest in the world.”

In the meantime, the company also reportedly provided funding for pro-opioid advocacy groups such as the Pain Care Forum. Brochures for seniors produced by a company subsidiary also made the ludicrous false claim that “opioids are rarely addictive.” Such propaganda and promotional efforts, referred to as a “pro-opioid echo chamber” in the motion, were a part of the company’s concerted effort to target vulnerable demographic groups, including children.

J&J has lambasted the attorney general’s motion as containing “baseless and unsubstantiated” allegations meant to generate “sensationalistic headlines and to poison potential jurors.” The company has also argued that its subsidiaries, which were sold to private equity firms years ago, “met all laws and regulations.”

Yet it remains obvious, based on the once-confidential material that Oklahoma now possesses, that the company had been making billions of dollars hand over fist while trafficking and hustling addictive substances through what it called its “pain management franchise.”

And as increased calls to tackle the opioid crisis grow louder, from the White House to state legislatures and the streets, it remains clear that the big players who caused the crisis should be exposed from top to bottom, along with their nefarious practices and concerted attempts to mislead and deceive the U.S. public.

Big Pharma

After This Mom Lost Her 1-Year-Old Son in a Car Crash, Health Insurers Left Her $175k of Debt

Elias Marat

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Car Crash

(TMU) — It’s no exaggeration to say that the United States health care system is in the grips of a major crisis.

Despite the country being the wealthiest in the world, over 34 million people are uninsured while even more are underinsured. Thousands of Americans die of preventable illness every year while many struggle to afford their expensive prescriptions, yet U.S. health care remains a multi-billion dollar industry that rakes in major profits year after year.

And while the crisis has been reduced by mainstream media to an election year talking point—or an issue of “the market” versus “socialism”—the health care system has a life-and-death impact on Americans from all walks of life.

Such was the case for Michelle DuBarry, a Portland-based writer whose tragic experience with U.S. health care reveals all that’s wrong with a system that upholds corporate profits rather than human life.

When DuBarry’s 1-year-old son died after he was struck by a careless driver along with his father Eric, rather than being left to mourn she instead “sat at his bedside, his tiny, stitched-together body hooked to a million incessantly beeping machines, straining to recall what our deductibles were.”

Doctors had attempted to save the baby’s life but after two surgeries and one night in the ICU, he succumbed to his injuries. However, his death was only the beginning of a bereaved mother’s unimaginable ordeal at the hands of heartless health insurers and the bureaucracy that serves it.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669877628256256

DuBarry was already in dire straits because she was a new hire at her job and having worked less than a year in her position, she wasn’t comfortable taking days off. After all, if she lost this job then she could kiss her health insurance goodbye.

But a week hadn’t even passed before the hospital where she lost her son served her and her husband’s home with a lien. Having just lost their son, DuBarry and her husband now had to look at the possibility of losing their home.

In effect, the hospital was saying “Sucks that your son is gone, but we did our best – time to pay up!” Additionally, DuBarry’s husband couldn’t receive any treatment from his primary care doctor because not only would his supposedly “good” health insurance not cover it, but his doctor wouldn’t accept payment from the auto insurance company either.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669880736190465

Eventually, they only had to pay $5,000 following the death of their child and they still had a bit of cash from the auto insurance company on behalf of the reckless driver who killed the child. But once the health insurers realized that DuBarry and her husband got $175,000 from the auto insurance company, they did what any good predator would do: they sent their legal team to seize the funds leaving the grieving parents penniless.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669882573377537

DuBarry and her husband had no option to go on family and medical leave, so they did what good Americans are supposed to do: they went back to work toiling away to cover their mortgage and bills despite the catastrophic loss of their baby boy.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669884666273792

And while the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” is often touted as a major benefit to millions of people who would otherwise lack health insurance, it did precious little to help DuBarry and her husband after their devastating hospital visit.

DuBarry told her story on her personal website, explaining:

“In 2010, my husband Eric and our son Seamus were struck by a careless driver in a crosswalk near our home. Eric sustained minor injuries, and Seamus died the next day after enduring two surgeries and a night in intensive care. Our hospital bills totaled $180,000, and though most of it was covered by health insurance, we still had thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical expenses.”

They “soon learned that our health insurer was entitled to reimbursement out of these funds, effectively reducing our settlement to $0.” Due to these experiences, DuBarry began organizing to fight for a bill that would match the laws in many other states where the injured party is “made whole” for all damages from the at-fault party’s insurance prior to the injured party’s medical insurer getting paid. The bill was finally signed into law last June and DuBarry sees it as her late child’s legacy.

https://twitter.com/DuBarryPie/status/1231669886604075008

Michelle has now joined the growing legions of Americans demanding a universal healthcare system. While the plan has been lambasted by the right, as well as by Democratic Party bosses, many experts have hailed the plan as far more practical and less expensive than the status quo.

People across the globe were floored by DuBarry’s exceptionally American ordeal.

