This story is a collaboration between STAT and ProPublica.

In May 1997, the year after Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin, its head of sales and marketing sought input on a key decision from Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the billionaire family that founded and controls the company. Michael Friedman told Sackler that he didn’t want to correct the false impression among doctors that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, because the myth was boosting prescriptions — and sales.

“It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product,” Friedman wrote to Sackler, “to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine. … We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone [the active ingredient in OxyContin] is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that.”

advertisement

“I agree with you,” Sackler responded. “Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?”

Ten years later, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court to understating the risk of addiction to OxyContin, including failing to alert doctors that it was a stronger painkiller than morphine, and agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties. But Sackler’s support of the decision to conceal OxyContin’s strength from doctors — in email exchanges both with Friedman and another company executive — was not made public.

The email threads were divulged in a sealed court document that ProPublica has obtained: an Aug. 28, 2015, deposition of Richard Sackler. Taken as part of a lawsuit by the state of Kentucky against Purdue, the deposition is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the illegal marketing of OxyContin and what family members knew about it. Purdue has fought a three-year legal battle to keep the deposition and hundreds of other documents secret, in a case brought by STAT; the matter is currently before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

READ THE SACKLER DEPOSITION

Meanwhile, interest in the deposition’s contents has intensified, as hundreds of cities, counties, states and tribes have sued Purdue and other opioid manufacturers and distributors. A House committee requested the document from Purdue last summer as part of an investigation of drug company marketing practices.

In a statement, Purdue stood behind Sackler’s testimony in the deposition. Sackler, it said, “supports that the company accurately disclosed the potency of OxyContin to healthcare providers.” He “takes great care to explain” that the drug’s label “made clear that OxyContin is twice as potent as morphine,” Purdue said.

Still, Purdue acknowledged, it had made a “determination to avoid emphasizing OxyContin as a powerful cancer pain drug,” out of “a concern that non-cancer patients would be reluctant to take a cancer drug.”

The company, which said it was also speaking on behalf of Sackler, deplored what it called the “intentional leak of the deposition” to ProPublica, calling it “a clear violation of the court’s order” and “regrettable.”

Much of the questioning of Sackler in the 337-page deposition focused on Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin, especially in the first five years after the drug’s 1996 launch. Aggressive marketing of OxyContin is blamed by some analysts for fostering a national crisis that has resulted in 200,000 overdose deaths related to prescription opioids since 1999.

Clip from a 1998 Purdue Pharma marketing video that was sent to doctors’ offices across the U.S., featuring a paid consultant, Dr. Alan Spanos.

Taken together with a Massachusetts complaint made public last month against Purdue and eight Sacklers, including Richard, the deposition underscores the pivotal role of the Sackler family in developing the business strategy for OxyContin and directing the hiring of an expanded sales force to implement a plan to sell the drug at ever-higher doses. Documents show that Richard Sackler was especially involved in the company’s efforts to market the drug, and that he pushed staff to pursue OxyContin’s deregulation in Germany. The son of a Purdue co-founder, he began working at Purdue in 1971 and has been at various times the company’s president and co-chairman of its board.

In a 1996 email introduced during the deposition, Sackler expressed delight at the early success of OxyContin. “Clearly this strategy has outperformed our expectations, market research and fondest dreams,” he wrote. Three years later, he wrote to a Purdue executive, “You won’t believe how committed I am to make OxyContin a huge success. It is almost that I dedicated my life to it. After the initial launch phase, I will have to catch up with my private life again.”

During his deposition, Sackler defended the company’s marketing strategies — including some Purdue had previously acknowledged were improper — and offered benign interpretations of emails that appeared to show Purdue executives or sales representatives minimizing the risks of OxyContin and its euphoric effects. He denied that there was any effort to deceive doctors about the potency of OxyContin and argued that lawyers for Kentucky were misconstruing words such as “stronger” and “weaker” used in email threads.

Sackler depo Quote 1
Alex Hogan/STAT

The term “stronger” in Friedman’s email, Sackler said, “meant more threatening, more frightening. There is no way that this intended or had the effect of causing physicians to overlook the fact that it was twice as potent.”

Emails introduced in the deposition show Sackler’s hidden role in key aspects of the 2007 federal case in which Purdue pleaded guilty. A 19-page statement of facts that Purdue admitted to as part of the plea deal, and which prosecutors said contained the “main violations of law revealed by the government’s criminal investigation,” referred to Friedman’s May 1997 email to Sackler about letting the doctors’ misimpression stand. It did not identify either man by name, attributing the statements to “certain Purdue supervisors and employees.”

Friedman, who by then had risen to chief executive officer, was one of three Purdue executives who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of “misbranding” OxyContin. No members of the Sackler family were charged or named as part of the plea agreement. The Massachusetts lawsuit alleges that the Sackler-controlled Purdue board voted that the three executives, but no family members, should plead guilty as individuals. After the case concluded, the Sacklers were concerned about maintaining the allegiance of Friedman and another of the executives, according to the Massachusetts lawsuit. To protect the family, Purdue paid the two executives at least $8 million, that lawsuit alleges.

“The Sacklers spent millions to keep the loyalty of people who knew the truth,” the complaint filed by the Massachusetts attorney general alleges.

Clip from a 1998 Purdue Pharma marketing video intended for doctors to show their patients.

