Are Prescription Pain Medications Killing People?Vitality Magazine February 1, 2010
A Report From St. Michael’s Hospital Says – Yes
(Press release from St. Michael’s Hospital, Dec. 7, 2009)
Deaths from opioid use in Ontario have doubled – from 13.7 deaths per million residents in 1991, to 27.2 deaths per million residents in 2004 – according to a new study led by physicians at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) in Toronto.
Researchers also found that the addition of a long-acting form of oxycodone (OxyContin) to the province’s drug formulary in January 2000 corresponded with a five-fold increase in oxycodone-related deaths.
“Many doctors are aware that prescription opioids can have fatal side effects by depressing breathing and decreasing levels of consciousness,” explains lead author Dr. Irfan Dhalla, a physician at St. Michael’s Hospital. “But we suspect most will be surprised to learn just how many deaths occur each year in Ontario from prescription opioids.”
Opioids, also known as narcotic pain relievers, are among the most commonly prescribed medications in Canada. They are used to treat people with moderate-to-severe acute or chronic pain.
The researchers manually reviewed nearly 7,100 files at the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario. They then linked these files with provincial data on physician visits and medication prescribing. They also analyzed data from IMS Health Canada – an organization that tracks the sales of prescription drugs.
Here are the researchers’ key findings:
• Prescriptions for oxycodone rose by more than 850 per cent during the study period. This increase was much larger than for any other opioid. Oxycodone accounted for about one-third of the almost 7.2 million prescriptions for opioids dispensed in Ontario in 2006.
• The increase in deaths was especially pronounced after OxyContin was added to the provincial drug benefit plan in 2000. Over the next five years, deaths related to any opioid increased by 41 per cent, and the number of deaths related to oxycodone (the active ingredient in OxyContin) rose fivefold.
• Deaths from prescription opioids in Ontario far outnumbered those from heroin.
• Most opioid-related fatalities (54 per cent) were accidental. The manner of death was undetermined in 22 per cent of cases, and deemed to be suicide in 24 per cent.
• Most people whose deaths involved an opioid had visited a doctor and received a prescription for the drug in the month before they died.
“These findings highlight the tremendous societal burden of opioid-related morbidity and mortality” says the study’s co-author Dr. David Juurlink, a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and a staff physician at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. “Patients and doctors may not fully appreciate the potential danger of these drugs, particularly when they are taken in combination with other sedating drugs or alcohol.”
Based on the study findings for Ontario, the estimated annual national incidence of opioid-related deaths in 2004 (27.2 deaths per million population) came somewhere between the incidence of death from HIV infection (12 deaths per million) and the incidence of death from sepsis, or severe infection (40 deaths per million).”
In response to the report from St. Michael’s Hospital, health activist Mike Adams had this to say:
“It’s the dirty little secret of the pharmaceutical industry: More people are killed by prescription opioids than all those killed by heroin and cocaine combined. Prescription drug abuse is now more common than street drug abuse – by far! And yet Big Pharma rakes in huge profits from all the patient addictions to their opioids. And by “opioids”, what I mean is narcotics. They are, in fact, one and the same. So of all the drug addicts in North America today, you can divide them into two camps:
1) People addicted to street drugs.
2) People addicted to prescription drugs.
The people in group #1 (street drugs) are taken to jail where they are given prison sentences. People in group #2 (prescription drugs) are taken to their doctor where they are given prescription refills. It’s all really the same narcotics, it’s just that one group is legal and the other is illegal.
And what really determines whether a particular narcotic is legal or illegal? Whether or not Big Pharma profits from it. If Big Pharma makes money off the narcotics, they’re considered legal.
Big Pharma, you see, earns tens of billions of dollars each year from drug addicts. And just by coincidence, it turns out that their prescription narcotics are extremely addicting, guaranteeing repeat business. The business model is so dang lucrative, you might think they were drug dealers…
Why do you think the main sponsors for the Partnership For A Drug-Free America are the drug companies themselves? It’s because Big Pharma is trying to eliminate the competition. By keeping up the so-called “War on Drugs” front, the pharmaceutical industry can make sure it dominates the market for narcotics. After all, if you’re going to feed narcotics to a nation full of junkies, why not make a hefty profit on it? That’s the thinking of drug companies, it seems, as they have done basically zilch to effectively stem the abuse of their own prescription narcotics.” (www.naturalnews.com)
For prescription drug abuse treatment options, visit: https://www.projectknow.com/research/prescription-drugs/