Purdue Pharma LP has announced an end to its practice of pressuring physicians to write prescriptions of OxyContin – a market leading opioid pain killer. Purdue’s move, as reported in Friday’s Wall Street Journal article, “Purdue Pharma to Stop Promoting OxyContin to U.S. Doctors” by Jeanne Whalen, is further evidence that efforts to raise awareness of America’s Opioid crisis are finally started to yield results.
Of course, the more cynical may say that Purdue’s move is merely to place it in a better position to defend against the many lawsuits brought by states and cities against the company and other opioid manufacturers and distributors – but in this crisis, we take our victories where we can get them.
Will this Help?
Beyond the cynical view, this may be a bit of a hollow move as there currently are no widely-accepted treatments for pain beyond the use of opioid pharmaceuticals. Doctors have little alternative to OxyContin and its brethren when dealing with patients in pain.
What physicians really need is better guidance on how pain should be treated – in a way that manages an individual’s pain without the risk of developing a life-long debilitating addiction.
To really address this crisis – we have to shut off the flow of new addicts. To do that, we have to end the medical community’s dependence on prescribing opioids to everyone seeking pain relief.
Alternatives to OxyContin
New non-opioid pain medications are in development to be sure, but those will take time to come to the market – and likely more time than we have. Work has been done – though more is needed – into the pain management benefits of medical massage and of acupuncture, for instance.
But, when can these and other alternatives to opioids be prescribed to patients? Which individuals will be well served by these approaches and which individuals can safely be administered prescription-strength pain killers?
That insight is what we are developing.
What we are doing to help
We are developing a risk stratification for opioid abuse related mortality. This risk stratification allows physicians to work with their patients to determine their level of risk for opioid addiction, diversion, and of experiencing an overdose in the next 12 months. And our work doesn’t end there. Based on this risk level, we can suggest alternate pain management treatments. Treatments that help patient deal with their pain while reduce the risk of long-term addiction.
And that is everyone’s goal.