- Leonard Campanello, the police chief in Gloucester, MA, is in part blaming big pharma for large-scale opioid addiction, which is linked to heroin abuse.
- Researchers have discovered that people who become addicted to opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
- Campanello has been using Facebook as a tool to not only call out pharma, but also to invite addicted individuals to the "Angel program," which allows them to come into the station to seek help with rehabilitation. He's even listed the names, phone numbers, and salaries of top execs at companies like Pfizer, J&J, Merck, Eli Lilly, and Abbott in an effort to put public pressure on major drug makers, the Washington Post reports.
According to the World Health Organization, two million Americans are addicted to opioid painkillers. In addition, every day in the U.S., there are 110 overdose deaths, from both legal and illegal drugs. And now that researchers have shown the strength of the connection between opioid addiction and heroin abuse, its clear that legal painkillers are part of what's driving illegal drug use.
Campanello's efforts seem to be yielding results—and fast. Last week, he posted a message on Facebook in which he not only called out some of the biggest executives at Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Abbott Labs, and Eli Lilly, but he also listed their phone numbers and salaries. In his post, he noted that 80% of addicated people start off with a legally prescribed drug. The post has been shared 1,500 times so far, and Pfizer has contacted Campanello to talk.
Now, for another side to this story: Pharmaceutical companies that develop pain-killing opioid medications use guidelines set up by the FDA. In April, the FDA issued guidance on the development of abuse-deterrent opioids. The Institute of Health estimates that 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, and in some cases, pain that requires around-the-clock management.
The real challenge is meeting the needs of those patients, while also addressing the problem with opioid addiction and heroin abuse. And while pharma can play a role in that addressing that problem, it's a much bigger problem that involves many facets of society.