One Twitter user commented:

“In Canada, all that would have been free, and not only that, you wouldn’t have even needed to think about it. Our complete medical is paid from our taxes.”

While another wrote:

“All public health care is free in Australia. Can’t understand why USA unwilling to do the same. It’s just a cost the government meets.”

While Americans on both sides of the political divide—both “conservatives” and “liberals”—often revel in patriotic pride over the alleged greatness of the United States and the supposed “freedom” that citizenship offers, this woman and her husband found out that there simply is no choice under a private health care model. Instead, the health insurance industry is out to squeeze every last dollar from those who are suffering.

Why is it so hard for so many people to imagine a model where our health and happiness is protected rather than the profits of a small handful of health insurance corporations?

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Big Pharma

Same Big Pharma Empire Behind Opioid Epidemic Now Profiting From Overdose Cure

Elias Marat

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Big Pharma Opioid Epidemic Overdose Cure

(TMU) — An affiliate of the U.S.-based pharma company that brought us OxyContin, the blockbuster painkiller blamed for propelling opiate addiction to epidemic proportions, is now seeking to cash in by selling the cure to overdosing on the same drug.

While Purdue Pharma, the major pharma firm owned by the notorious Sackler family, is engulfed in a tidal wave of negative public opinion and lawsuits across the United States, its overseas affiliate Mundipharma has quietly expanded across the globe in a bid to monopolize the market for treating opioid overdoses, the Associated Press reports.

Mundipharma’s flagship product is a naloxone nasal spray called Nyxoid, which recently received approval from regulators in Europe, Australa, and New Zealand. The company’s European division has attempted to present the antidote as an important option for combating her*in overdoses, which remains a leading cause of overdose deaths across European countries.

With a cost of over $50 per dose in some European countries, the price of Nyxoid is far more expensive than her*in as well as injectable forms of naxalone. Similar nasal sprays have cost over $100 in the U.S., where opioid overdoses have claimed the lives of well over 400,000 people—a death toll that continues to climb as the opioid epidemic continues unabated.

Mundipharma has still been aggressively promoting the antidote at medical conferences. AP reports that at one conference, the company advertised the product with the slogan: “Be prepared. Get naloxone. Save a life.” 

Yet critics argue that the company that aggressively promoted OxyContin—fanning the deadly opioid addiction wave within the United States that eventually went worldwide—should be providing much cheaper, if not free, naloxone products.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a prominent critic of Purdue, told AP:

“You’re in the business of selling medicine that causes addiction and overdoses, and now you’re in the business of selling medicine that treats addiction and overdoses? That’s pretty clever, isn’t it?”

Lawsuits have also revealed how the massive complex of pharma firms owned by the Sackler family have sought to cash in on addiction treatments even while they pulled out all the stops in ensuring the proliferation of OxyContin. The company has denied that it has tried to profit from opioids and addiction treatment simultaneously.

However, in one internal document from Purdue uncovered in a Massachusetts lawsuit, an illustration showed a blue funnel with the top end labeled “pain treatment”—a reference to the opioids—and the bottom labeled “opioid addiction treatment.” The same presentation also said that the company had an opportunity to become an “end-to-end provider,” effectively manufacturing both the disease of widespread painkiller abuse and its cure.

According to the complaint, Purdue staff wrote:

“It is an attractive market … Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.”

Lawyers for the Sackler family have sought to cast blame for the secret plan, known as Project Tango, on a third-party equity fund. Yet Mundipharma’s efforts to promote naloxone bear a stunning resemblance to Purdue’s envisioned role as an “end-to-end provider.”

Stephen Wood, a fellow at Harvard Medical School Center for Bioethics who has researched how prices of naloxone products in the U.S. have escalated as the addiction crisis swelled, believes that the Sackler empire should make such antidotes widely available as a simple matter of ethics. He said:

“If they were trying to find a solution, they would just distribute naloxone for free.

They could use all that money they made off opioids to help support a program where they are giving away this life-saving medication.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Meet the Big Pharma Family That Created America’s Opioid Crisis

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Big Pharma Family

(IE) — If the devil wears Prada, what do America’s most destructive drug pushers wear? They wear smiles. The drug pushers we have in mind here have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, enough fatalities to decrease overall U.S. life expectancy at birth for the last two years running. Yet no police SWAT teams have pounded down any doors hunting these drug pushers down.

These particular drug pushers have devastated millions of families across the United States. Yet some of America’s most honorable institutions, outfits ranging from Yale University to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have spent decades lauding their philanthropic generosity and benevolence.

We’re obviously not talking El Chapo or any of his drug-running buddies here. We’re talking about the mega-billionaire family behind one of America’s most profitable drug-industry empires, the privately held Purdue Pharma.

Last week, flacks at Purdue announced that the company will no longer be flooding doctors’ offices with sales representatives hawking OxyContin, the now-notorious opioid painkiller. This move may be the closest admission of guilt we will ever see from Purdue Pharma — or the patriarchs of the Sackler family that gave it birth.

