Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting," says University of Colorado-Boulder professor. (Photo: frankieleon/flickr/cc)

Big Pharma Hobbling Federal Efforts to Rein In Dangerous Opioids

Meanwhile, new study shows 'a very ugly side to opioids that had not been recognized before.'

Deirdre Fulton

Even as a new study suggests opioid painkillers may in fact make chronic pain worse, Big Pharma continues to work against efforts to stem the national opioid crisis, according to reporting at The Intercept on Tuesday.

The study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) showed that addictive opioids like morphine appear to paradoxically cause an increase in chronic pain in lab rats.

Led by Colorado University-Boulder professors Peter Grace and Linda Watkins, the study showed that "just a few days of morphine treatment caused chronic pain that went on for several months by exacerbating the release of pain signals from specific immune cells in the spinal cord," according to a news release. The results suggest that the recent escalation of opioid prescriptions in humans may be a contributor to chronic pain, as Grace noted.

"The implications for people taking opioids like morphine, oxycodone and methadone are great, since we show the short-term decision to take such opioids can have devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting," said Watkins. "This is a very ugly side to opioids that had not been recognized before."

The Washington Post notes:

The question of what exactly opioids do to our bodies is critically important as the United States is grappling with a record number of overdose deaths from the painkillers. The government has been urging doctors to use more caution when prescribing the highly addictive painkillers, and the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year began to require new "black box" warnings on packages that warn of the risk of addiction, abuse, overdose and death.

Meanwhile, Lee Fang of The Intercept sheds light on how "the boldest effort to curb the flow of legal opioids may face a setback" as Big Pharma lobbyists and corporations seek to influence recently issued Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines that encourage doctors to prescribe opioids with low dosages, and only after other pain relief treatments, such as ibuprofen, have been tried. 

As Fang explains, Congress recently passed toothless legislation which calls for those guidelines "to be reviewed and potentially changed by a new panel made up of representatives from a range of stakeholders, and for the revisions to incorporate 'pain management' expertise from the 'private sector.'"

Unsurprisingly, he writes, "[t]he demand for pain advocacy and pain specialists to review the CDC guidelines comes as recent reports show that the leading societies for pain management have been funded and controlled by painkiller companies for years."

For example, the executive director of the Center for Lawful Access and Abuse Deterrence (CLAAD)—which has received funds from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes Percocet—recently gave a presentation to state legislators in which he decried the CDC guidelines as "affiliated with anti-opioid activists" and praised legislative efforts to derail them. 

Speaking with The Intercept, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, dismissed CLAAD as a "front group for pharma." Kolodny said that industry-funded groups like CLAAD "argue that efforts for more cautious prescribing, such as the CDC guideline, are bad for patients with pain" but that "their real agenda is to continue reaping profits from aggressive prescribing."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 78 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'We Won't Stop Fighting,' Vow South African Activists After Judge OKs Shell Seismic Blasting at Sea

"We must do everything we can to undo the destructive colonial legacy of extractivism, until we live in a world where people and the planet come before the profits of toxic fossil fuel companies."

Brett Wilkins ·


Biden Continues Drilling Boom on Public Lands Despite Campaign Pledge, Analysis Shows

"The reality is that in the battle between the oil industry and Biden, the industry is winning."

Julia Conley ·


Big Oil Profits Surge to $174 Billion in 2021 Amid Rising Gas Prices: Report

"Americans looking for someone to blame for the pain they experience at the pump need look no further than the wealthy oil and gas company executives who choose to line their own pockets."

Kenny Stancil ·


Rights Groups Decry 'Farcical and Corrupt' Verdict as Myanmar's Suu Kyi Sentenced to Four Years in Prison

"There are many detainees without the profile of Aung San Suu Kyi who currently face the terrifying prospect of years behind bars simply for peacefully exercising their human rights."

Jake Johnson ·


Campaigners Warn of 'Wave After Wave of Variants' as Long as Vaccine Apartheid Remains

"Omicron is with us because we have failed to vaccinate the world. This should be a wake-up call."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo