Drug Companies Have Responsibility, Too

Editor, News-Register:

Opioid addiction is a true crisis, especially here in West Virginia, and your paper should be commended for highlighting the issue. As a nurse, however, I believe your focus was largely misplaced.

It’s true that we need help from all corners to prevent addiction to these dangerous substances. Doctors are examining their prescribing behaviors. And as far as insurers go, as a nurse I’ve seen doctors work with payers to get coverage for safe regimens for patients, as well as to treat the root cause of pain instead of just “managing” it forever with pills. Nothing is perfect, but there’s been significant progress.

Where I’m not seeing an equal commitment is from pharmaceutical companies. Their only answer is to substitute one somewhat-less-risky opioid for a more addictive choice. And by the way, the less risky one is always more expensive. The profit motive is driving them, not public safety.

Many of patients are uninsured or have a high deductible health plan that shifts the pharmaceutical costs to them. Price is a huge factor. If someone is in pain, it’s unethical for a doctor to leave them to suffer. Sadly, a seven-day supply of an opioid after an injury may be the only option the patient can afford in today’s market.

Pharmaceutical companies need to bear their share of responsibility. If they want more patients to have access to less risky opioids — or better yet, effective, non-opioid pain medications — they must bring down the prices. That way, patients can afford truly safe pain treatment, regardless of their particular insurance status or ability to pay, and we can beat this epidemic.

I hope the state attorneys general will next send a letter to members of the pharmaceutical industry encouraging their good faith cooperation on the opioid crisis. The rest of us are already on board.

I have been a practicing registered nurse in Wheeling for the past 21 years and have seen how the climate of pain control and the prescribing of pain medications has changed and adversely affected many patients.

Tracy Roth, RN