The roots of Purdue’s criminal profiteering, as Patrick Radden Keefe has chillingly related in the New Yorker, stretch all the way back to three brothers in mid-20th century Brooklyn. All three — Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler — became doctors. All three had an entrepreneurial bent. Arthur had entrepreneurial genius.

Arthur Sackler saw that the pharmaceutical industry of his day had no clue to the marketing magic — and magical profits — that modern Madison Avenue advertising approaches could fashion. He linked the two. His ad agency pioneered tactics that would revolutionize prescription drug marketing.

Pharmaceutical companies, under Arthur Sackler’s guidance, began hiring noted doctors to vouch for their products and subsidizing studies that showed how useful their products could be. Sackler’s campaigns deluged doctors’ offices with attractive promo brochures and filled medical journals with flashy ads.

The promotions sometimes played fast and loose. In 1959, one national magazine investigation found that doctors listed as endorsing a new Sackler-backed antibiotic didn’t exist.

The really big bucks from Sackler’s efforts started flowing in the 1960s. Sackler’s marketing miracles turned the tranquillizers Librium and Valium into everyday commodities. By 1973, millions of annual tranquillizer prescriptions had created what Senator Edward Kennedy bewailed as a “a nightmare of dependence and addiction.”

But Purdue Pharma, the drug company the Sacklers ran, had grander visions, and the company’s dreams revolved around exploiting the untapped potential of opioids, synthetic forms of opium that modern researchers had first started developing in the early 1900s. Doctors had always known that these opioids had a significant pain-killing capacity. Doctors also feared their addictive properties.

Purdue Pharma set out to overcome that fear, with a massive marketing campaign on behalf of OxyContin, the drug company’s new take on the opioid called oxycodone, a “chemical cousin of h*****” that can be “up to twice as powerful as morphine.” Purdue bankrolled widely circulated research that testified to OxyContin’s safety and urged physicians to prescribe the drug for all sorts of conditions.

A sales force that at one point boasted a thousand reps reinforced that message with countless in-person visits to medical offices. Purdue hired several thousand clinicians on top of that to sing OxyContin’s praises at medical conferences. The company even offered doctors “all-expenses-paid trips to pain-management seminars in places like Boca Raton.”

The campaign goal: nothing less than changing the prescription habits of America’s doctors.

The campaign succeeded. Purdue won FDA approval for OxyContin in 1995. Almost overnight the drug became a phenomenal medical marketplace success, eventually generating some $35 billion in revenue. The FDA examiner who ran the approval process would later come to work for Purdue.

But problems with OxyContin soon surfaced. People were becoming addicted, in part because Purdue made abusing OxyContin so easy. The drug was formulated to release slowly over 12 hours. But users could just crush the pills and get a quick high.

Purdue blamed the early reports of addictions on these abusers. But OxyContin had a much deeper problem. Purdue was marketing the drug’s long-lasting, 12-hour relief. In reality, the relief often lasted fewer hours, leaving conscientious users continually craving more of the drug and desperate to get it.

Purdue would systematically stonewall this reality year after year, lining up political heavy-hitters like former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to run interference. Lawsuits against Purdue did start proliferating in the early 2000s. Purdue made them go away, by settling out of court before any incriminating documents revealed in the pretrial discovery process could ever see the light of day.

Meanwhile, the death toll mounted.

In hard-hit Pike County, Kentucky, nearly 30 percent of local residents either had lost a family member to OxyContin addiction or knew someone outside their family who did.

The fortune of the various branches of the Sackler clan mounted as well. The combined Sackler clan has become, Forbes calculates, one of America’s richest families, with a current net worth at $13 billion. In 2015, the Sacklers pulled in an estimated $700 million in income from their Big Pharma interests.

Amid this enormous fortune, the heirs to the original three Brooklyn brothers have fallen out with each other. Some are even feeling remorse. But others are looking for greener pastures abroad. With the domestic market for opioids seemingly saturated, opioid makers like Purdue Pharma are invading foreign markets.

These same companies, led by Purdue Pharma, are continuing to subsidize nonprofit groups that promote opioid use.

Earlier this week, a report from U.S. senator Claire McCaskill detailed how the nation’s five largest opioid makers handed over $10 million the last five years to 14 of these nonprofits and their affiliated doctors.

Revelations about the incredible extent of corporate opioid irresponsibility continue as well.

A congressional committee has just found that “two of the nation’s biggest drug distributors shipped 12.3 million doses of powerful opioids to a single p******* in a tiny West Virginia town over an eight-year period.”

Behind every great fortune, the French novelist Honoré de Balzac once observed, lurks a crime.

Some crimes kill.

READ NEXT: Oxycontin Maker Files for Bankruptcy After Funneling Billions Into Private Accounts


By Sam Pizzigati | Inequality.org | Creative Commons

The views in this article may not reflect editorial policy of The Mind Unleashed.

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