Last year, a well dressed representative came into our Internal Medicine practice, handing out glossy brochures about “Here to Help,” a system to help those suffering from mental illness and substance use. No drug was being promoted. It sounded “too good to be true.” It seemed fishy. I grabbed one of the brochures and checked out the site. Again, no drug was mentioned. The site was well done. Again: “Too good to be true.”
I Googled further and came up with links to Suboxone (Buprenorphine)and with a bit of investigating, it became clear “Here to Help” should actually be renamed “Here to Send You to a Doctor Who Will Give You Suboxone.” If the goals were worthy, why the subterfuge? At the same time, a publication for the American College of Physicians (ACP) was promoting Buprenorphine heavily. In fact, the supposedly unbiased publication printed a series of articles which read like promotional ads for Buprenorphine.
I actually sent them an email to complain. It is one of several promoting the therapy for primary care offices. If you can easily order Metformin, you should feel just as easy ordering Buprenorphine! Why not?
- A federal grand jury sitting in Abingdon, Virginia, has indicted Indivior Inc. (formerly known as Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals Inc.) and Indivior PLC (Indivior) for engaging in an illicit nationwide scheme to increase prescriptions of Suboxone Film, an opioid drug used in the treatment of opioid addiction, the Department of Justice announced.
- According to the indictment, Indivior obtained billions of dollars in revenue from Suboxone Film prescriptions by deceiving health care providers and health care benefit programs into believing that Suboxone Film was safer, less divertible, and less abusable than other opioid-addiction treatment drugs. Indivior also is alleged to have sought to boost profits by using a “Here to Help” program to connect opioid-addicted patients to doctors the company knew were prescribing opioids at high rates and in a clinically unwarranted manner.
There are perpetual forces trying to manipulate doctors. Often the argument includes: “You have a moral obligation to …(insert dubious therapy).”
The rush to push all pain patients onto Buprenorphine may ultimately prove to become the standard of care. But, what I see looks very wrong. The amount of money involved makes me very suspicious. The sudden momentum is disturbing. I am seeing pain patients, not previously on narcotics, who are suddenly being started on Buprenorphine by pain clinics. This seems really bad. Such patients often come in complaining of fatigue, memory loss and depression. Then I see a drug list which includes Buprenorphine. Meanwhile, professional organizations, claiming to support doctors and our patients, too often just seem to go with the latest wave.