It is no question that we are in midst of an opioid epidemic; and when we consider the struggles of other countries, we may very well have a pandemic on our hands. As countless individuals fall victim to this tragic reality we face, more advocates and physicians come out of the woodwork, claiming they have the solution. Medication-assisted treatment is now becoming the leading modality to counteract addiction, especially for those suffering from opioid use disorders. While traditional providers still rely on methods such as the Minnesota Model, or abstinence based treatment, advocacy groups around the country continuously push medication-assisted treatment as the best option.
Now to the blind eye, it would appear that these individuals may in fact be concerned for the suffering opioid addict out there, but recent studies reveal a serious conflict of interest. Many advocacy groups are in existence today, but those that support opioid addiction recovery are now under speculation for being funded by drug companies, specifically those that manufacture medications used under the M.A.T model of treatment.
A Clear Conflict of Interest
A study conducted in March and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, investigated 104 of the largest patient advocacy groups and their interaction with pharmaceutical companies. Their findings are grievous, but unfortunately, not surprising to many. Of those under scrutiny, more than 80% receive financial support from major drug manufacturers, over a third have at least one industry representative present on their governing body, and 12% have named an industry official as leading their board. While the groups included in the study focus on differing illnesses, for the sake of conversation, we will focus primarily on those who advocate for the opioid addicted patient.
What is an opioid recovery advocacy group? The name itself conveys the message that the group’s interest is in supporting opioid addicts and their recovery. Primarily, these groups aim to make treatment resources available to opioid addicts, but when we delve deeper into their backstories, it appears their interests may in fact be tainted. When we visit the website of one major advocacy group, Advocates for Opioid Recovery, we find a message that is geared toward the use of medication in treatment, and strongly opposed to traditional models. Interestingly enough, this specific group has received “charitable donations” by Braeburn Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of Probuphine. Probuphine is a 6 month implant of buprenorphine, one of the main ingredients in Suboxone, and the latest medication utilized in M.A.T. across the country.
Newt Gingrich, a paid spokesperson for Advocates for Opioid Recovery, denied knowing who the group’s funders were. Nevertheless, recent documents disclose that Braeburn made a large donation to the group to the tune of $900,000. This donation was funneled through a private equity fund that owns Braeburn. Ironically, this same fund invests in CleanSlate, where medications such as Suboxone, Probuphine, and Vivitrol are all utilized and supported. But, if that weren’t enough, Patrick Kennedy, who has become a leading advocate for medication-assisted treatment across America, is a board member of CleanSlate and paid spokesperson for Advocates for Opioid Recovery.
A Grave Injustice To The Opioid Addict
While these relationships are unquestionably a conflict of interest, they also serve as a grave injustice to the suffering addict. Rather than providing the individual with ALL of their options for treatment, these groups promote M.A.T as the “most effective path toward long term recovery,” while strongly opposing other proven models. Their methods have stopped being patient-centered, and have instead turned into a lobbying effort driven by personal interests.
The misguided information provided on the Advocates for Opioid Recovery’s website is a prime example of this injustice. Their homepage is littered with statements and statistics that only further promote medication as the “saving grace” for opioid addiction. Statements such as “traditional treatment leads to relapse 85% of the time” and “more people complete a 6 month treatment program when they used recovery medication,” are biased and reveal only a small part of the story. Firstly, recent studies reveal that more than half of Suboxone patients return back to prescription opioid abuse after treatment is complete. So, while “more” may complete a 6 month treatment on medication, they do not necessarily stay sober. And secondly, since we now recognize addiction as a disease, we must align our thoughts regarding relapse with those of other health conditions.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse tells us, “Unfortunately, when relapse occurs many deem treatment as a failure. This is not the case: Successful treatment for addiction typically requires continual evaluation and modification as appropriate, similar to the approach taken for other chronic diseases. For example, when a patient is receiving active treatment for hypertension and symptoms decrease, treatment is deemed successful, even though symptoms may recur when treatment is discontinued. For the addicted individual, lapses to drug abuse do not indicate failure – rather, they signify that treatment needs to be reinstated or adjusted.”
Consider the thousands of Americans who are diagnosed with an opioid use disorder each year. Are we truly doing everything we can to help them…honestly and impartially? Based on the recent findings of these dodgy and secretive relationships, the answer is as clear as day. Patient advocacy groups are supposed to fight for the patient and their needs; they are supposed to be their voice. Could these groups simply be who Big Pharma enlisted to replace the doctors who over-prescribed opioid painkillers?
As advocacy groups are funded by Big Pharma, it is their voice that we hear. And consequently, as words are being shoved in the consumer’s mouth, we slowly and silently add to the growing opioid epidemic. Matthew McCoy, the lead author of the study says it best, “The ‘patient’ voice is speaking with a pharma accent.”
Contact Clearbrook For Opioid Addiction Treatment
Are you or someone you love struggling with opioid addiction? Were you promised the freedom from addiction through the use of medications, but now find yourself dependent on that medicine? If so, Clearbrook Treatment Centers can help.
Over the years, we have had many come to us struggling with Suboxone and opioid addiction, desperately in need of a way out. Through customizing specific detoxification protocols and individualized treatment plans, we were able to offer them a solution, and can do the same for you.
With 45 years of successful addiction treatment, Clearbrook takes pride in the fact that we provide quality care that has proven to work. If you are tired of being dependent on a drug and caught in the grips of addiction, please contact our Admissions Specialists today. Let us show you what recovery really has to offer.