from the content-and-context dept.
Researchers have found that a one paragraph letter to the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 was "uncritically cited as evidence that addiction was rare with long-term opioid therapy" [emphasis in original retained]:
Canadian researchers have traced the origins of the opioid crisis to one letter published almost 40 years ago.
The letter, which said opioids were not addictive, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in 1980.
Dr David Juurlink says the journal's prestige helped fuel the misguided belief that opioids were safe.
His research found that the letter was cited more than 600 times, usually to argue that opioids were not addictive.
On Wednesday, the NEJM published Dr Juurlink's rebuttal to the 1980 letter, along with his team's analysis of the number of times the letter was cited by other researchers.
The two names to blame? Dr. Hershel Jick and his assistant Jane Porter. Dr. Jick did not anticipate the misuse of his short letter:
Jick still works at Boston University School of Medicine. He told the Associated Press this week that he is "essentially mortified that that letter to the editor was used as an excuse to do what these drug companies did."
"They used this letter to spread the word that these drugs were not very addictive," he said. Jick noted that he testified as a government witness in a lawsuit some years ago concerning the marketing of pain drugs.
Pain-pill giant Purdue Pharma LP will stop promoting its opioid drugs to doctors, a retreat after years of criticism that the company's aggressive sales efforts helped lay the foundation of the U.S. addiction crisis.
The company told employees this week that it would cut its sales force by more than half, to 200 workers. It plans to send a letter Monday to doctors saying that its salespeople will no longer come to their clinics to talk about the company's pain products.
"We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers," the company said in a statement. Instead, any questions doctors have will be directed to the Stamford, Connecticut-based company's medical affairs department.
OxyContin, approved in 1995, is the closely held company's biggest-selling drug, though sales of the pain pill have declined in recent years amid competition from generics. It generated $1.8 billion in 2017, down from $2.8 billion five years earlier, according to data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions. It also sells the painkiller Hysingla.
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