Pfizer Finally Breaks Their Vow Of Silence, Admits Opioids Addictive
If there’s one thing you don’t expect pharmaceutical companies to be it’s comedians.
Yet many observers couldn’t help but let out a bitter squawk of laughter when they read the news that Pfizer has finally admitted that yes, Virginia, opioids are indeed addictive.
The admission, common knowledge on a par with the fact that Iraq didn’t have weapons of mass destruction and water is wet, came as the pharmaceutical giant agreed to a set of standards for marketing opioids that officials are hopeful will set a benchmark for other drug manufacturers will follow, and thus help reduce the incidence of addiction to the dangerous painkillers.
Although Pfizer is not among the largest opioid painkiller manufacturers compared with other companies, the move is seen by many as a step in the right direction. In addition to the marketing guidelines, the company has agreed to disclose the serious risk of addiction that comes along with opioids in its promotional material–danger that is very real even when they are taken according to label instructions. They also pledged to quit promoting the drugs for unapproved, “off-label” uses, for instance long-term back pain, and to acknowledge that the research on opioids’ long-term effectiveness beyond 12 weeks is essentially nil.
The agreement came about as a result of a city of Chicago lawsuit naming five opioid manufacturers in a 2013 lawsuit over the misleading marketing of opioids. Pfizer was not one of the companies names in that suit, and the agreement contains no admission of any wrongdoing on the part of the company.
For some observers, the agreement is hardly a noble step for Pfizer, nor is it seen as tremendously promising. For one thing, as noted above, it’s pretty easy for Pfizer to denounce opioid marketing techniques when the company hardly sells any of them to begin with.
Second, as Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman of Pharmed Out, a group that advocates for rational pharmaceutical prescribing practices noted, to count on pharmaceutical companies to counter the epidemic of opioid abuse in the U.S. is not exactly the most logical or promising road.
“Maybe it’s a first step, but I think counting on pharmaceutical companies to get us out of this opioid mess is not likely to be successful,” she said in a Washington Post interview.
Indeed, given the malfeasance of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing as well as its widely derided jiggering of its formula and test result claims, in which the company appears to have flat-out lied about how long the drug was effective, it seems unlikely they would be a willing partner in battling addiction to the drug.
At least someone in the pharmaceutical industry is finally saying what we’ve all known for a long time: these are dangerous drugs even when used on-label–off-label and in the hands of unscrupulous marketers they are a national disaster.