Opioids Part 1: Profits of Pain


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In part 1 of our series on the opioid crisis in Appalachia, we talk about the drug manufacturers’ role and the deceptive marketing tactics used to flood the region with pills.

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Opioids: Purdue Pharma and Oxycontin

Chuck: We’ve been talking about this for a while, the wanting to do it pretty much since we started and we want to do it right. And so I think we’re doing it right. We’ll see, we’ll let you be the judge. This is a serious topic we want to purchase seriously, but not like extremely seriously because it is us.

But we’ll treat it with seriousness and gravitas. It deserves while having our own characteristic charm woven in. Especially when we’re, when it comes to talking about drug makers, we’re going to absolutely do that. I’ll give you a little bit of background on what we plan on doing.

Oxycontin 10mg pill
A 10mg tablet of Oxycontin (source: Wikimedia commons)

This is gonna be upsetting. One. We’re going to be talking about. A little bit about the drug manufacturers specifically one in general that really has perpetuated this crisis. We think it’s important background. We are also going to be having an episode with Eric air, who is a Pulitzer prize, a winning journalist who has been covering the opioid crisis in West Virginia.

Won a Pulitzer for his work on that, and especially about holding drug distributors accountable, and his entanglement with the attorney general West Virginia is a really great reporter, really good stuff. We’re going to be talking to someone who is recovering from substance abuse disorder and formerly incarcerated, who has now gone on to be a member of the Allegheny County council and Pennsylvania, really excited about her interview.

And we’re going to be talking to doctors and members of the faith community that are working in harm reduction to help people out that have suffered from substance abuse. Use disorder. And so we’re really excited about that. It’s gonna be really great. I it’s a longer series, but we think that it is really worth it.

And it’s worth hearing from all these people. So we hope you enjoy it today though. Let’s talk about it, John. This looks, opioids have been in the public vernacular. I’m going to use my big fancy word. Stay for a little while now. Pretty much since 2016, I’d say, but I feel like a lot of people don’t know much about them.

I want to do start by just telling people, and this is going to be, it is going to be common knowledge for a lot of you, but telling people just really generally what opioids are and cite a couple of statistics that are really important to set the context of this, especially in Appalachia, I was even, I was blown away by some of these numbers.

So first of all, opioids, are a class of drugs used to reduce pain. Pretty simple, not going to get into the chemical compound of it. I’m not a doctor, but you get to pick generally, and this is the CDC I think, came from this and they break them down into three categories. One is prescription ones, which are oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone sold commercially as things like Oxycontin Vicodin, Lortab, that type of thing.

There is fentanyl, which you probably heard about a lot. It’s a thin synthetic opioid approved for treating severe pain. And it is a lot more powerful, I believe than your traditional prescription opioids. And it’s often laced and heroin. Which is the third type of opioid. It’s illegal, it’s an illegal drug, legal opioid.

And so these are like the three categories they fall into. I wanted to just really quickly split as part to see, we’re talking about by the numbers and this is really where I think we get into just how staggering this is. And again, I, this blew me away when I started looking it up.

So nearly 500,000 people have died from opioid overdose since 1999 through 2019. So 10 year period, 500,000 people, two-thirds of the drug overdose deaths in 2018 alone in the United States were opioids. And this is probably the most important for this show in Appalachia and Appalachian counties.

There were 30, there were 84 prescriptions per 100 residents from 2006 to 2017. So for every 100 residents in Appalachia, 84 of them had an opioid prescription. And it gets worse. And to just give you some context, the rest of the country, it was 58 and every 100. So a lot I would’ve considered that high.

Yeah, absolutely. So here’s the thing. I just saw this as a random one, Mercer County, West Virginia, since Southern West Virginia, it was 102 prescriptions per 100 residents. Holy shit. So the average was more than one per person. That’s a wow. Isn’t that that to me is, red flags now the ass of all 100% it’s scary.

It really is. It’s scary how significant this crisis is. And just one more statistic before we get into it and Appalachia, the overdose death rate was 72% higher than the rest of the country in 2017, I believe. Yeah, absolutely did. Especially. Especially with these numbers, my God, 

Big John: Yeah, I when you’re thinking about it that way.

Cause and the thing I’m thinking about right now is if that’s the case, right? That means obviously people have multiple, opioid prescriptions, there, there are people cause obviously like I’m thinking in my head right now, w what would you, what did you say? The number in Appalachia was out of 184, 84.

So I’m thinking right now like personally, I don’t have any opioid prescriptions. But, so that would mean I’m just thinking you’re an outlier, right? That there are 15 other people, theoretically, that don’t, but 80, 84 other people that do. And I’m thinking that can’t be obviously the case, something in that there are people who have maybe two or three prescriptions, and then no wonder why they’re overdosing because.

They’re probably, there is accidental overdose. 

Chuck: That is one that’s. So the Mercer County statistic was 102 per a hundred. So that would imply that number was taking into consideration that people had 

Big John: multiple ones. Okay. Yeah. That’s what I mean. Yeah. So I’m saying like, there are people who have two or three prescriptions based off those numbers.

So I don’t think when you think about overdosing, a lot of times people think Oh, they, they overdosed because they shot too much heroin or whatever. But in actuality, there are a lot of accidental overdoses. People don’t talk about you said fentanyl patent Oswald. Who’s a really great actor.

You probably know some of his, of course he’s a great comedian too. His wife died of a fentanyl overdose. I didn’t realize that was 

Chuck: how she died. 

Big John: Yeah. Yeah. That’s that is, I don’t know if I believe they considered nervousness, but essentially she was taking Adderall and fentanyl is, that was like the prescription combo.


Chuck: that’s terrifying. Wow. 

Big John: Yeah. He, and he’s talked about it a little bit and he made, he made it clear, like it wasn’t like she was abusing the drug or anything like that. She just passed 

Chuck: away. That is that’s really, I didn’t realize that. That’s interesting though.

