“The answers we found are deeply disturbing.”
| The infamous OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma used front groups and sponsored research to deceive the World Health Organization and corrupt global public health policies with the goal of boosting international opioid sales and profits, according to a Congressional report released this week.
The investigation identified two WHO guidance documents that appear to parrot some of Purdue’s misleading and outright false marketing claims about the safety and efficacy of their highly addictive opioids.
130 U.S. deaths per day
The findings, released by Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), land as the country is still grappling with an epidemic of opioid abuse and overdoses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses kill an average of 130 Americans every day.
Clark and Rogers say that the motivation for the investigation follows a 2017 warning letter Congress members sent to the WHO.
Given the opioid epidemic unfolding in the US, the lawmakers warned the WHO that opioid makers would try to expand into international markets, which could potentially trigger a global epidemic.
But the Congress members say they didn’t get a response (though the WHO disputes this).
“A significant and devastating public health epidemic … “
“When the WHO failed to respond to the letter, we began to question why they would remain silent about such a significant and devastating public health epidemic,” the report reads. “The answers we found are deeply disturbing.”
Based on public records, the report outlines a tangle of organizations and individuals that connect financial threads from Purdue to WHO.
Rep. Clark said in a statement:
“The web of influence we uncovered paints a picture of a public health organization that has been manipulated by the opioid industry. The WHO appears to be lending the opioid industry its voice and credibility, and as a result, a trusted public health organization is trafficking dangerous misinformation that could lead to a global opioid epidemic.”
Among the alleged results, the report found that a 2011 guidance from WHO cited a discredited statistic often used by Purdue. The guidance is titled “Ensuring Balance in National Policies on Controlled Substances, Guidance for Availability and Accessibility of Controlled Medicines.”
In it, the WHO repeats the claim that less than 1 percent of patients treated with opioids develops dependence.
The Congressional report alleges that the statistic was disputed at the time and has since been discredited, with some studies finding use disorders [formally called addiction, a term now widely considered politically incorrect. – Ed.] occurring in 8 to 12 percent of patients.
“It is difficult to imagine that the WHO could have been unaware that their claim was widely disputed,” the report reads.
“Moreover, it seems impossible that the agency remains unaware of the true risk of substance-use disorder today … ”
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