Pfizer Admits To Addiction Risk In Marketing For Opioid Drugs
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, around 2.1 million Americans suffer from addiction related to opioid drugs. And since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nearly 165,000 people have died opioid drugs overdoses.
The biopharmaceutical company Pfizer has agreed to disclose in its marketing materials that opioid drugs have a significant risk of addiction. They have also agreed to not promote them for unapproved use, such as long-term chronic pain, according to a statement made by the city of Chicago.
However, Pfizer currently only markets one prescription opioid, Embeda. Actually, Embeda is an abuse-deterrent opioid, containing both the painkiller agonist morphine, and the opioid antagonist, naltrexone.
Allyana Anglim, Pfizer spokesperson:
“The voluntary agreement between Pfizer and the City of Chicago arose in connection with the city’s recent efforts to combat opioid abuse, a goal the company fully supports.”
Chicago was the first city to sue manufacturers of opioid drugs. Plaintiffs included Purdue Pharma (responsible for OxyContin), Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, and Actavis.
According to the City of Chicago:
“ knowingly and aggressively marketed these drugs as rarely addictive, while touting benefits that lacked scientific support in order to boost profits.”
In its lawsuit, Chicago stated that in 2012, about 1,100 emergency room visits were related to opioid abuse or overdose.
Purdue Pharma is consistently blamed for the rapid growth of painkiller use abuse nationwide. Their aggressive campaign initially claimed that the long-acting formulation of oxycondone reduced the risk of abuse and addiction.
In 2007, Purdue Pharma pled guilty to criminal charges of misleading physicians and the public about OxyContin’s addictive potential.
Other cities and states, such counties in California and the state of West Virginia, have also sued pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors for contributing to the opioid epidemic.
Pfizer was not among the companies named in Chicago’s lawsuit, and nothing in their agreement suggests that Pfizer has engaged in sketchy marketing tactics.
Pfizer released a the following statement:
“ pleased to work with the city of Chicago to help address the serious problem of prescription opioid abuse. We support efforts that encourage the safe use and appropriate prescribing of opioids.”
Officials hope that Pfizer’s agreement will lead to similar agreements with other opioid manufacturers in the future.
Currently, biopharmaceutical companies adhere to voluntary standards set by their trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology