RICHMOND, Va — Virginia’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit last week against Purdue Pharma, alleging the company’s marketing tactics caused the opioid crisis. One of the key focuses of the suit claims it created an illness, which pushed pills onto patients.
“Purdue pushed a fabricated new condition called pseudoaddiction,” Herring said last week during a press conference.
What is pseudoaddiction? It’s a concept that was published in a paper by Dr. J. David Haddox and D.E. Weissman in 1989, were someone who is prescribed opioids for pain begins to show behaviors that look like they are addicted. For example, they start to misuse their prescription. The person, according to the concept, is being underprescribed and is still feeling chronic pain. The way to solve it, is by supplying more pills.
Haddox later went on to become a vice president at Purdue.
The lawsuit goes on to claim sales representatives from Purdue discussed with health care providers how to “distinguish” pseudoaddiction from “true addiction,” including marketing publications and pamphlets to “providers and consumers.”
In a statement, Purdue Pharma officials said “The Attorney General claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve. We believe it is inappropriate for the Commonwealth to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”
According to Dr. Mishka Terplan from VCU’s Motivate Clinic, this concept hasn’t been widely accepted by the medical community because of concerns that the initial study wasn’t very thorough.
“Well, pseudoaddiction doesn’t exist,” he said. “This was based upon really poor data.”
The Attorney General’s lawsuit takes note of this as well, saying the concept “has not been substantiated by unbiased scientific evidence.”
According to a medical review article from 2015, out of 224 papers on pseudoaddiction there were 22 were by pharmaceutical companies. 9 were conducted by Purdue Pharma. At the time, none of these studies “attempted to validate pseudoaddiction as a clinical concept.”
Dr. Terplan says it’s common for pharmaceutical companies to back researchers and it doesn’t necessarily mean there is always a conflict of interest in the results.
“Actually partnerships with pharma, and with industry are important too. I think there are ways to have good, meaningful, less biased partnerships and there are certainly ways to have incredibly biased research,” he said.
Attorney General Herring says if they win the lawsuit, they plan get monetary compensation for those affected. Dr. Terplan hopes this money goes towards recovery, treatment and prevention efforts.
“The goal of treatment isn’t more treatment. The goal of treatment is recovery,” he said.
Purdue Pharma officials have expressed concern about the lawsuit and the epidemic at hand.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the company said, “We share the Attorney General’s concern about the opioid crisis. We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions to address this public health challenge.”