The Sacklers: America’s biggest and richest ‘legal’ drug pushers
The first record of humans using drugs to give themselves highs during their humdrum lives is a 7,000-year-old account of Babylonian Sumerians using opium. The Lake Dwellers of Switzerland ate poppy seeds 4,500 years ago according to historian Ashley Montagu in a book about gaining euphoria over the doldrums.
Records about the brewing of alcohol and its potency started about 2,350 years ago in Proverbs 31:6-7: “Give strong drink to those who are perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress, let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more.”
One of the earliest cures for alcoholic drunkenness was tried in Russia in 1500 according to a British medical historian: “Take a piece of pork, put it secretly in a Jew’s bed for nine days, and then give it to a drunkard in pulverized form, who will turn away from drinking as a Jew would from pork.” He did not comment on the treatment’s effectiveness.
When I taught English literature to Fargo Central high school seniors 60 years ago I always had them read at least several chapters of Thomas De Quincey’s masterpiece “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” published in 1821. His paragraph of what happens under the spell of opium is the finest description of addiction I have ever read—and I emphasized it to students because it is such a dangerous paragraph.
“Heavens!..what an upheaving from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit…Here was a panacea…for all human woes; here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered happiness right now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat pocket: portable ecstasies might be corked up in a pint bottle: and peace of mind could be sent down in gallons by the mail coach.”
DeQuincey drank a mixture of opium and brandy called laudanum--quite popular with users in this country. He was so hooked in his later years he spent about 65% of his income on opium, was permanently in debt and was chased by creditors for the rest of his life, used false names, abandoned his rented rooms, and at one time wore an old army coat four times too large. He wore nothing underneath. He managed to live to the ripe old age of 74.
English medical authorities such as Thomas Syndenham thought opium was the best drug available in the 19th Century to relieve pain: “Among the remedies which it has pleased the Almighty God to give to man to relieve his sufferings, none is so universal and efficacious as opium.”
But now let us cut to the quick and the dead
Opium derivatives such as OxyContin and Percocet have killed 200,000 Americans since 1996—and in 2017 will kill an estimated 200,000 a year around the world with overdoses. Thousands more have died from illegal heroin because actually it is up to ten times cheaper on the street than opium-related prescription drugs.
Many users cannot afford prescriptions but are so addicted they switch to heroin for relief from pain—and to get high again and again.
Mexican drug cartels have profited as much as Big Pharma cartels from the opioid epidemic because Oxycontin sells for about $80 a pill in West Virginia, but the same dose of heroin can be bought on the street for $10. DEA officials have called drug reps “Drug dealers in lab coats.”
We killed a lot of people in 2015 in the United States: 36,252 from firearms, 38,300 in car crashes, and 52,404 (142 a day, or a passenger jet load of passengers) from opioid overdoses. In 2016 we lost 64,000 to overdoses—and had 1.27 million victims visit emergency rooms because of overdoses.
We are heading for records in all categories in 2017. Tobacco still kills 480,000 a year—but that’s another story. Thousands of people are involved in killing people with firearms and car crashes. But only one billionaire family (Worth over $14 billion at present), the Sacklers, is responsible for 200,000 opioid deaths.
The Sacklers own Purdue Pharma, which manufactures Oxycontin, considered by most public health experts as the most dangerous product ever sold on the open market. This is how legal drug pushers accomplish their goals. Recognizing that members of Congress have an intense passion for campaign cash, the Big Pharma mob has spent $2.5 billion renting and purchasing The Best Congress Money Can Buy (TBCMCB) over the last decade. There are two Big Pharma lobbyists for each member of Congress.
This is how the legal drug pushers flooded the country with drugs and heroin
The country has been learning more about the opioid crisis from the Washington Post and the TV program “60 Minutes,” and how members of TBCMCB passed legislation allowing Big Pharma mob members to dump billions of pills on a ravenous addicted public.
Attempts to keep track of the number of pills manufactured and sold is voided by legislation pushed by those thousand lobbyists and the BCMCB. The Center for Disease Control estimates that drug abuse costs us over $200 billion a year in health, crime, and lost productivity.
What happened in West Virginia is a splendid example. Between 2007 and 2012, legal drug pushers dumped over 780 million doses of opiate painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone on the state. That’s 433 pain pills for every man, woman, and child in the state. Those two drugs alone killed 1,700 West Virginians in that five-year time period.
The situation has not improved. The state has a program for assisting families with funeral costs. So far in 2017 the state has already run out of program money by paying for 1,508 drug funerals. The fund has been running out of money early each year since 2013. Overdoses now account for eight percent of the deaths for males between the ages of 35 to 64 in West Virginia.
