One UK doctor revealed that he had been manipulated into prescribing addictive painkillers to him by aggressive salespeople shortly after completing his medical training. This is similar to the storyline in Dopesick’s hard-hitting US drama, which depicts America’s opioid crisis.
Michael Keaton, an actor, has won a Golden Globe. He plays Dr Samuel Finnix in the role of a small-town doctor who is persuaded by Billy Cutler (William Poulter), to prescribe Oxycontin. This highly addictive drug is referred to as oxy by its abusers. Dr Finnix trusts Cutler and uses his promise of dates with women and many meals out.
Based on the book Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company that Addicted America by journalist Beth Macy, the eight-part show is currently streaming on Disney+ and traces back the opioid epidemic in the US to the sales offices of Purdue Pharma, owned by Transatlantic dynasty the billionaire Sackler family.
Dopesick is the slam for withdrawal symptoms that opioid addicts often experience after stopping using them. In the US, more than 500,000 deaths over the last two decades have been attributed to opioid abuse.
Dopesick is a hard-hitting drama set in the USA. Michael Keaton plays Dr Samuel Finnix. He’s a small-town doctor who is persuaded by Billy Cutler (William Poulter), to give Oxycontin to his patients.
Purdue Pharma filed bankruptcy for 2019 in the wake of being infiltrated in thousands lawsuits alleging the big pharmaceutical company forced doctors to prescrive OxyContin. The highly addictive narcotic has been responsible for more than 500 deaths across the United States over the last 20 years.
Now, Dr Toh Wong is a senior GP near Exeter. He says that as a young doctor in rheumatology – a field where painkillers were often prescribed – he was wined and dined at some of the most luxurious restaurants in order to convince him to take opiates.
Through fictional characters, including Betsy (Kaitlyn Debor), Betsy is treated for back pain and soon becomes dependent on ‘Oxy.
The fictional Finch Creek town in rural Virginia may seem far from UK GPs, but one British doctor said he was stunned by the series. This is because he, along with many others, had experienced disreputable sales techniques in the UK drug industry during his first year as a physician.
Next month Dr Toh Woong will talk about his experience at the UK Integrative Health Conference. As a new doctor in Leicester, he was frequently taken out by drug companies and misled as to how addictive certain drugs, especially Tramadol.
“In 2001, my first year of being a doctor, I was wined and dined at expensive restaurants almost every weekend. My job was in rheumatology. Back then painkillers were the most important way we could help patients. Drug companies targeted us.
The UK has tougher laws, making it harder for OxyContin to be prescribed. Its flooding of the US healthcare system during the 1990s is widely believed to have caused an opioid crisis. Doctors misleadly recommended that the drug was not addictive and could only be used to treat moderate pain.
“Every Saturday, we would go to the most costly restaurant in the city. It was open on Saturdays. The drug companies invited us because we believed it was an educational event.
‘I remember ordering a £30 monkfish dish that seemed so much money because I’d been used to being a student. Then, we’d all eat free of charge and then there’d be some discussion about the drug.
The UK has strict regulations that prohibit such sales tactics. Tramadol is now a controlled substance. Dr Wong claims British doctors were often misled by salespeople and prescribed Tramadol based upon misinformation.
“We were assured that it was not addictive, and that it would be less toxic to people who take it. This would mean that patients would require more drug companies’ profits.
Although OxyContin was available in the UK it is not licensed. Dr Wong states that Tramadol was made a controlled medication in 2014. Sales reps told doctors this painkiller wasn’t addictive.
The opioids could be provided to doctors for free – Dr Finnix’s Dopesick article explains. Dr Wong now 44 says that he felt like flying after taking Tramcet. This combination of tramadol/paracetamol quickly made him realize how addictive opioids are.
“Think about the most peaceful place that you could imagine. For a moment, take a deep breath and let it sink in. Now, visualize that sensation disappearing quickly and lasting forever. The people want to learn what they can do in order to go back there.
The UK has stricter regulation for Oxycontin than the US, so the drug has not been prescribed in the same manner. However Dr Wong claims he has given the medication to patients and has indirectly witnessed one of his patients get addicted.
He explained that he had an ongoing patient suffering from abdominal pain. His hospital continued to prescribe Oxycontin.
‘Eventually, he was sent to another hospital where he received a de-tox program. Now he is back at work with no need for the medication.
Dr Wong says terms used by sales people at Purdue Pharma that feature in Dopesick including ‘breakthrough pain’ – coined to persuade doctors to double doses of Oxycontin when it stopped working – are now used commonly by doctors in the UK.
Purdue Pharma president Richard Sackler was played in Dopesick by Michael Stuhlbarg. He was believed to have been the driving force behind aggressive selling tactics. The drug was initially sold to the public as a non-addictive painkiller. However, this was later found to not be true. The family are currently being sued by multiple American cities, counties and states
Purdue Pharma introduced a Pain Chart that features faces and indicates how severe a patient’s pain is. This chart is widely used by doctors and hospitals all over the world.
Are opioids ever safe? Dr Wong believes it’s possible, provided that doctors can remain alert to its dangers.
It is a painkiller that can be used to treat insomnia. It is valuable and effective when used correctly.
There are many people whose lives were destroyed by prescription drugs. But there’s hope. Many patients have recovered their lives with the help of treatment.
James Boorer is a Pathfields Medical Group GP in Plymouth who has an interest in pain management. He says that doctors are often overworked and have limited time to see patients suffering from chronic pain.
FEMAIL is told by him that opioids have been prescribed for chronic pain in the past. However, we now know this can lead to addiction and worsening of pain.
“Doctors prescribe opiates with good faith because this is the most common treatment for chronic pain over many years.
“However this has been questioned over the last five to ten year with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence publishing in April 2021 guidelines that recommend pain medication be avoided for treatment of chronic pain.
Many of those in pain he visits have lived difficult lives. Dr Boorer says: “Some people have suffered abuse as children. Some have experienced domestic violence. Others have felt threatened for long periods of time (e.g., financial worry).
The brain’s ability to process stress is altered, resulting in pain sensations that are significantly greater than those of other people. It can lead to severe and even fatal conditions. Unfortunately, it’s hard to treat.
America’s Opiate Crisis in 2022: There are thousands of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma alleging that they aggressively promoted OxyContin, while downplaying the addiction risks and overdose dangers. Family members and the company have refuted these allegations.
Dr Boorer says that in the past a decade, patients suffering from chronic pain went to see their doctors and were prescribed opiates. Although this may seem like a good treatment option at first, it is not likely to last. The body adjusts, creating new pain receptors, and the pain returns.
They become dependent on opiates to survive the day. Any missed doses can cause severe flare-ups of pain. As they seem to be working, they go to their doctor again to ask for more. The cycle continues until they are on extremely high doses and suffering from severe side effects. There are many people whose lives were destroyed by prescription drugs.
Dr Boorer states that it’s crucial for those who are addicted to opiates and suffer from chronic pain to know there is help.
According to him, abrupt withdrawal from opiates increases the risk of developing withdrawal symptoms. However, gradual withdrawals can be reduced or eliminated over a period of time.
“There’s a growing awareness by doctors and general public about the harmful effects of these drugs – my personal surgery is passionate about helping people stop and reduce these drug abuse. Although this takes time, it is well worth the effort. Patients who are able to get their lives back after stopping using these drugs have been able to tell us that it was worthwhile.