The Kentucky deposition’s contents will likely fuel the growing protests against the Sacklers, including pressure to strip the family’s name from cultural and educational institutions to which it has donated. The family has been active in philanthropy for decades, giving away hundreds of millions of dollars. But the source of its wealth received little attention until recent years, in part due to a lack of public information about what the family knew about Purdue’s improper marketing of OxyContin and false claims about the drug’s addictive nature.

Although Purdue has been sued hundreds of times over OxyContin’s marketing, the company has settled many of these cases, and almost never gone to trial. As a condition of settlement, Purdue has often required a confidentiality agreement, shielding millions of records from public view.

That is what happened in Kentucky. In December 2015, the state settled its lawsuit against Purdue, alleging that the company created a “public nuisance” by improperly marketing OxyContin, for $24 million. The settlement required the state attorney general to “completely destroy” documents in its possession from Purdue. But that condition did not apply to records sealed in the circuit court where the case was filed.

In March 2016, STAT filed a motion to make those documents public, including Sackler’s deposition. The Kentucky Court of Appeals last year upheld a lower court ruling ordering the deposition and other sealed documents be made public. Purdue asked the state Supreme Court to review the decision, and both sides recently filed briefs. Protesters outside Kentucky’s Capitol last week waved placards urging the court to release the deposition.

Sackler family members have long constituted the majority of Purdue’s board, and company profits flow to trusts that benefit the extended family. During his deposition, which took place over 11 hours in a law office in Louisville, Ky., Richard Sackler said “I don’t know” more than 100 times, including when he was asked how much his family had made from OxyContin sales. He acknowledged it was more than $1 billion, but when asked if they had made more than $5 billion, he said, “I don’t know.” Asked if it was more than $10 billion, he replied, “I don’t think so.”

By 2006, OxyContin’s “profit contribution” to Purdue was $4.7 billion, according to a document read at the deposition. From 2007 to 2018, the Sackler family received more than $4 billion in payouts from Purdue, according to the Massachusetts lawsuit.

During the deposition, Sackler was confronted with his email exchanges with company executives about Purdue’s decision not to correct the misperception among many doctors that OxyContin was weaker than morphine. The company viewed this as good news because the softer image of the drug was helping drive sales in the lucrative market for treating conditions like back pain and arthritis, records produced at the deposition show.

Sackler depo Quote 2
Alex Hogan/STAT

Designed to gradually release medicine into the bloodstream, OxyContin allows patients to take fewer pills than they would with other, quicker-acting pain medicines, and its effect lasts longer. But to accomplish these goals, more narcotic is packed into an OxyContin pill than competing products. Abusers quickly figured out how to crush the pills and extract the large amount of narcotic. They would typically snort it or dissolve it into liquid form to inject.

The pending Massachusetts lawsuit against Purdue accuses Sackler and other company executives of determining that “doctors had the crucial misconception that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, which led them to prescribe OxyContin much more often.” It also says that Sackler “directed Purdue staff not to tell doctors the truth,” for fear of reducing sales. But it doesn’t reveal the contents of the email exchange with Friedman, the link between that conversation and the 2007 plea agreement, and the back-and-forth in the deposition.

A few days after the email exchange with Friedman in 1997, Sackler had an email conversation with another company official, Michael Cullen, according to the deposition. “Since oxycodone is perceived as being a weaker opioid than morphine, it has resulted in OxyContin being used much earlier for non-cancer pain,” Cullen wrote to Sackler. “Physicians are positioning this product where Percocet, hydrocodone and Tylenol with codeine have been traditionally used.” Cullen then added, “It is important that we be careful not to change the perception of physicians toward oxycodone when developing promotional pieces, symposia, review articles, studies, et cetera.”

“I think that you have this issue well in hand,” Sackler responded.

Friedman and Cullen could not be reached for comment.

Asked at his deposition about the exchanges with Friedman and Cullen, Sackler didn’t dispute the authenticity of the emails. He said the company was concerned that OxyContin would be stigmatized like morphine, which he said was viewed only as an “end of life” drug that was frightening to people.

“Within this time it appears that people had fallen into a habit of signifying less frightening, less threatening, more patient acceptable as under the rubric of weaker or more frightening, more — less acceptable and less desirable under the rubric or word ‘stronger,’” Sackler said at his deposition. “But we knew that the word ‘weaker’ did not mean less potent. We knew that the word ‘stronger’ did not mean more potent.” He called the use of those words “very unfortunate.” He said Purdue didn’t want OxyContin “to be polluted by all of the bad associations that patients and healthcare givers had with morphine.”

In his deposition, Sackler also defended sales representatives who, according to the statement of facts in the 2007 plea agreement, falsely told doctors during the 1996-2001 period that OxyContin did not cause euphoria or that it was less likely to do so than other opioids. This euphoric effect experienced by some patients is part of what can make OxyContin addictive. Yet, asked about a 1998 note written by a Purdue salesman, who indicated that he “talked of less euphoria” when promoting OxyContin to a doctor, Sackler argued it wasn’t necessarily improper.

“This was 1998, long before there was an Agreed Statement of Facts,” he said.

The lawyer for the state asked Sackler: “What difference does that make? If it’s improper in 2007, wouldn’t it be improper in 1998?”

“Not necessarily,” Sackler replied.

Sackler depo Quote 3
Alex Hogan/STAT

Shown another sales memo, in which a Purdue representative reported telling a doctor that “there may be less euphoria” with OxyContin, Sackler responded, “We really don’t know what was said.” After further questioning, Sackler said the claim that there may be less euphoria “could be true, and I don’t see the harm.”

The same issue came up regarding a note written by a Purdue sales representative about one doctor: “Got to convince him to counsel patients that they won’t get buzzed as they will with short-acting” opioid painkillers. Sackler defended these comments as well. “Well, what it says here is that they won’t get a buzz. And I don’t think that telling a patient ‘I don’t think you’ll get a buzz’ is harmful,” he said.

Sackler added that the comments from the representative to the doctor “actually could be helpful, because many patients won’t get a buzz, and if he would like to know if they do, he might have had a good medical reason for wanting to know that.”

Sackler said he didn’t believe any of the company sales people working in Kentucky engaged in the improper conduct described in the federal plea deal. “I don’t have any facts to inform me otherwise,” he said.

Purdue said that Sackler’s statements in his deposition “fully acknowledge the wrongful actions taken by some of Purdue’s employees prior to 2002,” as laid out in the 2007 plea agreement. Both the company and Sackler “fully agree” with the facts laid out in that case, Purdue said.

The deposition also reveals that Sackler pushed company officials to find out if German officials could be persuaded to loosen restrictions on the selling of OxyContin. In most countries, narcotic pain relievers are regulated as “controlled” substances because of the potential for abuse. Sackler and other Purdue executives discussed the possibility of persuading German officials to classify OxyContin as an uncontrolled drug, which would likely allow doctors to prescribe the drug more readily — for instance, without seeing a patient. Fewer rules were expected to translate into more sales, according to company documents disclosed at the deposition.

One Purdue official warned Sackler and others that it was a bad idea. Robert Kaiko, who developed OxyContin for Purdue, wrote to Sackler, “If OxyContin is uncontrolled in Germany, it is highly likely that it will eventually be abused there and then controlled.”

Nevertheless, Sackler asked a Purdue executive in Germany for projections of sales with and without controls. He also wondered whether, if one country in the European Union relaxed controls on the drug, others might do the same. When finally informed that German officials had decided the drug would be controlled like other narcotics, Sackler asked in an email if the company could appeal. Told that wasn’t possible, he wrote back to an executive in Germany, “When we are next together we should talk about how this idea was raised and why it failed to be realized. I thought that it was a good idea if it could be done.”

Asked at the deposition about that comment, Sackler responded, “That’s what I said, but I didn’t mean it. I just wanted to be encouraging.” He said he really “was not in favor of” loosening OxyContin regulation and was simply being “polite” and “solicitous” of his own employee.

Near the end of the deposition — after showing Sackler dozens of emails, memos and other records regarding the marketing of OxyContin — a lawyer for Kentucky posed a fundamental question.

“Sitting here today, after all you’ve come to learn as a witness, do you believe Purdue’s conduct in marketing and promoting OxyContin in Kentucky caused any of the prescription drug addiction problems now plaguing the Commonwealth?” he asked.

Sackler replied, “I don’t believe so.”

David Armstrong is a senior reporter for ProPublica and was formerly STAT’s senior enterprise reporter.

Leave a Comment

Please enter your name.
Please enter a comment.

  • for:James McKay

    60 Minutes Segment on Opioids Draws Ire of Chronic Pain Community
    Authored by: Ed Coghlan
    5-7 minutes

    60 Minutes Segment on Opioids Draws Ire of Chronic Pain Community

    On Sunday night, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment that has raised the ire of many chronic pain advocates.

    It asked “Did the FDA Ignite the Opioid Epidemic” and asserted a label change in 2001 by the FDA expanded the use of opioids without what 60 Minutes said was “any evidence”.

    Cindy Steinberg, Policy Advocate for the U.S. Pain Foundation, tweeted;

    “Shame on @60minutes for its 1-sided coverage: https://cbsn.ws/2IvwL7B that somehow forgot about the 20 million Americans living with hi-impact #chronicpain”

    The head of the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain wrote a scathing letter to 60 Minutes Producer Ira Rosen and Correspondent Bill Whitaker. Richard “Red” Lawhern blasted what he said was “sloppy journalism and thoughtless propaganda”. Lawhern wrote in part:

