Why Do Doctors Prescribe Vicodin
The traces of drugs can be found everywhere in the town of Everett. On the street corners where the dealers hardly hide anymore. It cost $ 160,000 to dispose of the garbage left by the junkies at a single drug-handling point.
You can see the traces in the overcrowded addiction clinics and prisons. And you can find them in the accommodations where there is no room for new homeless people. Everett is currently building 70 new public housing. The city with 100,000 inhabitants is located north of Seattle in the US state of Washington. It is worst in the northern part of the city and in the adjacent area of the Tulalip Indians. "The drugs are everywhere," says Hil Kaman, head of the health department. "Just everywhere." The city of Everett wants their money back, they have already spent millions on the fight against drugs. So the city fathers hired a Seattle law firm and sued the pharmaceutical company Purdue, which makes Oxycontin. "We are sure that Purdue is responsible for the huge increase in drug addicts here," says Kaman. "Now they should also be responsible for helping us fight the epidemic."
A small operation and doctors prescribe the pain reliever
Opium-containing pain relievers are easy to come by in the United States. A small, outpatient operation or back pain - doctors prescribe Oxycontin or other pills such as Vicodin or Percocet that contain opioids. They are addicting quickly. Often people lose control and cannot get rid of the pills. When doctors stop prescribing them, addicts seek out a black market dealer. And when they find out that heroin works the same way but is much cheaper, they switch to heroin. An Oxycontin pill costs around $ 80, a shot of heroin between five and ten. In addition, Purdue changed the composition a few years ago, oxycotine can no longer be abused so easily, which makes heroin even more attractive. "Between 2007 we had a dramatic increase in the number of Oxycontin addicts," says Kaman from the health department. "Then came the heroin crisis." She also met people with jobs, homes and families who now live on the streets.
In the United States, more people die from opioids than from gunshot wounds, 33,000 in 2015. In Germany, all illegal drugs together killed 1,226 in the same year. The drugs also have a political dimension: the addicts are mostly white people in rural areas and small towns. The poor and the frustrated middle class, plagued by fear of relegation, felt left alone. According to a study by Penn State University, Donald Trump did best where the death rate from drug and alcohol abuse was highest.
The manufacturer Purdue claimed for years that hardly anyone becomes addicted who takes the pill for pain. That turned out to be wrong. In 2007, the pharmaceutical company based in Stamford, north of New York, admitted in a lawsuit that it had lied to patients, doctors and regulators about the risks, and paid a fine of $ 600 million. It hardly did any harm, Oxycontin is still selling well, in the USA alone the Purdue pill brings in around three billion dollars in sales per year. According to the magazine, the Sackler family, which owns 100 percent of the company, has Forbes over $ 13 billion in fortune - # 19 on the list of the richest US families.
The group supplied a clinic that is part of a criminal ring
The company did not comment on the lawsuit, it merely pointed out that Oxycontin only makes up two percent of all opioid painkillers. "We share the concerns of public officials about the opioid crisis and feel obliged to work together on a solution," said a company spokesman. Everett's lawsuit starts at a particular point: Purdue did not do enough to prevent criminal doctors, clinics, pharmacies and pharmaceutical wholesalers from buying up Oxycontin en masse and distributing it to addicts on the black market, the city writes in the lawsuit. In Los Angeles, for example, there was a clinic that a Purdue inspector even visited and considered suspicious. But nothing happened, despite their internal warnings. The company failed to inform the drug authorities when it had clear evidence that the clinic was part of a drug ring and "knowingly, recklessly or negligently" continued to deliver it to them, "for large and obscene profits," the lawsuit said. "This is proven by internal emails that we have," says Kaman. Over the years the clinic has bought more than a million Oxycontin pills, which are believed to have made it to Everett. It is uncertain whether the lawsuit will be successful. It is similar to procedures that cities have started with many shootings against weapon manufacturers - mostly without success.
Kaman is optimistic, however: "We understand the lawsuit is bold, but we have good evidence. Purdue must be responsible."
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