And that’s sad, very sad. 

Big John: And before we start, I want to clarify one thing. It wasn’t considered an overdose, which I thought maybe it wouldn’t be a with panel Oswald’s wife who was Michelle ma I can never pronounce her name. McNara Irma McNamara. Oh, God. That’s going to be terrible McNamara.

But anyway, she was a very famous reporter. She did a lot of good work. She was a really good author. 

Chuck: Yeah. The San Francisco Bay area. Yeah. That’s the golden state killer. She’s 

Big John: the one who did it.

Chuck: she’s the one who discovered who did it? Not the perpetrator. 

Big John: No, the perpetrator, as far as I know, unless I’m just kidding. So anyway she actually had a a heart condition that because she was given those prescription meds, Adderall and fentanyl, that’s 

Chuck: what killed her. It’s not a coincidence.

The Appalachia has a lot more prescriptions than other places we’re going to, we’ll get into a little bit with Eric and a little bit in this episode too, I should actually state at the outset that this is not a comprehensive overview. We’re touching on the main points here. This is a very complex crisis and there’s a lot of information.

There’s probably gonna be people that are gonna hear this and be like, why didn’t you talk about X, Y, Z. I’ll tell you why, because. We both we’ve we both have day jobs and there’s only so much that we can cover with this. And there’s just so much to it, and so much of it. But what we try to do is really come up with a big, high level things that are really important for you to know, especially for people that don’t have any knowledge of, or maybe have a little bit of knowledge of a big crisis.

But that being said, pharmaceutical companies, both manufacturers and distributors, in my opinion are the biggest culprits in this. Oh yeah. Without a doubt. And there was a reason why in your campaign in 2018 that you refused to take money from pharmaceutical companies. 

Big John: Yeah. Yeah. I That was. 

Chuck: Not that they’d give you any anyway.

Big John: Funny enough though, I would get mailers from them essentially, like wanting me to tell them what I thought about things and decide if they want to give him money. And instead, like I would just take them and make videos and say this is why I don’t, I don’t like doing this, but I literally, every time that we gave a campaign speech that was like at the top, it’s I’m not taking money.

And to some people that didn’t mean shit. But for other people, they were like, wait a second. I had a bunch of people who didn’t know that pharmaceutical companies gave money to campaigns. Yeah. They just, they didn’t think about it. Like the older people who were just like, wait a second, you mean the people who give me my heart medicine are also paying, politicians, 

Chuck: boy, You, you pull that brick out of the ground and there’s a lot of insects are crowding out.

Big John: And there’s a lot of politicians who do not want to admit that they take 

Chuck: that money. Oh, we will get into that because everyone there was a, everyone in Congress pretty much is to blame and clean Barack Obama who signed a bill, which we will get into. Yeah. I think even Bernie Sanders, Bernard Sanders.

Yep. Even Bernard, because there was a unanimous consent vote, which I won’t get into that. Now it’s here at the end. Yeah. Yeah. 

Big John: But it’s, there’s a lot of politicians that don’t like to talk about it. They don’t like to admit that they take this money and I can never believe the bullshit, we aren’t going to make our vote certain ways because of, the donations we get.

Because if you look like I admit all the time, like the people who were giving me money, like for my campaign, of course, I was going to vote their way. One. I agreed with what they said, that’s the thing you shouldn’t take money from anyone you did, 

Chuck: companies would not be spending millions of dollars on lobbying if it didn’t work.

Big John: Yeah, exactly. Like for me, if you look down like my campaign list, I didn’t take money from companies. I took it from, I had money given to me by teachers and, coal miner, but it was obvious that I was already gonna vote that way. Like they could have given me nothing and I would, I was going to vote that way.

But if anybody’s like money just doesn’t, it doesn’t affect 

Chuck: me. Yeah, it does. 


Big John: Bullshit. That’s not true. And if it doesn’t affect you shouldn’t take that money. Cause you don’t agree with them. If it doesn’t affect you, because if you do take that money, I should agree 

Chuck: with them.

Yeah. I agree with that. And and I’m glad that you didn’t take any money from pharma because they have, they honestly, they have a huge role in there. And the reason why there’ll be other, such Chrome in Appalachia, and they have a lot of blood on their hands and one family really has a lots of blood on their hands.

A whole lot to Purdue pharma is the biggest. And that’s the one going to focus on. They are the manufacturer, or we’re still are we’re though. Cause they’re in bankruptcy, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, which a lot of you will know. And it’s owned by this family called the Sackler family.

I’m not going to go into detail about the Sacklers. There’s plenty of other great resources for that. Including a book by Patrick Radden Keefe that just came out called empire pain. It, I just finished. It is a really good book and it, and there’s also an HBO documentary coming out. I don’t recall the name of it.

It might already be out But that goes into that family too. It’s really seedy. But basically one thing to know about them though, is there’s a reason why it’s called Purdue pharma, not Sackler pharma, because they intentionally kept their names out of the public spotlight. And instead use their money on philanthropy’s to build a public relations a brand around themselves as big philanthropists kind, kinda like the Rockefellers or the Roth Russ Childs or, there’s bigger philanthropic families rather than have their name attached to the pharmaceutical company, which we’ll find out it’s terrible.

It really is. But so a little bit of background on them. And the company, they initially introduced something called Ms. Cotton, and this is going to be a little technical, but it’s really important because it’s really sketchy. So they initially introduced something called Ms. Content in the U S market, by saying that it was morphine because they’re using morphine and in tablets, but they were doing, they were putting a coating on it to do a time release.

So it wouldn’t dissolve in your body so quickly. It’d be a time-release. It would let that a pain medication absorb over time to give you a longer lasting darling of the pain. And so they got people hooked on it because they were actually were able to avoid FDA scrutiny because they just said it was morphine.

Instead of saying it was this whole new thing. And like I said, it used morphine and put a time release coding on it, essentially. That’s what it was. So they were like many pharmaceuticals hitting a patent cliff. And what that means is that their patent on their pill is going to run out.