    CBS 60 Minutes has accepted and represented as fact, the assertions of Andrew Kolodny as a supposed “expert” on opioids and chronic pain. He is in fact neither. His only board certification is in psychiatry, and his name appears on only 15 research papers (sole author on only three) published by peer-reviewed journals and indexed on PubMed. It may not be going too far to characterize Dr. Kolodny as one of the most hated figures in American medicine. His unsupported assertions are directly responsible for the deaths of multiple pain patients (possibly hundreds) who have descended into disability, social isolation, depression and suicide as a direct consequence of being deserted and denied pain management by doctors now afraid of losing their licenses in a hostile regulatory environment. This is an environment created in large part because of Kolodny’s prominent misrepresentations.
    You have also asserted as fact the outright silly idea that opioids are ineffective for chronic pain — a notion which Kolodny and his cohorts in “Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing” successfully slipped into the 2016 CDC guidelines for prescription of opioids to adults with chronic pain. The guidelines conflate (deliberately confuse) a relative scarcity of long-term double-blind trials of opioids, for a lack of opioid effectiveness. This scarcity is wholly attributable to the difficulty of retaining patients who are placed on placebos for trials. However a group of Oxford academics have published a fundamental critique of this conclusion, demonstrating that the CDC writers applied a substantively different standard of research adequacy to opioid therapies versus those used with non-opioid drugs and behavioral therapies. This un-acknowledged bias violated the research standards of the CDC itself.
    It is telling that no less an authority than the American Medical Association is now on public record repudiating almost the entirety of the CDC guidelines. AMA specifically advocates against any and all “one size fits all” limitations on dose levels or duration as determined by healthcare providers who prescribe opioids. Go look up “Resolution 235” of the most recent meeting of the AMA House of Delegates.
    Opioids have been used for literally centuries precisely because they DO work for both acute and chronic pain. This reality is witnessed by the fact that over 18 million people in the US are treated with opioids every year. HHS/CMS acknowledges that approximately 1.8 million of these people are treated with high-dose opioids, at levels exceeding the 90-morphine milligram equivalent dose level advocated by the CDC as a threshold for safety review between doctorand patient. This threshold has regrettably and entirely inappropriately been “weaponized” in State and Federal regulations and laws restricting the availability of opioid therapy to people in agony. Likewise, recent papers establish that HHS/CMS Opioid Overutilization Criteria for Classifying Opioid Use Disorder or Overdose have very limited predictive accuracy in identifying patients at risk for opioid abuse.
    It is also apparent in your program segment that you have accepted the equally silly notion that our US opioid crisis was “created” by doctors over-prescribing to pain patients. I say it is silly because this narrative fails unconditionally when CDC data on prescribing versus opioid mortality from all sources (legal, diverted, or illegal drugs) are compared State by State. There is no observable cause and effect relationship between prescribing rates versus overdose mortality. The contribution of medical opioids gets utterly lost in the noise of illegal fentanyl, heroin and other street dregs. And there never has been such a relationship.
    Likewise, CDC data establish that the demographics of chronic pain and opioid abuse are almost entirely separate. Seniors are prescribed opioids nearly three times as often as young people, but seniors have the lowest rates of opioid related mortality of any age group — stable for 17 years. Mortality in kids has soared over that period to reach six times the rate in seniors. The typical initiating substance abuser is a young male with no history of visiting a doctor for pain, while the most common chronic pain patient is a woman in her 40s or older. If her life is stable enough to be able to visit a doctor repeatedly, she will almost never be identified as a substance abuser. There are many other sources in medical literature which contradict the over-prescribing mythology.

    If you want to leave your own comments with the program, you can email them at 60m@cbsnews.com.

    • Great catch in finding this article Kirk; ironically it mirrored the main point my Pain Doctor told me today. It’s NOT the DEA or Attorney General we should be writing; it’s the CDC ONLY!

      I’m in such excruciating [nerve] pain right now everywhere, and my facial fatigue (eyes specifically) are awful, I can hardly see (spent a full 5-hours going to pain management today when I woke up with pain at 7 out of 10), but I read the entire article and it’s in my Favorites to read again when I’m better. I will contact Cindy Steinberg & 60-minutes as soon as I’m able (but it will be a few days).
      Apparently my pain doctor trusts me again (I brought a mini digital tape recorder, but he kept looking at my hand towel I use to hold my cane- which is where I hid the recorder; so I couldn’t tape anything or I’d risk losing my only pain doctor). He admitted to being scared to death of losing his license to practice medicine simply because his worst (sickest) patients were on high doses of opioids, so regardless of our justified pain due to Multiple Neuro Diseases AND Multiple Autoimmune diseases; he still felt it necessary to lower EVERYONE’S opioids so that he doesn’t get in trouble. ALL HE CARES ABOUT IS HIMSELF & ALL NYC DOCTORS ONLY CARE ABOUT THEMSELVES AS WELL! But it’s only due to a possible FUTURE issue doctors MAY have to deal with. So this is all preventative measures by doctors, meanwhile they are causing thousands of suicides by now (because Chronic Intractable Pain patients can only handle so much MORE pain!)! THIS IS ALL BASED ON IGNORANCE AND STUPIDITY!

      So I told my doctor and I’m telling everyone on this board: I’m no longer going to fight Sports Card fraud & autograph forgery sales (which is greatly needed because no one else does it like I do, and as effectively as I’ve done since 1991 & 1999 respectively) . I’m ONLY going to fight the CDC and EDUCATE everyone who works for the CDC as they are the only ones making the DEA send threatening letters, and making the Attorney General believe things that are WRONG due to the morons the CDC uses as “experts”!

      Like I’ve stated before: ONLY long time Pain Management doctors, a long-term Chronic Intractable Pain patients should be on a Board helping the CDC make decisions regarding opioids.

      A Psychologist making opioid decisions FOR ALL PATIENTS is like a Veterinarian making all decisions for GYN patients! IT MAKES NO SENSE… Yet this is what the CDC is doing.

      Everyone of importance at the CDC will know my first and last name within a few months, that much I can promise you. Plus with my widespread medical experience and most than satisfactory first hand experience; I’m confident I can fix at least some things that they ALREADY BROKE!

      But others have to get involved too by writing letters. When I get the correct address, I’ll post it here. It’s best not to write letters longer than one page (or they just throw them out), I learned that the hard way. So use a smaller font.

      Thanks again Kirk for keeping on top of this, together we’ll be saviors for MANY very sick people who NEED OPIOIDS to have any Quality Of Life!