California is another example of the total ruthlessness and greed of Big Pharma, the Sackler family, and the TBCMCB. Trinity County has a population of 13,628 but its residents filled 18,439 prescriptions for opioids in 2016. In 2016, six million Californians, or 15% of the population, were prescribed opioids. Lord, how the money rolls in!
About 21 million people abused drugs and alcohol in the U.S. last year. In California 1,354 prescriptions per 1,000 people were written for people aged 70 to 74. It’s worse for people 85 and above: 1,662.41 prescriptions per 1,000. Americans use 90% of the opioids manufactured in the world. What’s wrong with us that we are in such pain?
Some doctors are just as guilty—and greedy--as the Sacklers and Big Pharma
The drug manufacturer Insys Therapeutics, based in Phoenix, has just had six employees, including the CEO and two vice-presidents, charged by federal prosecutors with bribing doctors to prescribe a drug called Subsys, an opioid and fentanyl combination. The billionaire owner Dr. John Kapoor was arrested for fraud on October 26. The Minnesota music icon Prince died of a fentanyl overdose. The combination of fentanyl,. heroin, or other drugs now kill 55 a day.
One grain of salt-sized portion of fentanyl can kill you if placed on your skin—or it can addict you until you die of an overdose. If fentanyl is thought to be present in a police drug raid, officers have to wear high-hazard suits to handle the product. Fentanyl was developed to tranquilize very large animals—such as a six-ton elephant. There is also another synthetic drug called carfentanil, which is 100 times more powerful than heroin.
Insys officials are accused of bribing doctors to give lectures on the use of their product Subsys at dinners at high-end restaurants and pain management conferences. One Florida doctor is accused of accepting $275,000 in bribes over three years to push other doctors to prescribe the drug.
The drug sells for up to $30,000 for an ordinary prescription. Some Florida doctors have a reputation of running “Dr. Feelgood” drug mills that sell opioid drugs all over the U.S. Some Florida pharmacies are selling more than a million opioid pills a year.
Deborah Dowell, senior medical advisor of the Centers for Disease Control, says: “We overestimated the benefits of opioids and underestimated the risks. We assumed without adequate evidence that they would work as well long term as they did in the short term.”
Big Pharma and the maker of Oxycontin (Purdue Pharma of the Sacklers) took aggressive advantage and sold the drug to doctors at pain management conferences. Over 5,000 Florida doctors, nurses, and pharmacists attended and then began prescribing Oxycontin to patients suffering from arthritis, back issues, and other chronic conditions.
Experts later said: “These prescriptions within one week make that person physiologically dependent on the drug, meaning they feel some discomfort or side effects when they stop using.”
The results of overprescription and TBCMCB doing nothing—again
Americans, particularly over the age of fifty, are swallowing opioid pills in record numbers.
Almost one-third of all Medicare patients, or 12 million, were prescribed painkillers by their physicians in 2015. Out of that number, 2.7 million abused opioids in amounts beyond what their doctors prescribed for them.
In the last 20 years the hospitalization rate for 65 and older has quintupled. By 2012 259 million opioid prescriptions were written in that year, resulting in a tremendous increase in addiction and overdose rates.
In 2015 14,000 people aged 45 and above died of overdoses—and the actual rate now is much higher. Overdosed older people often die of heart attacks and falls but the deaths are not recorded as caused by drugs.
Every 25minutes, a baby hooked on drugs is born in the United States
If the Sacklers and the other drug pushers are ever brought to justice in the United States for killing 200,000 persons, I have the perfect punishment for them. Do not send them to the peace and quiet of some federal prison. Sentence them to work 10-20 years in a hospital neo-natal unit dominated by baby addicts hooked on their mother’s drugs.
According to nurses, babies going through opioid withdrawal have a very distinct way of crying. It is a short, high-pitched wail of babies in terrible torment. They can do it for weeks for many hours each day. Their bodies stiffen up, they shake, sweat, and vomit.
They are given doses of methadone to lessen their violent physical reactions. Sometimes it takes months to overcome the effects of strong addictive drugs on tiny brains. They have to be cuddled and loved by parents, nurses, and volunteer “cuddlers” to survive the ordeal.
The Sacklers with their billions, while sending thousands to their graves, have pretended to be saviors of mankind by funding museums at Harvard and Peking Universities and have funded galleries at the Smithsonian and Oxford University. The Guggenheim Museum in New York has a Sackler Center as does the American Museum of Natural History.
They have funded early child development programs at Cornell, Columbia, McGill, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sussex, and King’s College in London. They should have cuddled an opioid baby long ago.
January 17th 2018
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