So it’s no longer going to be a secret and it’s going to be available for other people to use and make money off of you didn’t want to lose money on that. So what did they do? They decided to change things up a little bit and up the ante. They replace morphine in those pills with oxycodone, which was twice as strong and put the time releasing, coating on it again.

So they could market it as a completely different drug, avoid the patent cliff and make a ton more money because it was strong. Which is very fucked up. In my opinion. Yeah. That’s messed up. 

Big John: And this is it’s going to make me so upset about this series is this is not a one-off thing.

No, th this isn’t something that what Chuck’s telling you right now is not something that he had to dig up, it’s not that hard to find, and there’s a lot of things, there are a lot of people, a lot of companies that do this kind of stuff. Purdue is, obviously the face of what a lot of this is, but they’re not the only one.

It’s insane. 

Chuck: Yeah. Yeah, no, you’re right. It absolutely is. And it just goes to show you that Purdue pharma is a terrible company, but John, who’s not a terrible company. Is cornbread, hemp! Cornbread Hemp is a sponsor of this opioid series. They are a Kentucky-based CBD company offering full spectrum. That means as much THC as federal law allows, which is dope. That 

Big John: is good. And unlike Afro, man, you don’t have to pick out the seeds and stems because this time it is a hundred. Percent flower only extraction. 

Chuck: Yeah. John you’re absolutely right. No seeds or stems, none of that messy stuff. And which is unlike 99% of other CBD brands.

I didn’t know that. That’s really interesting. Other really cool thing about cornbread hemp is that they’re Kentucky’s first USDA certified organic CBD product. That’s really cool. Look organic is great. We don’t want any of that nasty human pesticides, fertilizers, synthetic chemicals in there.

It’s going to be all natural. That’s good for your body. Good for your soul. 

Big John: Look, it’s something I have not seen on a lot of these companies. Okay. You said it. It’s great. It’s great. But it may, Hey, somebody may not agree, right? 30 day satisfaction guarantee. If you don’t like it, you send it back.

They give you a full refund. That’s customer service. 

Chuck: That’s a deal right there. Absolutely. As you will probably recall, Jim Higdon has been on our show a couple of times, Jim is the co-founder of cornbread hemp, and we really liked Jim, and one thing that we like about PIM and cornbread hemp is just the values that they have as a company.

They’re a great company; They’re family-owned and crowdfunded, and they are not being financed by like Monsanto or big tobacco or anything like that. It’s all family-owned and crowdfunded, with no corporate CBD involved. So you can feel comfortable making a purchase with them that it’s going to the people that are producing it and being returned into the local economy where they are in Kentucky.

And so that’s a really great thing because we like to support local businesses 

Big John: and Jim and his company love app pod latch, a fan so much doll, man that they’re willing. I can’t believe I’m going to say this. They’re willing to give 25% off. Your first order, which to me is God, what are you missing out on?

If you don’t do this, you’re, you’ve lost it all. But anyway, to get this 25% off use ad pod latch at checkout I think it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be a good decision on your 

Chuck: part, if you do. I know it is. And I challenge you to find another podcast that will give you that good of a discount on anything.

You hear some 15%, 10%, 25, that’s a quarter off 25% discount. And it’s a great company. They make great stuff. Like I said, I’ve tried it before. I love it. That’s the Chuck seal of approval there for you. And and they’re a great company doing great things. So yeah, I use that code at checkout and support us support cornbread, hemp, support the show.

So Rebecca talking about Purdue and how terrible they are. A lot of this information I’m talking about comes from patent Patrick ratting case book is that. Doctors were actually surprised about this because they thought that morphine was stronger than oxycodone. So they were like, why are you making pills with Oxy when when morphine stronger?

And they’re like, no, the  it isn’t. And Purdue was correct on that. So they were T they were like teaching doctors about this, which was wild. 

Big John: I bet that happens a lot. It’s probably, them having to show them, but still the fact that that they put these pills into an, out in the atmosphere.

And, obviously doctors had access to it already because they’re, they’re probably prescribing it, but they were trying things that they didn’t know actually, what they were doing. So let’s think about this. If the common knowledge is that Oxy is not as strong as morphine, and you’re prescribing Oxy, you’re probably prescribing more than you would have for morphine. If you’re thinking that it’s 

Chuck: exactly, or your PR your. Over prescribing someone and not realizing which is yeah. Which is dangerous, so dangerous. So that’s one thing and we we’re getting into it actually with the discussion about doctors and pharmacies, is that one of the really, I think the most nefarious thing that Purdue did well, I won’t say the one of the most nefarious things they did and what they’re really known for is they’re very cutthroat, deceptive marketing tactics.

And this is just a really basic overview of this and it’s real shady. It’s been investigated a lot. They essentially pioneered the method of marketing drugs directly to doctors. So my understanding and based on the reporting from this before Purdue and before the Sackler family developed this concept, drug manufacturers.

Weren’t going directly to doctors very much in marketing it to them. But what Purdue did is they put together this huge Salesforce, like this huge team of sales reps deployed them and pursued aggressive marketing tactics to pressure doctors to prescribe the drug. And what’s really interesting about this is that there, I think this information either comes from, I believe it comes from drug distributors.

I could be wrong about that and maybe a mixture of drug distributors into DEA, but they get information about doctors prescribing habits, like which doctors are more prone to prescribe opioids and they target them like aggressively they’ll send sales reps. The sales reps that were still in West Virginia were making six figures, easy, like 300 grand, like a regional sales resume, like 150, 200 grand, something like that.

Or even more this was in like the nineties and two thousands. And. What they do is they’d also pay for the doctors to go to seminars and speaking engagements stuff and learn about Oxycontin. So they did this and so they’re really pushing, they’re aggressively wanting the market because they want to make more money.