  • to James McKay

    James, what really kills me is this. Who cares if I have becomeaddicted to opiates. ( let’s smooth the reality over like the DEA does and call it dependent ).It does not matter either way. I have to take them the rest of my life in order to function, as you do. Even the Dr’s are nuts. I asked my Endocrinologist for new box of insulin needles and you want to know what I got ? I got 100 5cc IM , deep root needle, sterile syringes. Hell, the addicts would have loved this. I don’t abuse, sio this is just a waste and goes to show the Dr’s can be the worst problem, and the endocrinologist should be the Dr who prescribes Opiates for nephropathy, Retinopathies, etc. They used to in NJ, and the worst, and I mean worse than Methadone withdrawal is Ultram. I was given hundreds a month and because it was a new med on the market, I was just a Guinea Pig. Oh they worked, but They also affected my serotonin and made me nuts. Point here is that the DEA should be LISTENING to all of us. EACH one of us has a horror story for those who have real pain. A true junkie would NEVER know all of this terminology,,diseases,etc with exception of the chemical names ( generic) of illicit drugs.
    Iti is just a quagmire of complete bullshit. The dealers are getting rich and those delaers are those that run the DEA. Could u imagine an agent discovering a cache of kilos of heroin,etc with millions in cash in small bills.WHo are we kidding here. We have met the enemy and the enemy is the DEA and allof it’s subs.I cannot imagine what you had to go thru when u found out that the limits in ur meds were going to be lowered and u were going to be forced into withdrawal. I have been thru methadone withdrawal once and never again, It did work and work well but the PM was irresponsible and did not know what she was doing. It just kills me that I can spot a junkie 10 miles away or by emAIL, SO WHY CANNOT THE PHARMS AND DEA,ETC DO THIS. mAKE THE ABUSERS HAVE THE BURDEN OF PROOF

    • I couldn’t have said it better.
      However, from all the better informed people than myself that I’ve sought out over the last year all said “PA is the WORST, NY & NJ are the 2nd worst to get opioids for TRUE HELP.” This is why I travel as far as I do to my pain doctor who GAVE UP on all his patients! None of us can leave. He’ll never write referrals for us now. He’s been brainwashed by the DEA (and has been literally been made mentally unstable!)! Plus NO PAIN DOCTORS in NYC will take new patients (I can’t go outside of NYC under any circumstances). So we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place…

      Big Pharma are in bed with the DEA (that’s a fact that no one will ever prove unless someone from the inside of one of those two goes to the press; which with all the big bucks involved will never happen). Hands get greased, pockets get filled, and we are left holding the shit bag.

      I can spot a junkie a mile away as well, and I REPORTED (5) of them to my pain doctor (over the last year or so) who were going on & on in his waiting room how their “oxycodone 10mg pills don’t work like they used to, so I take an extra one or two a day which makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER (they are NOT talking about pain either!)”. The HIGH stops after a few days to a week (depending on the person), so they want that HIGH again so they take more pills (without ever telling the doctor)! THAT’S MENTAL ADDICTION THAT THE DEA SHOULD BE CONCERNED WITH!

      But instead of doing some RESEARCH with pain management patients (that I volunteered for more than once) and pain doctors to get THE FACTS, it’s so much easier for them to blanket US ALL AS ADDICTS! Which is where we are now is so many states.

      I can’t type anymore today & I have to go tp pain management tomorrow. So it will be a week before I’m well enough to log-in here again. It’s disgusting that we should have to go through this.

      We all went through this already when the severe-excruciating pain first started, WE ARE ALREADY VERY MUCH VETTED. If they made the DEA ID card, we’d never be bothered again… I’m sorry for everyone having to deal with this crap who NEED opioids to live and have some quality of life. Know that I’ll never give up on stopping this harassment for us all until I’m DEAD, or this is fixed.

  • In response to
    James McCay

    James, God Bless You. I could write a novel as you and I feel that these times in our lives is the worst it has ever been. I tried to get help by goingto the hospital a couple months back, and they told me that they cannot give me anything for severe acute pain. I actually went hospital hopping and found a very small hopital in my area and this kind elderly Dr finally gave me an IV analgesic to take the edge off. What amazes me also is the way the Rescue workers treat me. I am just a number and if I need to go to a hospital with my WHOLE history of the last 10 years, they DO NOT CARE. This whole fiansco has affected every aspect of my chronically painful life. You spoke of the Dark Web. I am a Robotics Engineer who had to stop working in year 2000, 46 years young and it was such a loss to me. I pioneered in industrial robots in this country. So What !! Point is that I have FULL access to the Deep Dot, VPN, Tor, Encryption and all, but I just do not want to go to jail because some wealthy politician thinks he knows better than the way I feel. There is a site named “DEA SUCKS” and it can be pretty informative albeit biased as I am against the actions of the whole actions of the DEA, et.Al. I just saw a site in Palm Beach Florida that is taking in people to try and help those with very severe depression because of all of this crap and they are using KETAMINE infusions. ( Actify Neurotherapies/Ketamine Treatments) Everything is messed up. Your story basically reflects my own as far as compliance, records kept honest and organized and I don’t think it helps. I was out to dinner Sat night (barely ) and guess who I sit next ? It was a reuinion for my wife’s HS. The woman I met is a DEA Agent, and basically what I hear is that she just does not care about anybodiy’s pain and her husband has so many problems himself. What an experience as I was asking her every question I could and basically her answer is I am Fucked until something changes, but you think she would be an activist for the pain and suffering. She has her three homes. ( The next day I was in so much pain. I try to be with my wife, but as you stated, our lives r so limited. Like you, my metabolism is so messed up that any opiate introduced last a very long time, so it is very difficult to have a DR manage it. Only I can management and as you ,we r both not opiate naive. Also, I actually found a “online Pharm Site” her in Fl and they were calling themseselves “Solutions Pharmacy” and there were pics of bottles of all type of opiate, ketamine, etc. Obviously this “Dr. Peter” is a dealer and they want my address and CC number or Western Union payment. NUTS. We r both in pain and to make matters worse is the total stupidity of the ppl who are running? this country. I keep fighting on. I write a letter everyday to each senator and congressman/woman as I go down hte line. It may take me a year but I have to dump the frustration somewhere. The idea of a ard for sufferers is a god idea, but i feel it would just be another way for this USA will steal away another bit of our1st and 4th amendment rights. I hope you have a good day and each and every day and thanks for responding

