OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR)- The Oklahoma Attorney General is going after another pharmaceutical company for downplaying the risk of addiction, allegedly fooling both patients and healthcare providers.
Edmond physician, Dr. Melinda Cail told KFOR she has seen a lot of patients’ lives ruined because of pain medication.
“Some people need them for conditions, whether it’s arthritis or chronic pain or other things. Certainly people need them after surgeries and other procedures where they’re really warranted. One of the things that I tell patients going into this, if they look like they might be on pain medicines for an extended period of time and it doesn’t matter how nice you are or how good your intentions are, if you take this medicine long enough, your body will get addicted to it,” said Dr. Cail.
According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), nearly 100,000 people die from drug overdoses in the U.S. each year. Of that, 645 are Oklahomans.
Opioids are a factor in 72% of overdose deaths, per the NCDAS.
“When people are hurting and it is hard to quantify that because pain is experienced differently by everybody and so when someone tells you they’re hurting, if you’re in a helping profession, then you want to help alleviate that pain,” explained Cail.
In the way opioids, such as oxycodone and fentanyl patches have been marketed and sold has allegedly been misleading.
Attorney General Gentner Drummond is suing Allergan Limited and Allergan Finance, LLC because the two were reportedly part of the misconception.
“Beginning in the mid-1990s, opioid manufacturers pursued aggressive sales strategies to increase sales of their prescription opioids, a plan that resulted in a dramatic rise in opioid prescriptions in the State of Oklahoma,” the lawsuit states.
General Drummond said Allergan Limited and Allergan Finance, LLC manufactured, marketed, and sold the brand drug Kadian (morphine sulfate extended release), a schedule II opioid agonist capsule first approved by the FDA in 1996.
General Drummond stated the FDA changed the indication of the drug in 2014 from “management of moderate to severe pain when a continuous, around-the-clock opioid analgesic is needed for an extended period of time” to “the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment and for which alternative treatment options are inadequate.”
He is accusing the two companies of misleading healthcare providers and patients about the dangers of prescription drugs, including downplaying the risk of addiction.
Allergan Limited and Allergan Finance, LLC allegedly attributed addiction to predisposing factors, such as family history or psychiatric disorders and promoted the concept of “pseudoaddiction,” which is the idea that certain signs of addiction are actually the result of untreated pain and should be treated by prescribing more opioids, said the lawsuit.
“Through their actions and inactions in connection with the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids… Defendants materially contributed to the creation of an addiction crisis that has injured, harmed, and otherwise disrupted the lives of thousands of residents of the State of Oklahoma,” wrote General Drummond in the lawsuit.
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Senior Director of Public Relations, Bonnie Campo told KFOR opioid overdoses are still on the rise.
“We’ve definitely seen fentanyl and methamphetamine continue to rise. Related to opioids, specifically, fentanyl is an incredibly powerful opioid. So we are seeing those deaths that use continue to rise in Oklahoma,” she said. “Fentanyl creates an incredibly powerful high, and that’s why it is so dangerous. It actually tells your body to stop breathing. Your brain kind of clicks off and your body won’t breathe anymore.”
Campo said there are a multitude of resources offered by the state to combat the state’s substance abuse crisis.
The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline has been available to Oklahomans for about a year.
“The first year we saw about 40,000 calls and 10,000 text messages. And people can call there, too, to get connected to a provider. 988 is an easy place to start if you don’t know where to start,” added Campo.
Additionally, there is a website called ‘OK I’m Ready’ available for those with substance abuse looking for a doctor or a place to order Naloxone.
“It’s been incredibly powerful to see how many people have just taken this initiative and said, ‘You know, let’s go.’ And certainly there is some stigma still in Oklahoma, but we have seen more Oklahomans say, ‘This resonates with me. I know someone or I know a family member or a loved one that has passed.’ And so they’re taking up this initiative to say, ‘You know, this ends with me. I can do something to save a life.’ They’re willing to take that next step,” stated Campo.
Campo said Oklahoma’s crisis has recently shifted to “street drugs,” like fentanyl.
“We need to prepare Oklahomans that whenever they are taking substances, they know what’s in them. So that’s where the test strips can be particularly empowering. But you still have to expect fentanyl in almost everything and carry that Naloxone. That’s really the message of like you never know what is in that. That one decision shouldn’t change someone’s life forever, shouldn’t change that family’s life forever,” said Campo.
Naloxone is usable for up to three years.
If you’re looking for Naloxone and Fentanyl Test Strip Vending Machines, ‘OK I’m Ready‘ has a locator available.
News 4 has reached out to Allergan Limited and Allergan Finance, LLC for comment, but never heard back.