Physician, heal thyself

Just when you thought the news about OxyContin couldn’t get worse, it did. We just don’t know how bad. Last year, almost 1,000 people died in British Columbia from an overdose or improper opioid use. In the rest of the country, statistics seem less scary only because they’re scarcer.

Yet doctors and hospitals are still prescribing OxyContin, even though staff must know that some people will become addicted. Of the two people I know who recently had surgery, both were offered OxyContin for post-operative pain. Both refused. Wisely.

Physicians are a big part of the problem. Many are paid by pharmaceutical companies to give speeches or endorse products. Apparently it’s normal for a doctor to accept freebies like trips or concert tickets from pharmaceutical reps. According to the Globe and Mail, one-third of the people who wrote the guidelines about publicly disclosing such links with Big Pharma have such links themselves.

There was a time when doctors were looked up to like gods. Surgeons all but demanded such reverence from those who drew near. Now, it turns out they don’t even abide by the old saw, “First, do no harm.” Until the medical community quits its own addiction to the wiles and wares of Big Pharma, and joins in with the efforts of police and border security, the opioid plague will continue to spread.

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