A Pharmacist Told Medicaid Officials That Opioid Addiction Was A Myth At An Opioid-Funded Conference

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Opioid maker Purdue Pharma helped fund a 2003 conference for Medicaid officials where a pharmacist said that opioid addiction is “rare in patients” and “seriously overestimated,” according to a slideshow the Center for Public Integrity obtained.

“These effects can occur,” the slideshow says of opioid addiction, but “they are seriously overestimated in American society and most of the world.”

The slideshow says addiction was in fact often “pseudoaddiction,” or when “patients may appear to observers to be preoccupied with obtaining opioids, but the preoccupation is with finding relief of pain, rather than using opioids.”

The presentation also recommends that doctors “increase the dose by 50%” for “patients who demand increasing opioid doses.”  “Addiction is exquisitely rare,” the presentation says, and “end organ damage [is] very rare with chronic use.”

The speaker, pharmacist Kenneth Jackson, gave the presentation at the 2003 American Drug Utilization Review Society conference, according to a Thursday Center for Public Integrity article. At the conference, Medicaid officials could hear from doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other state Medicaid officials.

Some of the medical professionals who speak at these conferences have ties to pharmaceutical companies, a point which often is not made clear, the article reported. It is not clear if Purdue Pharma has ever directly paid Jackson.

Purdue Pharma declined to comment in the original Center for Public Integrity article. (RELATED: Drug Companies Are Influencing Medicaid’s Preferred Drugs With Big Dollars)

Multiple states are in the process of suing Purdue Pharma for misrepresenting the risk of opioid abuse, Reuters reported in May. As of June, 26 states have sued Purdue, according to the Twin City Pioneer Press.

“We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” a Purdue spokesperson told Reuters on May 15.

In 2016, 42,249 people in the United States died of an opioid overdose, and 2.1 million has an “opioid use disorder,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2003, 4.5 out of every 100,000 deaths were from an opioid overdose, according to a Medscape study.

Opioid overdoses happen because opioids cause respiratory depression, a Scientific American article explains. People overdosing on opioids fail to breathe, and they eventually die from a lack of oxygen.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Kenneth Jackson and Purdue Pharma for comment, but none were received in time for publication.

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