One thing they did, which is common for some drugs is they did a 30-day trial coupon basically if you don’t pay for this 30-day trial, which is similar to a lot of other drugs, but you think about it ones that are highly addictive. So this is like extremely dent and they knew it was addictive.

Basically what they do is they do these 30-day trial coupons, get you hooked on it. And then you’re bought in. So one of the worst things that they did when they came to marketing, is that they lied about how long the pill lasted. So they marketed the drug Oxycontin as having the ability to provide 12 hours of pain relief.

Putting it at a competitive advantage over other painkillers. Cause the other painkillers did not last that long. It turns out, and this is in court filings and et cetera, it didn’t last 12 hours. It definitely didn’t. But they were able to corner the market on it by lying and saying that it did some more people would be prescribed Oxycontin as opposed to something else.

Yeah. So yoga are already getting a pretty good idea of what the priorities are here with Purdue and John, would you care to just point out the obvious

Big John: I say no, because I think there’s a couple of obvious points there, that money, but then it’s also just the fact that you can tell that Purdue, they didn’t have this plan to dominate one category like this. They want it to dominate the entire. Pharmaceutical industry want to 

Chuck: corner the market on pain 


Big John: It’s a funny story. Cause you, you just said there are things that there are agencies that target doctors based off of how much they prescribe things. The, there was a doctor here in Parkersburg that was arrested based off these things. He was my doctor. Really? Yeah. I had no idea that this has happened because we had stopped seeing him like, few months before that.

But we noticed that he wasn’t around or anything, but I always thought it was weird. And my brother makes us joke all the time. When you walked into his office, you could get a sample of anything you wanted. No joke. My mom hated, we didn’t have very good health insurance at the time.

And we may not even have had some at the time, but she didn’t like paying for, all of these things, which rightfully so she would, she needed allergy spray and back then allergy spray was super expensive. Like in the nineties it was so expensive. And so instead he would be like, Oh, I have a bunch of samples and hand them to her, which is great for them, which is great.

But then he would be like, but you should also try this 

Chuck: EDA. You have allergies. Have you tried Oxy? 

Big John: And it was like how I described, why people start hair? Like people want to argue that weed is like this gateway drug, but a lot of the time my argument is okay, Weed is not a gateway drug. The drug dealer is a gateway to heroin.

That’s what I always say is but I don’t want to go off subject, but anyway, that’s how he was acting was the same way. And I think that it’s one of those things that this is not it. It’s not surprising. And it’s worrisome too, because this is we’re talking as if this has stopped.

It’s not, and it’s still going on P pharmaceutical companies are still buying and selling doctors 

Chuck: all the time. Yeah. And we should say manufacturers and distributors and I’ll get into the difference. But yeah. That’s and your doctor is probably not an app. I wouldn’t say an, but like your doctor.

They’re all over the place and that’s not to say that a lot of doctors, all doctors are a lot of doctors do this, but there are enough to facilitate this illegal drug cartel essentially. Yeah. That’s how I think that’s how Eric yeah. Eric. Yeah. I should give credit to him for that term. Yeah, it, that’s what it is.

Illegal drug cartel and Purdue was one of the biggest ones and when it comes to the money that they brought in. So just to give you a sense of the financial component of this Oxycontin brought them 2.8 billion. And from 1995 to 2001, I don’t have the inflation in front of me, but that’s pretty good money.

Pretty good money for six. That’s just one drug too, 

Big John: right? 

Chuck: That’s it. The revenues climbed to 35 billion by 2017. So this is a cash cow and Mike, meanwhile, what they were doing to get people, to use it and to get doctors, to bring doctors in, as they were saying, and this is a lie, they claimed that the pills were safe despite no scientific evidence and that they were less likely to be addictive.

Big John: This is the thing that blows my mind too, is like these pharmaceutical companies are really good at this kind of stuff. They’re really good at manipulating things because they’re, let’s face it. Like they’re also able to manipulate the agencies that are supposed to be looking out for people, and that’s because I’m not saying that they’re buying off agencies, I’m just saying that they tend to have way more scientific. 

Chuck: I am saying that they’re buying agencies and I have, and when we talk about this, we talked about distributors and I’ll tell you 

Big John: why, I agree with it. I think that is happening, but I’m saying just, let’s just pretend that they aren’t.

Even at a minimum, they’re the ones who have the scientific research. So agencies have to rely on them at some point based off that, because they can’t do that to 

Chuck: every drug just gives them. It just give them a lot of power to manipulate that. Yeah, it’s scary. So some of the things they will get criticized for a lot of stuff and they would just make up, essentially make up stuff about these drugs, other things that they would do, they wouldn’t really, it sounded based on my reading that they didn’t really have much regard for the dosing.

Some of the Sackler family believed that there was no ceiling to the dosages somebody could take, which is ridiculous. And they actually introduced 160 milligram pill, but eventually took it off market because it could literally kill a person if they took it. There was a legal secretary for Purdue who said, quote, they’re killing themselves with 80 milligram pills.

Why would we come out with 160 the heads? You can’t make this stuff up. And this is in. Documented court filings. And this is why this company’s bankrupt because they work. 

Big John: Yeah. And the thing I’ve seen a bunch of people when this first came out, that Purdue was going to have to go bankrupt where people were like, Oh it sucks that we’re going to lose this type of, no it, it doesn’t suck that we lost this company because this company is awful.

Like there, there are so many other businesses that I’m like, man, I wish they would’ve stayed. I wish they could have lasted circuit city. Like circuit city, one of the good guys, right? 

Chuck: Yeah. 

Big John: It’s not somebody who was killing people knowingly and then being like, wait a second. How much more money can we make?

Chuck: We could double the price of the pill no more and still kill people. You mentioned killing people and they were aware of this. They were aware of the potential for abuse with it too. Cause it was, it is highly addictive. Oxycontin. Purdue was aware that the pills were crushed, snorted stolen from pharmacies and the doctors were selling prescriptions.

