By Nicolle Schorchit
It is not funny when your best friend is dying in front of you because of an overdose. It’s not okay when the 911 dispatcher is explaining how to perform CPR on your son as his face turns blue.
This was the experience of a friend and a mother in our very own town of Rockville last year. Alex Benzel, a St. John’s College High School and West Virginia University graduate, lay motionless on the bathroom floor in his basement. Through tears, Alex’s mother, Renee Benzel and his best friend started to perform CPR on Alex as he was dying from an overdose of heroin.
According to Lauren DeMarco from Fox5DC news, “There were 578 heroin-related deaths in Maryland last year.”
Just Google “Heroin in Montgomery County” and you would be shocked to find there has been an extreme increase of heroin and prescription overdoses in our very own county. Many people using heroin started with something prescribed by doctors—opioids such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, which are used to relieve pain but can also be highly addictive.
A Germantown health class with Professor Alice Dessauer, Health 131: Drugs and Society, have decided to become proactive on this matter and have written a letter to the CEO of a large pharmaceutical company, Perdu Pharmaceuticals, that produces and promotes OxyContin. The students wrote this letter and their signatures were included in the letter sent to the president of the company.
The Globe believes the students have something very important to say and everyone at MC Germantown should listen. The students’ names will be kept anonymous.
Mr. Mark Timney April 18, 2016
CEO Perdu Pharmaceuticals
1 Stamford Forum
Stamford, CT 06901
Dear Mr. Timney,
Ever since the launch of your very potent drug OxyContin, in 1996, things have spiraled out of control very quickly. Many people in the medical field were ignorant of the real dangers associated with this drug. Some researchers even say that your company established ties with doctors and medical staff convincing them that your drug could be used for everything from mild back pain to post- operative surgery. Much research and investigating has been done and many claim that Perdu Pharma seems to have prepared the market illegally for the launch of this new wonder product. By this, we mean that you expanded your sales department to more than double in 2001, and you spent more than $200 million on marketing alone for this product, which is a huge investment for a company of your size. Why?
Following the economic crisis of 2008, the people of our nation have suffered from the hands of “Big Pharma,” from your aggressively marketed potent pain killer OxyContin. We are writing this letter to you imploring you to take responsibility for the massive drug addiction that you have promoted in our country. The majority of heroin addicts today started out on pharmaceutical narcotics. We have designed a plan of action, an educational campaign, which we feel that you should sponsor, design and fund in the United States to educate people on the dangers and real purposes of your drug. It is the least that you can do considering the misrepresentation and negligence in profit mongering that you have done with this product.
Spread Educational Awareness: Much more emphasis and detail needs to be focused on the dangers of addiction and misuse of OxyContin and properly communicated to physicians and health care workers. Notifying the AMA, American Medical Association, of your interest in stricter guidelines for writing prescriptions should be the initial step of this campaign. Next should be holding conferences for health care workers whereby individuals are made to look at the real statistical evidence of what this drug has done to people.
Inform the General Public: How was this drug discovered, and by whom, and why?
What is this drug designed for and specifically what should it be used for? Commercials and documentaries, articles in popular magazines and newspapers, are the best ways to get the word out. Much has already been done on this level by state and local governments, paid for with tax money collected from the very people whom you target for profit. This is wrong. It is time that you take responsibility for the abuse and addiction that you have created and supported for so long.
Our Youth Are in Danger: The majority of persons suffering from the current heroin epidemic in this nation started out using your prescription narcotics. You need to provide avenues for those seeking help due to dependence upon OxyContin. Educational programs need to be offered in middle and high schools to spread awareness of the dangers. It should be part of the job description for your drug sales representatives to spend a certain number of hours per week in these venues safeguarding our youth. Most abuse, dependency, and addiction begin between the ages of 18 and 25. We must target this group, and support and guide them.
Databases: Databases that have been successfully employed in some states like Florida to monitor legal dispensing of OxyContin need to be improved and utilized throughout the nation. Your action as a leader in this safeguard needs to be transparent. Financial incentives, strict educational guidelines for pharmacists, and pamphlets for the consumer should be both your idea and your offering to each and every drug store.
OxyContin is gateway drug that leads to illicit drug use and addiction. Narcotic addiction is an epidemic in the United States today. Every nineteen minutes someone dies of a drug overdose in America, more than the death statistic for car accidents. You have made billions of dollars of profit from this drug. We believe that it is time that you use this money to assist tax payers in covering the cost for funerals, drug rehab, hospitalization, education, and treatment for this drug.
MA Health Education, CHES, Certified Health Education Specialist
Adjunct faculty Germantown Campus