In 1995, Purdue Pharma began aggressively promoting to health care providers a long-acting form of Oxycodone called OxyContin, assuring doctors that that the medication was safe and that addiction rates were rare. In 2007, the company was fined $634.5 million by the federal government for making false claims that their medication had lower addiction levels than other opioids. By 2015, it all started to unravel and in 2017 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued new instructions, declaring a national emergency as reports of drug overdoses flooded in.
Physicians since have been following guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administering opioids, including integrating the use of over-the counter medications and anti-depressants. Houston’s Dr. Joe Galati of Liver Specialists of Texas, one of America’s largest private liver services, the host of “Your Health” heard Sunday nights at 7 on KTRH, says it’s critical for patients suffering from chronic pain to seek treatment with a qualified medical practitioner. “The main thing is that they are being taken care of by someone who understand chronic pain, because if they’re not, there is a risk of getting back on these medications, which are deadly,” he tells KTRH News.
The abuse of opioid medications, including OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin, is being abated by new recommendations to prescribing doctors. Dr. Galati says a good therapeutic relationship with your doctor is key. “That you, the patient, are willing to work with them to try to get off these medications and use them in the absolute lowest amount,” he stresses as vital to successful management of chronic pain. Galati says there a number of alternative agents. “Things as simple as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, like Motrin and Advil, Tylenol, which all work well with mild to moderate amounts of pain. In the right conditions there is a role for antidepressants that may modulate how the pain is perceived. There are other alternatives rather than just sticking with opioids 100%.”
In 2017 there were 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in the U.S., six times the rate in 1999. According to the CDC, opioids are responsible for 6 out of 10 overdose deaths in the country. 130 Americans die daily from an opioid overdose. The statistics are stacking up like headstones overtaking a cemetery as the medical community works through new, and sometimes old, treatments for pain.