To just give you some context, crushing and snorting basically my understanding is it allows for it to be more intense and enter your bloodstream quicker. It defeats the purpose of the coding, like the the coding for time release, and that’s for people who I think either want to get high out of it, but also want more intense pain control.

They knew that people were doing this. And in fact, there was a, there’s a lot of court documents, man. So many there are over a hundred internal company memos in two years alone in the nineties mentioning illicit use and referencing that people snorted, crushed, and stole them yet. They. Basically claimed they didn’t know, and they didn’t seem to clearly they didn’t care.

In 2003, the DEA found that Purdue used aggressive methods to exacerbate Oxycontin abuse. So not only they didn’t care, they were fine with it and they wanted more of it. And then, what their excuse was that they contended that legitimately prescribed users, weren’t getting addicted. 

Big John: Which 

Chuck: is they blame the user.

Yeah. Yeah. Always blame the victim. That’s their Mo 

Big John: that’s what a lot of these, the, even other, other places do this all the time, but they’re notorious for, and they got away with it for a really long time. And let’s face it. You have attorney generals, like the guy we’ll talk about in that interview, in that Eric interview that not only know that this is happening, have the evidence that this, this has happened and have the ability to go after these companies.

But once they go after these companies, essentially let them off the hook pretty easily. You’ll see a 

Chuck: lot of that. A lack of enforcement is a big problem. 

Big John: Massive. 

Chuck: What’s the point in stopping? Exactly. So while the pharmaceutical companies are to blame a lot, the lack of enforcement is a big reason why?

So I mentioned earlier that they were aware of the fact that they were marketing this as providing 12 hours of pain relief. And and it wasn’t. So they knew that it didn’t control pain, like they said it did. And they also knew that included intense withdrawal symptoms, which is also really important because that is a indicator of addiction.

But their profit model, and this is why they kept doing it. It wasn’t just, for whatever, it was specifically pinned to their profit model. They knew that their profit model dependent on that 12 hour use schedule, they knew their profit model dependent on it being 12 hours of pain relief in order for them to make the money they wanted to make.

And there’s a really interesting story that came out Patrick Radden Keefe talks about this, an NPR interview. There was a legal secretary for Purdue who was tasked with investigating how Oxycontin was being used outside of, in, in different places, like in pharmacies, like by people to quote unquote investigate, like for illicit use and and how it’s supposed to be used.

She ended up later on having a back pain issue. And so one of the people that she worked with said you should try Oxycontin. Okay. She said, okay…and she got addicted to it. They eventually fired her. So it’s okay. There is no plausible deniability at all. That is abundantly clear.

And not only just that, the moral bankruptcy of the people, especially people at the top, the Sackler family and everyone else who worked at Purdue pharma, it’s disgusting some of the worst people on this planet. Because they knew all this, they knew that it was wrecking people’s lives is ruining people’s lives, especially poor people, especially people with severe problems who needed legitimate medical help.

They didn’t care because they were filling their pockets and buying their yachts. 

Big John: Funny enough, do you know what this kind of reminds me of the, we’re talking about opioids, but like this severely reminds me of Adderall. Like the, just the breakdown of it. Like Adderall gets abused all the time. Yeah. By a lot by college students, openly and everything.

But if you talk to the manufacturers of Adderall, they’ll say the same thing is it’s helping the people who are adequately, but this is a story we hear in every second 

Chuck: when it’s in it’s, it’s an effective defense for them because look, when it comes to Purdue Oxycontin, it has provided relief for a lot of people.

Just like Adderall has helped a lot. Yeah, exactly. And that’s only worth stating like it is an important drug. 

Big John: Yeah, people should have access to it until we find something else to take it like weed. 

Chuck: Maybe it’s not going to take the whole place 

Big John: can help, and maybe I don’t know what the scientific breakdown is, but if you could even lower the dosage of oxycodone, to where it’s a safer level and supplement it with marijuana, that’s a different story.

But again, 

Chuck: we produced a COVID vaccine in a year. We can do a lot of cool in this country. 

Big John: Every time I think about this stuff now I’m like, wait a second. So we literally stopped the world and created a vaccine 

Chuck: because we had the money for it. And that’s the whole thing with drug development is there needs to be 

Big John: money for it.

Yeah. And you also start to think about these things too. You’re like, okay, wait a second. And then president Biden just announces that he’s going to lift the patent off of the vaccine. Sure. And so other people are going to be able to create them and things like that. So then you’re like why can’t we do this for other stuff?

And I get the idea of patents and everything, but when it comes to medicine, it’s a bit 

Chuck: odd. Yeah. That’s fair. It’s just there’s the whole system is very 

Big John: correct. It’s a rigged system that is meant to get people hooked because it’s anything, they, you can’t sell a product now w either medicine or Coca-Cola or whatever, without iPhones.

Yeah. The need for Apple, the need for under Armour, the need for Nike, you have to convince people one that they need it. And two that they should remain addicted to it and use it more. That’s marketing. And that’s the sad part of it is that’s what it’s become. And now pharmaceutical companies are in the marketing game, they’re, they’re able to run commercials and all of these things when you’re thinking it’s half the commercials on TV now.

Yeah. You go to YouTube and it’s it’s funny enough that you mentioned like the free samples thing or the 30 day trials, that’s all YouTube commercials. It’s just make sure you can get your 30 day trial, which is great. Don’t get me wrong. But it just shows you that they also are 

Chuck: marketing.

Yeah. The money and the influence is no doubt. So I mentioned earlier that produce having some legal troubles and they’re basically going to cease to exist. They currently have over 2,500 lawsuits pending right now. That’s just today. But it’s actually interesting that they’re they’re frozen because pretty went bankrupt.

So a little bit of history on that. Purdue initially pled guilty in 2007 that they fraudulently marketed Oxycontin, but claimed that they cleaned their act up afterwards. They didn’t They did a, basically the same stuff after saying, learned any lessons at all. And October, 2020 produced settled a lawsuit for 8.3 billion with a B dollars had bending it quote, and this is big knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and ABET doctors dispensing medication without a degree intimate medical purpose.

