Title fight: Big Pharma vs. The Feds


But industry-funded groups like the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management warn that the CDC guidelines could block patient access to medications if adopted by state health systems, insurers and hospitals. Such organizations often look to the federal government for health care policies.

“Could block patient access”?  When will everyone else join pain patients in the real world? Patient access has already been blocked, patients have been abandoned by doctors, and these groups are still saying this “could” happen?

Which is better, groups funded by industry or those funded by the federal government? What about all of the people who don’t have the funds to pay for representation?

The CDC decision to delay its guidelines followed months of lobbying by physician and patient groups aligned with the pharmaceutical industry, who have almost always had a seat at the table in federal discussions on painkillers. As a result, they have had far more influence over federal policy than addiction activists, according to experts.

I can report that there are millions and millions of pain patients who are not “aligned” with anyone; do not have a seat at any table for discussions on painkillers; and have absolutely no influence whatsoever over federal policy. I can also report that there are thousands of drug addicts who similarly have no voice in this fight.

“They’re very well-funded and they have a lot of pharma money behind them,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson of New York University, an FDA adviser who is also advising the CDC on its guidelines. “And then you have the anti-addiction groups on the other side, which is clearly much less funded and organized.”

It’s funny how some people — usually those sitting in a seat of privilege — live in a bubble of their own made-up reality. Since Big Pharma funds both sides of this issue, and the federal government only funds the anti-drug side, which side is clearly better funded? And which side does the media report on?

CDC’s Frieden says more Americans are “primed” for heroin use because of their exposure to painkillers.

I call bullshit. There are hundreds of millions of Americans who have been exposed to painkillers with no problems whatsoever.

The CDC had not publicly disclosed the panel’s membership, but Twillman and other pain advocates identified several members, including two who are leaders with Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, a group working to reduce painkiller prescribing. That group is backed by Phoenix House, a network of rehabilitation clinics.

Also backed by the federal government, along with anonymous, right-wing, private donors (like ALEC  and the prison industry).

My comment:

I want to thank the AP for not describing Mr. Kolodny from PFROP as some kind of expert on pain management (as many other media outlets have done). Unfortunately, I can’t thank the AP for its biased reporting on these issues.

As a 30-year intractable pain survivor, I’m sad to say that my voice isn’t a part of the media’s reporting on the opioid war. But what’s really tragic are the millions of pain patients who also have no voice (or a seat at any table), silently suffering and fueling a suicide epidemic that everyone refuses to talk about. Because when up to three times as many people die by suicide every day than by drug overdose — and all the CDC (and the media) can talk about is how doctors are over-treating pain — then something is terribly wrong. Maybe one day, someone will figure out how to report on the difference between tens of millions of pain patients, and the thousands of patients who suffer from drug addiction. (And maybe one day, the word “epidemic” will have meaning again.)

Since I was able to recover from my addiction to the medical industry, I can only hope that other pain patients are able to do the same. I was very lucky to survive this addiction, but there will be many who do not. While almost everyone blames suicide on the victim, my own experiences have shown me that the blame doesn’t belong there. In fact, agencies like the CDC and DEA should be held accountable for every pain patient who chooses suicide as a last resort to manage their pain, and for every pain patient who ends up in jail for being forced to turn to the underground drug market.

6 thoughts on “Title fight: Big Pharma vs. The Feds

  1. Great post. I would love to interview several people with long-standing chronic pain who use opiates responsibly, yourself being one. The suicide epidemic is definitely something that needs to be parsed out of this overly simplistic a+b=x fallacious attribution of causation. Even people who utilize opiate drugs as a suicide method are, I would suspect, not drug addicts or even chronic pain sufferers. They are perhaps using those drugs because other, more effective drugs, are no longer obtainable (barbiturates, Darvon).

    Nowhere have I seen current suicide methods broken down in a way that demonstrates the percentage of completed suicides due to opioid drugs vs other methods. I read at least 5 articles per day on the “opioid prescribing epidemic,” and I’ve never seen those numbers.

    Have you?

    How did you recover from the medical industry? How do you find relief from your pain?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used prescription drug therapy for about 10 years, and then was abandoned by my doctor and forced into a cold-turkey detox. In other words, I didn’t recover from my addiction to the medical industry because I had a choice. After 30 years, I can’t say that I ever get “relief” from my pain, but when I have access to bud, I can at least (on occasion) distract myself from it.

      It’s almost impossible to define the victims in drug overdoses, including whether the death was accidental or a suicide. For instance, some overdoses are due to the ignorance surrounding long-acting drugs like methadone. And many are caused by interactions with other drugs, like benzos and alcohol. But I would say that the majority of overdoses are by those suffering from addiction, not chronic pain, although the number of chronic pain victims is increasing.

      Everyone agrees that suicides are under-reported, but no one really knows by how much. And the statistics are misleading because they don’t include all 50 states and usually they aren’t combined with other suicide statistics, like for veterans.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, but this state’s program is very small, of questionable quality, and too expensive for me.

          The article at this post says:


          THE RISE of suicide in the U.S. has been slow enough to sneak up on people. I realized this just the other day, on the phone with Catherine Barber, who directs the Means Matter Campaign, a suicide-prevention program at Harvard. A decade ago, she led the team that designed the National Violent Death Reporting System, a key source of federal data on premature exits. Because she’s now focused on education and prevention, not data mining, it had been a few years since she looked at national numbers, so we logged on together.

          We selected suicide from a drop-down menu of violent injuries that also included accidents, murder, and war, and we clicked send. Our screens blinked—hers in Boston, mine in New York—and up popped a simple black-and-white chart. The world’s most depressing spreadsheet. There are as many intentional ways to die as there are people to imagine them, and we saw more of all of them…

          We saw more jumping and shooting, poisoning and stabbing, drowning, and strangulation. We even saw more death by “unspecified means,” a catch-all column for the most inventive forms of self-destruction—the swan dives into lava, the encounters with farm equipment. As she scrolled through the woe, Barber began to mutter to herself: “Oh, shoot … yeah, that’s no good … the increase is across all methods … dang.”

          Liked by 1 person

        • Deaths due to opiates alone are a small percentage. But I think the more relevant question is how many of these victims were known chronic pain patients versus how many were diagnosed with addiction.

          The problem is that, according to the medical industry, the majority of pain patients on opioid therapy are now considered to also be suffering from addiction. How do you separate the two patient groups? I know there’s an overlap between them, but I think it’s fairly small. And since drug addicts are at a higher risk for overdose (at least more so than pain patients), I believe this whole “epidemic” has very little to do with pain patients.

          But it also depends on which patient groups we’re talking about, because I think there’s a higher percentage of pain patients who have overdosed in the veteran group than in others, mostly due to their high use of alcohol (and the VA’s habit of indiscriminately prescribing antidepressants and anti-psychotics).

          We need to know all of this information to protect ourselves in this war, but I fear at this point, it really doesn’t matter anyway. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

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