    • Kirk, your feelings mirror mine.
      Two years ago I started getting a very bad feeling (I have exceptional instincts) when the “War On Opioids” became the big “new thing”. I thought they’d immediately target the Dark Web and any access to what’s caused 90%+ of overdose deaths: Fentanyl & Oxycontin. BUT THE DEA DID NOT DO THAT!

      I had went so far as emailing back and forth with a China doctor in late-2017 who was willing to sell me 2-grams of Fentanyl for $250.00 by Western Union (I have a mcg scale, so I could correctly measure doses). I know with near certainty that I would have received that Fentanyl. But Western Union denied the transfer (which had NOTHING to do with the DEA). It was the 1st time I’ve ever used any credit card for Western Union which red-flagged it (and it was in China). Now- if I would have went to the other money transfer site this doctor recommended; I would have a LIFETIME supply of Fentanyl for emergencies only. But I backed out because my conscience wouldn’t let me go any farther.

      Then my pain doctor went literally crazy 6-months AFTER that and now I’m stuck with begging him not to lower my Methadone anymore or it will cause 21-day deadly withdrawal (which he couldn’t care less about anymore). Like you said, even if I went to any ER in full withdrawal (seizure like vomiting with four massively herniated discs in my neck; C3-C7) I’d AUTOMATICALLY be ass-u-me’d to be a drug addict and they’d never even bother looking at any of my medical records (this is how bad all of NYC has become)!
      NYC’s useless Mayor Di BOZO & NY’s Governor Cu-OHNO BROKE our medical field (started with budget cuts by Obama to pay for the FAILED Obamacare, which if anyone cares to remember had a BROKEN WEBSITE FOR MONTHS from the day they launched; if that didn’t red-flag it for everyone SHAME ON YOU ALL!) totally several years ago. So trickle down effect caused nearly all doctors and nurses to not case one bit, which pout all Chronic Intractable Pain patints in a NO WIN situation. And by “win” I simple mean to keep our pain low enough so that we don’t want to KILL OURSELVES EVERYDAY and have at least a little bit of quality of life (for me that means HELPING OTHER PEOPLE FOR FREE). I can never leave my house for ANYTHING, other than being FORCED by the DEA to go to Pain Management (a 45-minute ride from my house each way if Access-A-Ride [our BROKEN MTA elderly/disabled transport] doesn’t pick-up other patients; WHICH THEY DO, so my average one way trip is 100-minutes)!

      Our ER’s stopped seeing pain patients AT ALL 5-years ago for “20 out of 10” excruciating pain (with involuntary tears streaming down my face)! They won’t give anything but Tylenol not matter what the issues, nor will they ever admit any patients in excruciating non-stop pain either. There have been so many unreplaced hospital closures in NYC in the last decade- that it’s insane. When Beth Israel wanted to do an 80-bed expansion Di BOZO shut it down saying “It’s not needed.”. He’s the BIGGEST CROOK Mayor NYC ever had (see NYC Facebook pages and READ), yet he keeps getting reelected ??? (FRAUD- HAS TO BE!).
      The DEA made them believe that ALL patients on opioids are DRUG ADDICTS!
      I worked as a medical professional (when most employees cared) and I learned almost everyone else’s job on top of mine because I WANT TO LEARN EVERYTHING as that’s what I want.

      Yet nothing I know has helped me one bit in this insane opioid climate the DEA caused. I believe what Kirk said, that the DEA Employee stated 100%. Yet is she a pain management specialist in any form? Of course not, which is why these people have NO RIGHT saying the things they do & then they threaten all NYC doctors to lower opioids on all patients??? WTH?

      Because I have a rare disease called Hyperthymusism (a greatly enlarged Thymus Gland that builds your immune system until puberty, then in most people it’s absorbed by your body) well mine just kept getting bigger & bigger my whole life. It’s been blocking OTC (over the counter) meds on me since I was in early Elementary School. Yet no doctor ever caught it as anything until 2006 (at age 39) when they caught my General Myasthenia Gravis as well (I had so many of that disease symptoms as well all my life) but doctors forget symptoms of rare diseases! This is just the nature of “medical care” in the United States.
      This will likely eventually FORCE ME to start using injectable cocaine (which I know how to make and safely inject directly into the worse pain areas- I’m a Certified Phlebotomist too) which was used by all doctors in the early 1900’s until ADDICTS started abusing it. But that’s EXPENSIVE, so when the emergency money runs out I have a potassium chloride injection ready for the WORST CASE SCENARIO (death by choice- Thank you Dr. Kevorkian). Because my pain gets so excruciating non-stop everywhere that I’d prefer death to no opioids at all (or a dose so low that is has no affect).

      AND THE DEA THINKS WE DON’T NEED OPIOIDS? Anyone who feels this way needs to let us (Chronic Intractable Pain patients) beat DEA Employees with baseball bats for 30-minutes, then when they are hospitalized; NOT ALLOW them to have ANY opioids at all (no matter how much they beg) as most of us have had to do at one time or another; which the DEA calls “opioid addict behavior” which they teach to ER doctors especially.