So they, that settlement was so bad for them that they had to pay 8.3 bill and admit that wow. Now and that’s for Purdue, but the Sackler family it’s worth mentioning has been very crafty and careful to make sure that their name doesn’t get tossed around, even though their name is basically dragged through the mud.

Rightly lawsuits have gone after them. They’ve basically they paid 1,000 million dollars and to settle civil charges, but the family refused to admit any wrongdoing and still hasn’t to this day. And in fact, we’ll double down on what they’ve done. 

Big John: I just thought about this too, is they’re going through bankruptcy.

They’re hitting all these financial hurdles, everything like that, but have there been criminal charges against like the, that family or 

Chuck: anything like that? I don’t think against the Sacklers, but I think those are criminal charges against Purdue. 

Big John: There are some there, and then there are some against the doctors, whoever prescribed and stuff like that, the 

Chuck: Sacklers have stuck.

Now. It 

Big John: just blows my mind because thinking about this in West Virginia, they, I believe have a law that a drug dealer can be charged with murder. If the person that they give drugs to overdoses. Think about that. So that was one person. And obviously I’m not trying to equate, one death or whatever, but I’m just saying like one person was killed, and rightfully so this person’s going to go to prison.

But look at how many people that family killed. Yep. And they’re not, 

Chuck: and you know why because they’ve got 

Big John: money, and that, that should show you the criminal justice system in the United States. And how w we talk about this stuff all the time. And it just goes to show you no matter what we talk about that we’ll always be 

Chuck: never change and never changes billion dollars for them was not that much money to several, et cetera, that case, especially like without admitting any wrongdoing, that was like a no brainer for them to take that deal 

Big John: or joke.

Like it’s so 

Chuck: bad there they are. It’s a shame. And that’s, I think that’s what we’re going to stop with Purdue and with manufacturers. I think that gives you you all good enough overview of how this crisis was perpetuated by manufacturers. I want to touch briefly on pharmaceutical distributors because they are a huge part of this problem, too.

We get into it, like I mentioned, in the episode with Eric Eyre, but to give you a little bit of background, the distributors, what they do. Is a purchase the pharmaceutical products from the manufacturers like Purdue, and then distribute them to a variety of customers, including pharmacies, hospitals, medical facilities, nursing home long-term care facilities, that kind of thing.

So they’re the middleman. They buy them from Purdue. They sell them to the people that are then distributing them out to the patients, people that are using them. The distribution industry it’s worth mentioning is highly consolidated. There are three major companies, Amerisource Bergen and McKesson and Cardinal, and they hold a lot of power.

And I think Eric mentioned this, that they’re in there all three of them in the fortune top 20 of companies, 15 top 15, they have a massive amount of money. There is a massive amount of money in this, and they are one of the biggest reasons why so many opioids were flowing into the state of West Virginia and all throughout Appalachia.

It’s terrible. It’s horrible. And to give you a sense, what I want to focus on with this though, is the lobbying aspect of things, because this is where I mentioned that I blame What does, I said about agencies, they’re buying the, this is where, when they’re buying the agencies. So not only are they spending a lot of money on lobbying, which they are actually let me rewind.

So the big three distributors, like I mentioned, spent $13 million lobbying Congress just to pass one bill. And this was, I think in 2015 or 2016, and it was a bill that increased the burden of proof. The DEA enforcers needed to show against drug distributors effectively. Kneecapping the DEA. Now here’s the interesting part.

John, the bill was written by Linden barber. Lyndon was a former DEA lawyer who left the agency to lobby on behalf of drug companies. What the drug companies do is they take out their wallet. They go to the DEA that people with knowledge of these issues, with knowledge of the regulatory framework and with knowledge of litigating with the DEA and they opened the wall and they say here’s a million dollars.

Come work for us to do the exact opposite of what you were doing. And so many of those people that worked for the DEA take that deal. And it’s shameful. 

Big John: Yeah. We talk and it’s funny too, because a lot of people talk about like politicians losing races and becoming lobbyists and people want to outlaw that.

Shit, no one’s 

Chuck: talking about this. Your bureaucrats are one of the biggest ones because they have knowledge of that. They have knowledge a lot of times with the regulatory framework, because a lot of them are regulators. And especially when you’re thinking of a DEA lawyer, they’ve litigated, they’ve sued pharmaceutical companies and they’ve come from the perspective of the DEA and the arguments that are using against them.

And so who better if you’re a pharmaceutical company to hire than that person? They would have, they would take that over a politician in some respects. 

Big John: Yeah. And I’m just thinking about this too. Like I’m assuming that a lot of those people are probably attorneys, for 

Chuck: DEA. Yeah. When this, and this example, this was an attorney.


Big John: And a lot of them are, they’d be, they’re attorneys and then become lobbyists and everything like that. So one, they already know the law too. They practice the law, they understand it. And three, they have that now specified knowledge and they’re able, I hate that they’re doing it, but I also get it too.

It’s I think, in, in the government and stuff, we downplay the role of these people so much that when somebody comes along and says, You are more important than you think you are, and here’s a bunch of money to show it. Yeah. It’s 

Chuck: hard to say, no, I can offer you 10 times. Your GS 13 

Big John: salary. W exactly.

That’s the thing. When you work in the government, you were a GS, whatever, right? Like you are 

Chuck: 180 years, 

Big John: you’re literally a number. But to those people, you’re the most important person because 

Chuck: you’re the one you’re also a lot higher numbers. 

Big John: Yeah. But it’s, to me, I always I’m thinking about it now.

It reminds me of an NFL draft pick, right? 

Chuck: Oh, absolutely. That’s a great comparison. 

Big John: That’s what reminds me. I was like, these guys are, these companies are going into these people and essentially drafting them based off of who they are, what they do, their capabilities, the only thing they’re not doing is running a 40, but.

