These multi-billion dollar fines sound enormous, but like the one levied on Facebook, they represent a small portion of the company’s actual assets.

Cheaters do get caught. Eventually. At least some of the time.

I have evidence.

In the wake of a treasure trove of newly released Federal data, the Washington Post has produced a remarkable series of articles on the roots and progress of the prescription opioid epidemic.

It’s an impressive body of work, and let’s just say Big Pharma does not come off well. Neither do a number of lesser known players, including makers of generic painkillers, who also profited. Here’s the first in the WaPo series, titled 76 billion opioid pills and still counting.

The Guardian has an informative but much briefer piece on the subject.

It’s disturbing to think that while those of us in the treatment field were struggling to cope with the escalating epidemic, important players in the pharmaceutical industry were doing their level best to continue growing the problem. Why? Money, of course. Greed.

Read over some of those internal emails if you think I’m exaggerating. I can’t believe any sane person in this day and age would put something controversial in a corporate email. You know it’s going to be leaked, right?

Yet there it is, in pixels, for all to see.

In the case of Purdue Pharma, that included an attempt to counter growing criticism by producing an “abuse deterrent” version of Oxycontin. Not only did it fall short with respect to abuse, it now looks as if they inadvertently gave a boost to the spread of Hep C.

Meanwhile, British-Dutch giant Reckitt Benckeiser (RB), makers of Lysol, Clearasil, dCon, Woolite and Air Wick, were heavily promoting  their own new product, the “anti-addiction” drug Suboxone. Unfortunately they appear to have made use of the same marketing techniques as the opioid makers. Namely, false or inaccurate claims about the safety and effectiveness of their products.

Now they’re paying the tab. Or at least a bit of it. 

These multi-billion dollar fines may sound enormous, but like the one levied against Facebook, they represent a small portion of the company’s actual wealth. It’s the lawsuits that come later that can make a real difference. Or not, depending on the Courts. You can bet the Pharma industry will fight.

I hope I’m not just beating a horse’s corpse when I say that in my considered opinion, what we need now is another President with the courage to take on Big Pharma the way JFK took on Big Steel, way back in the early 60’s.

I’m not sure they make ‘em like that any more.


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