      This is the ONLY WAY to get them to understand the FACTS regarding opioid NEED vs addiction!

  • A few years back after I had a CABG and serious staph infection with amputation, an internist gave me Oxycontin for pain. It was SOOOO strong that it made me uncomfortable and I stopped taking it after one dose. I have never taken it again and that has been at least 20 years. I have bee taking MSIR with better results for about 10 years and the DEA is now limiting that drug.So where does anyone go ??

    • Sorry Kirk… you, like I have been caught in the DEA’s STUPID “War On Opioids”. I personally (through experience) think Oxycontin & Fentanyl should been BANNED or very highly controlled (like with a DEA ID card I proposed) and should NEVER be prescribed by anyone but a Pain Management doctor as well.
      They are responsibly for over 90% of Opioid overdoses. Yet what I’m on (Methadone HCL), and the Morphine you are on is not a current “CRISIS”; yet the DEA made all doctors so paranoid, or the DEA itself put restrictions on meds that are NOT part of the “Opioid Crisis” they leave us with ONLY VAD DECISIONS OR WE COULD JUST DIE (which I’m beginning to think that’s what the DEA wants!)???

      So where do people like us go (as Kirk asked)? The DEA is putting us in a position where many of us may be FORCED to do exactly what they are supposed to be fighting, BUT IN TRUTH ARE NOT! I can still buy opioids CHEAP from China online (as can anyone else can with a VPN)!!! This puts people like us who need these meds (to have any quality of life) to start thinking about doing the MOST ILLEGAL things that the DEA cannot stop obviously, or they’ll simply wind up KILLING US! I for one don’t want to die.

      I spend all my time where my pain & fatigue is not so horrific: fighting fraud in the Sports Card hobby & fighting autograph forgery sellers all for free (mostly on eBay where there’s more fraud than ever)! So I have a worthwhile reason to continue living, yet the DEA couldn’t care less and WON’T just let me get the same exact medication I’ve been on for 17-years now, and 8-years at the dose I was on (which is a high dose, but NO ONE would ever know I was on any opioid; because I have a Thymus Gland hyperactivity related to my Advanced Myasthenia Gravis that blocks all medications from, working right OR AT ALL). Then over the last year my pain management doctor became so mentally unstable and paranoid by the DEA that he just automatically LOWERED ALL of his patient’s opioids by 10-20% without exception in Jan. 2019. I went into partial withdrawal THREE TIMES the first month he did this to me (Methadone has by far the worst & longest lasting [21-day] withdrawal of any opioids!) plus the weaning process for Methadone is DIFFERENT from the way my pain doctor did it!
      This was a pain doctor who all of his patients absolutely loved & swore by; until the last year when he started acting so paranoid (only in his own head) talking to all his patients about the threatening DEA letters he’s been getting (that all doctors got).
      I’m a LEADER, not a SHEEP so I refuse to agree with any doctor who is DOING WRONG just to save his own butt (in his sick mind!).
      We all need to file complaints with our state’s Physician Licensing Board if it’s doctor paranoia causing our meds to be lowered, or our new US Attorney General (just sworn in WILLIAM BARR) complaining about the DEA making changes to your meds which is decreasing your quality of life.

      But you must know keywords like: CHRONIC INTRACTABLE PAIN (which is anyone who has long-term, or lifelong severe-excruciating widespread pain) that cannot be fixed by any current medical procedures available, or if they are not allowed to be done on you (like in my case with Advanced Myasthenia Gravis) where General Anesthesia will KILL ME (it will stop my breathing)! Or any type of Physical Therapy which will kill more muscle cells, when none of my muscle cells will ever regenerate and all my muscles are already badly atrophied (shrunk down to half or less the normal size).

      The DEA just makes important life-threatening decisions by asking family doctors questions about medications they are not, nor should they be very familiar with. The DEA NEEDS TO BE QUESTIONING HIGHLY LICENSED PAIN MANAGEMENT DOCTORS WHO ARE VERY FAMILIAR WITH TREATING CHRONIC INTRACTABLE PAIN PATIENTS!

      If anyone reading this knows someone to forward it to which can help people like myself, PLEASE DO SO! Because I am so weak every day that after responding to a question like this for everyone’s benefit; my muscles aren’t strong enough for 24-hours or more to do ANYTHING ELSE! Thank you!

    • Mavis, you couldn’t be more correct. I didn’t want to get too far into the politics of this clusterf*ck too much, as it’s overwhelming enough as it is for non-medical professional Chronic Intractable Pain patients. But thank you very much for adding the factual truth where much of these problems originate. A+++++

  • Oxycontin & Fentanyl: the two opioids causing more drug addict overdoses than all others combined need to have every prescription reviewed by the DEA in the United States. Right? Then why did my pain doctor of 7-years just LOWER ALL his patient’s opioids by 10-20% with a BOLD LIE?

