Chicago Is Suing Big Pharma For Their Role In Widespread Opiate Addiction

June 6, 2014 | Sophie Weiner

The city of Chicago is suing five of the biggest pharmaceutical companies for “ten counts of fraud, conspiracy, unjust enrichment, insurance fraud, misrepresentation in advertising, and other violations of Chicago municipal code,” Vice reports.

The case against Big Pharma is pretty damning. The lawsuit alleges that these massive corporations have been in conspiracy to sway the public towards use of addictive opiates like Vicodin and OxyContin to treat common problems. Chicago alleges that they bought doctors opinions and almost solely funded legit-sounding groups like the American Pain Association, who pushed these drugs on the public. In the past, these drugs were only employed to treat severe pain such as in cancer patients. Since 1999, the prescription of these drugs has gone up by 300%, overdoses from these drugs have tripled, and they “now result in more overdose deaths in the US than heroin and cocaine combined.”

This unprecedented expansion of opiate use is directly linked to the rise of heroin addiction over the last few years. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, who is the president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing tells Vice:

It’s not a gateway drug, because it’s the same drug. One is a pill you get prescribed from a man in a white coat, the other is a powder you buy on the street, but it’s essentially the same drug. Younger people are going to heroin because in general if you’re 25 years old and young and healthy, doctors aren’t going to be as likely to prescribe quantities large enough to support your habit. That’s the group that’s switching over to heroin.

Young people are inherently curious about experimenting with drugs. When they take a pill from mom’s medicine chest, they probably have no idea they’re taking a heroin pill.

In other news, the US is still putting a few hundred thousand people a year in jail for nonviolent drug crimes. Related: read what the Backdoor Pharmacist says about the uses and misuses of prescription pills. (Photo: @kajeyomama)