They’re still doing, they’re performing certain things that now they’re going to go and make millions of dollars doing the same work. Just like these kids in college, they go and they play and they don’t make any money, but then they start to make money. He wants to go to the NFL. It’s the 

Chuck: same. Yeah. And they CA they all come from good schools too.

Yup. They’re all D one school and, there’s, and there’s a lot of times they’re also politically connected to in fact, if you look at the lead lawyer for Cardinal health right now in West Virginia, that’s representing 

Big John: Ms. Patrick Morrisey.

Chuck: Zing. Nailed it. I actually don’t. That was a good joke. It’s really not a joke. Cause it’s true. The person, I can’t remember her name, but she. Is one of the Senator Rick Scott’s closest advisors, like who is tie tight with the Republican Senator from Florida. And she’s litigating on behalf of Cardinal health.

So also, if anybody wants to do a little homework, go and look and see how many donations from Cardinal health went to Rick Scott, but there’s a, at least a little bit yeah, I’d venture to guess. She actually, and this is an interesting sidebar. She met him because she was representing him when he was getting sued when he ran HCA because he defrauded Medicare and yeah.

That’s, and I’m not, I’m definitely not a Senator. No, but one thing I wanted to mention back to this thing I mentioned that the three districts, the big three distributors spent $13 million lobbying to pass one bill.

That bill increased the burden of proof on the DEA. It was brought to the floor by a cocaine Mitch McConnell, but here’s the thing, John. And this is the disappointing thing, but it is the thing it passed the Senate. And there wasn’t a vote. There was no roll call vote because it was done through unanimous consent with no objection nor recorded votes and Barack Obama signed it.

So presumably every Senator. Give the thumbs up on this, which is discipline. Now. I don’t know. Some of them may not have been there at the time. Probably most of them were, but we’re not gonna make excuses for it. If you are not there that’s 

Big John: malpractice in and of itself. I don’t care what it is like they eat.

I don’t, if it was me and I’m a United States Senator, I know that bill is coming up. If I’m on my damn death bed, somebody rolling a laptop in, because I’m a make-up vote, I’m going to do 

Chuck: something. Yeah. And, big daddy bird did that a lot of times actually, because he was very much on his death bed.

He voted for 

Big John: health care thing. I think he was. Cause I think people were shocked that he voted for it. Yeah. 

Chuck: Yeah. I think people were shocked that he voted because 

Big John: so obviously Senator Byrd from West Virginia. So we’re 

Chuck: talking about, he was 92, 

Big John: That’s the thing is like that dude, they would literally roll him in, literally wheel him in while he’s like laying on the bed itself.

And they would just push him down the aisle. Like not hold him, they would let him go. So the 

Chuck: momentum would hit the button when he would run 

Big John: into the button. And it was, it was awkward too, because honestly 

Chuck: it was an engineering thing 

Big John: when he would hit the, this was I think why he died. He would hit and just springboard right over the 

Chuck: speaker.

Yeah, that’s true. What really, the why he died I think is because when they wheeled him down there and he was going down, Mitch McConnell stuck his foot out and tripped him dumps 

Big John: on bitch  

Chuck: and Rob. So this, so I wanted to point that out because we tend to favor the DS. We tend to favor the D team on this.

In this show, but with respect to this, everybody has a fault. Everybody has a role in this, and it’s shameful that this has allowed happening to shameful the Barack Obama signed it. Part of the reason I looked it up because I was curious because this is a presumably awful bill. I guess the DEA fought it for a long time.

They finally were like, The hell with it because they’re spending so much money on lobbying. The big three they’re like they finally signed off on it, even though they weren’t happy with it, and then the OMB, the office of management budget signed off on it. And basically when that happens when they sign off on it, they report to the president.

Yes. We gave her a thumbs up on this present signs that I’m not trying to absolve Barack Obama’s responsibility. I’m just trying to explain the process and the reason why there was no explanation from the administration, because there, I think what they said was essentially we defer to the people that, blah, blah, blah, we trusted provide us consent or advise and consent on this.

That being said, it’s a shame. And the last thing I want to point out about this bill is that the lead sponsor of the bill, they’re the lead sponsor of the bill, the member of Congress, that person’s chief of staff then went on to lobby for the drug store trade association. It’s not even just members of Congress.

And this is a big thing. The biggest revolving door in DC of people going to lobby our staffers. Yeah. That’s that’s out that’s how you tee up a career. There is you work on the Hill for a couple of years and then you get a lobbying 

Big John: job, because who better than the people who’ve already been in the offices and 

Chuck: the people and make no mistake by the way that the staffers and God loved them.

They’re the staffers on the Hill are excellent for the most part, almost all of them. But they know more than the members do about everything. They know more about the process. They know more about the people, the relationships than any member of Congress. 

Big John: I would venture to say, Chuck and I were talking about, about a bunch of numbers.

We cut it just because we wanted to make sure that all the re all the sources were right, and everything like that. Numbers 

Chuck: about pharmaceutical company donations, to members of Congress, particularly Democrats. The whole 

Big John: purpose of this topic is though, just to say that even people we’ve had on this show are, should be held accountable.


Chuck: absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s, and we’ve said that from the beginning, we haven’t really had an opportunity to relate. Reiterate that, but we don’t want to just be mouthpieces for one party or politician. We want to make sure. And I think, honestly, I would think that someone like Sherrod Brown would probably agree with that is that we should hold people even himself accountable.

Maybe he doesn’t, I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for him, but okay. If he doesn’t, that’s a problem. Yeah. And I think it’s important though, because we want people to know that we’re not just gonna like tow water for a party. Like obviously you and I we tend to vote Democrat.

We tend to support Democrats certainly more than Republicans, but we also, I think you have to demand a high standard from people and really it comes to something like this. That’s so deeply personal, especially to you. But to, to us where we live, where we’re from. I mean something like this happens, you have to demand accountability or else nothing gets done.