    How can that be done? Glad you asked. As a 18-year Chronic Intractable Pain patient (Advanced Myasthenia Gravis with Hyperthymusism, Degenerative Disc Disease and Fibromyalgia) I posed a solution to the DEA over 5-years ago to the opioid crisis that has been a crisis for well over ten years, yet the government only got involved when Senator & Congress kids overdosed from Heroin cut with TOO MUCH Fentanyl!
    My idea: make a passport card like scannable DEA ID card for Chronic Intractable Pain patients who will only get worse and everything is inoperable (like myself). Then every time I see any doctor, fill a DEA Narcotic List med at any pharmacy in any state; they scan my card which has ALL my medical history, diagnoses, drug filled by most recent first, and and drug related criminal convictions. Then the DEA has the final word as to whether to fill any narcotic prescription. THIS WOULD FIX THE ENTIRE “War On Opioids”.
    When I submitted this idea to the DEA, they responded saying “That’s a WONDERFUL IDEA! But we need to bring up up in our next meeting with the bosses. If you don’t hear from us again, that means the rejected your idea.”. I NEVER HEARD FROM ANYONE AGAIN.

    So PLEASE, tell me why this isn’t the solution to the “Opioid Crisis”? Because as terribly sick as I am, patients like myself seems to be the ONLY GROUP systematically being harrassed by the DEA, and/or pain doctors being made so paranoid that they just lower ALL their Chronic Intractable Pain patient’s opioids by 10-20%- like my doctor just did in Jan. 2019 WITH A LIE! THAT I EXPOSED…

    I NEED opioids to LIVE! I’ve been on only one main medication (high dose Methadone HCl) at the same dose for 8-years (and higher, which I made the doctor lower because it did not help the pain any more!).
    PATIENTS LIKE MYSELF NEED TO BE LEFT ALONE AS WE ARE DEALING WITH FAR TOO MUCH ALREADY! Yet this all started AGAINST US because of weak, lazy degenerate drug addicts. THANKS!!!

    • James, They are targeting pain patients and their doctors, because these pharam companies directed the blame at them. They cracked down on Oxycontin years ago, and the death rate rose. The media is still misinforming the public, and they created a market for more illegal heroin and fentanyl. The facts, data and statisics tell us that targeting pain patients has not worked, yet they are continuing.
      Perdue started this campaign in 1996, and we are just barely hearing about these facts now. The mass media won’t be covering it, since it would be bad for their pharma advertisers. We are all being Gas Lighted, as the so callled opiate epidemic is used for marketing and misinformation.

  • Oxycontin & Fentanyl: the two opioids causing more drug addict overdoses than all others combined need to have every prescription reviewed by the DEA in the United States.
    How can that be done? Glad you asked. As a 18-year Chronic Intractable Pain patient (Advanced Myasthenia Gravis with Hyperthymusism, Degenerative Disc Disease and Fibromyalgia) I posed this solution to the DEA over 5-years ago. Make a passport card like scannable DEA ID card for Chronic Intractable Pain patients who will only get worse and everything is inoperable (like myself). Then every time I see any doctor, fill a DEA Narcotic List med at any pharmacy in any state; they scan my card which has ALL my medical history, diagnoses, drug filled by most recent first, and and drug related criminal convictions. Then the DEA has the final word as to whether to fill any narcotic prescription. THIS WOULD FIX THE ENTIRE “War On Opioids”.
    When I submitted this idea to the DEA, they responded saying “That’s a WONDERFUL IDEA! But we need to bring up up in our next meeting with the bosses. If you don’t hear from us again, that means the rejected your idea.”. I NEVER HEARD FROM ANYONE AGAIN.
    So PLEASE, tell me why this isn’t the solution to the “Opioid Crisis”? Because as terribly sick as I am, patients like myself seems to be the ONLY GROUP systematically being harrassed by the DEA, or pain doctors being made so paranoid that they just lower ALL their Chronic Intractable Pain patient’s opioids by 10-20%- like my doctor just did in Jan. 2019 WITH A LIE! THAT I EXPOSED…
    I NEED opioids to LIVE! I’ve been on only one main medication (high dose Methadone HCl) at the same dose for 8-years (and higher, which I made the doctor lower because it did not help the pain any more!).
    PATIENTS LIKE MYSELF NEED TO BE LEFT ALONE AS WE ARE DEALING WITH FAR TOO MUCH ALREADY! Yet this all started AGAINST US because of weak, lazy degenerate drug addicts. THANKS!!!

  • So why does Madeleine Sackler get away with producing a MOVIE for HBO USING REAL PRISONERS FROM AN INDIANA JAIL??? And one of them DIED near the end of filming from…ya…an Oxy overdose? SERIOUSLY?????? Why on God’s Green Earth is Richard Wright starring in this POS?

    • By publishing sealed documents, aren’t you undermining the integrity of the court system?

      How did you obtain them? Legally? If the name of the person who gave you those documents were to become known, would he or she be indicted? That’s a good test of the ethics of what you’re doing.

      I imagine if you respond, you’ll be cloaking yourself in freedom of the press. That’s not the way to think about what you’ve done. Yes, you are protected by freedom of the press, but you need to use judgment to balance your freedom to publish against the importance of the integrity of the courts.

      Imagine this: If you asked to agree to be deposed over something at STAT (say accusations of sexual harassment) and you agree to be deposed because you are promised that your deposition will be kept under seal and then the deposition is leaked, where would that leave you? Would you feel a betrayal of trust? Would you be proud of your colleagues in the press who published the sealed deposition?

      While subverting basic institutions of government may make you feel righteous and make you feel that you’re Woodward or Bernstein, you’re in fact helping to tear down the institutions that keep us from being constantly engaged in personal acts of vengeance.

      It took thousands of our years forebears to work out the elements of a justice system that keeps society civil. Why undermine it?

Sign up for our Daily Recap newsletter

A roundup of STAT’s top stories of the day in science and medicine

Privacy Policy