Faulty research, biased studies may have helped fuel lax painkiller policy -- and resulting addiction epidemic

Source: The Washington Post

Nearly 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, federal statistics show. And a Washington Post investigation alleges that drug companies have helped fuel the nation’s epidemic of addiction.

Dependence on drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet is more widespread than addiction to cocaine and heroin. A recent examination of medical research, court documents and proceedings of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that over the past few decades the risk of addiction to these types of medications was often underreported. Meanwhile, retail prescriptions for the drugs, used to treat chronic pain, have tripled in the last 20 years.

The article reports that, in some cases, the incidence of withdrawal symptoms in pain patients was not fully disclosed by drug manufacturers. Reporters also found widespread use of studies that were funded by the drug companies themselves. And the FDA may not have looked closely enough for reliable data on addiction, consulting physicians and experts who were paid by drug companies. As a result of this information, which downplayed the concerns over painkiller abuse, opioid policy in the United States was relaxed -- and some experts blame this misinformation for the current prescription-drug crisis.