And that’s the whole thing here. And that’s, I think that’s like to wrap up. That’s a big part of it. Like the drug companies, number one, culprits in this. Absolutely. Yeah. But the lack of accountability and the lack of enforcement have enabled them to do those 

Big John: a hundred percent. And the, I just urge everybody who’s listening.

Like you may have a favorite politician, right? Which first off I think is weird. But I understand why people do it, or maybe somebody that they agree with them. 

Chuck: I like that one dog. That’s the mayor 

Big John: of that city. That is fair. That’s 

Chuck: my favorite part. I don’t think that dog took any money from big pharma.

We should find out he did it. He did take money from a chewy Baton though. 

Big John: Yeah. That you tried 

Chuck: and Dooney and bark. Yeah. They’re actually real things. I believe it, there was a trademark case in my class about, yeah. 

Big John: Anyway, no matter who your, your favorite politician or whatever, whoever you look up to just go search them.

Yeah. Go look at their records. And if we’re wrong about, somebody not to air, somebody taking it or not taking it or whatever, let us know. But I’m gonna, I’m going to tell you right now, like the fact is that you do not make a unanimous consent vote without. Knowing that’s happening 

Chuck: on the floor.

And to just really quickly explain unanimous consent is used for bills that are considered controversial. They 

Big John: are home run bills that nobody can, nobody cares about. It’s like it’s 

Chuck: used to expedite the process. 

Big John: Yeah. So unanimous consent. A lot of the times is like to rename a post office. That’s what they use unanimous consent for not to pass the changing of what pharmaceutical companies to applying the DEA.

That’s not unanimous consent. And the fact is too, that nobody called for a roll call. 

Chuck: Yeah, and it, and then I don’t believe so anyway. And just the fact that this happened like that to look at from baseline fact, the fact that this happened should be a huge red flag and it should alarm everybody that’s listening to this show and I should encourage them to look into it.

And one thing that’s really interesting about this, the guy that really was raising alarm bells about this former DEA had under, I believe president George W. Bush. I think it’s Joseph , who’s been, has been really dogged on this and complaining about this. And it’s something that, it’s a problem.

It’s a huge problem. There’s a lot of problems with DEA. Of course, you and I have major issues with them when it comes to marijuana weed that’s for you, Lieutenant governor men. But when it comes to this, it’s a no brainer. And and this is I know we’re going in a lot of different directions, but to tie everything together, this is a system that was.

Perpetuated by the drug companies and the drug distributors, but it was a system that was allowed to exist because of a lack of accountability and a lack of enforcement to take away anything from that this whole episode today. Remember that cause that’s, that’s the story, right? And so like when it comes to what people listening to this can do and we’re going to try to do this for every episode and obviously there’s gonna be different action items or things you can do, depending on what it is for this, look into your representatives and understand like where they stand on this look to see if they take money from farm.

And if they do call them out on it, Cause this is why this stuff happens. Part of the reason why, because they’re allowed to do it. It Purdue wasn’t allowed to be doing this. If they weren’t like if people were, if agencies and people were actually calling them out and stopping them, we wouldn’t have a drug crisis and, a perfect quote.

There wasn’t an opioid CrossFit crisis before Oxycontin, there was afterward and it was allowed to happen. 

Big John: Yeah. And it was a manufactured crisis. Yeah, it was. I It was done as we talked about the whole time it was on purpose. And it’s the only time that I can think of in the, at least the history of this country that we’ve allowed manufacturers to manipulate a crisis and then said, thank you for, it’s insane.

Chuck: So that it was non-controversial 

Big John: yeah. Sorry. Yeah, this is going to be an interesting series. We hope you all enjoy at least this episode to open things up. And I think that this will be, what did David Morris say? That song was 

Chuck: his his Magnum Opus. 

Big John: Do you know what that means?

I’m assuming that means like his pole, 

Chuck: It says like a Pesta resistance is a large important work of art music, literature, it’s supposed to be like your crowning achievement, 

Big John: this is going to be that for Apple latch. It’s going to be one of those things that that we’re going to take.

Extremely serious, obviously we’re going to try and break it down to where it’s not awful to listen to her. It doesn’t help your day or whatever, if we’re 

Chuck: going to try and cut in with some entertaining and lighthearted stuff, because it is a lot, it’s a lot and it’s a big series and it’s all, it’s heavy and it’s people we know that you’ve been personally affected by it.

Big John: Yeah. And that’s the other thing like There are going to be times I’m just going to say this now there gonna be times like I’m going to try and crack a joke or I’m going to try and cause this is again, this is like pulling up this series is rough. Like it’s not easy because it cause, obviously we have a bunch of listeners who go through this, but then, the entire time and I hated talking about it on the campaign to like, cause, cause you have to essentially say my family is flawed.

It’s because of X, Y, and Z, but then you have to relive it all the time. And that’s what a bunch of West Virginians and Appalachians are going through. And I think that’s why this series is so important is that people can, everybody knows somebody that this has happened to. 

Chuck: Yeah, that’s very true.

We hope that you enjoy, we hope you get something out of it. And again, we’re going to, we’re going to really try to cut it up and make sure that it’s not just very sad and depressing. And not, we’re gonna figure out ways to do that. We’re gonna bullshit and stuff. 

Big John: Some of the interviews too, there are a lot of people who are doing good things to, to help.

You mentioned it very inspiring. We’re going to have people on that. We have faith leader who I think a lot of people hear that word cause it triggers me too. And I’m like faith are they trying to push, but that’s not what’s happening here. Like these people are doing it because they’re doing harm reduction where they’re trying to actually help people.

It’s not that they’re trying to convert. Absolutely. 

Anyway, a good show is going to be a good series. I think we’re done. Thank you so much for listening and Oh yeah. Have you ever had any questions? Send us mail PO box 24 66 parks. We’re West Virginia, two six one Oh two. All right. See you later.

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