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Harvard Medical Professors’ Study Finds Big Pharma and Governments To Blame for Opioid Epidemic

Aug. 13, 2017 (EIRNS)—A new study by three Harvard Medical School professors has put the blame for the opioid epidemic on the pharmaceutical industry and governments. Couched in academic language, and not daring to point to the higher role of Big Pharma’s kissing cousins in the financial oligarchy, the study concludes that “weak patenting standards and ineffectual policing” has turned the pharmaceutical industry into a major cause of the opioid epidemic.

Published in July in the Harvard Law & Policy Review, "The Opioid Epidemic: Fixing a Broken Pharmaceutical Market," argues that the failure to effectively regulate fraudulent marketing and anti-competitive practices by Big Pharma have contributed to the over-utilization of costly and often harmful branded prescription drugs.

To boost profits, pharmaceutical companies have often engaged in false or misleading marketing, the study charges. Over the past 25 years, the industry has paid $35.7 billion to settle claims of illegal marketing, including making false or misleading claims, or failing to disclose known risks.

The authors cite an estimate from the American Society of Addiction of Medicine that over 2.5 million Americans now have an opioid use disorder. More than 4 million Americans reportedly misuse opioids each month.

A fundamental cause of the epidemic has been an over-prescription of opioids, the study says—which is an accurate description, but by no means a causal explanation. From 2000 to 2010, the number of prescriptions for oral opioid analgesics rose 104%.

The authors call on the federal government to take a more proactive role in challenging pharmaceutical patents, and recommend that Congress authorize the Food and Drug Administration to impose user fees that would fund comparative cost-effectiveness research and dissemination.

The authors—Ameet Sarpatwari, Dr. Michael S. Sinha, and Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim—are all professors at Harvard Medical School with appointments to the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.