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Doctor Who Once Promoted Opioids Now Blames Pharma for Overdose Epidemic


A doctor who was an early advocate for increasing prescriptions for highly addictive opioids like OxyContin to patients suffering from chronic pain is now switching his stance on the opioid epidemic. Dr. Russell Portenoy is now saying that major drug manufactures helped to create the epidemic because they failed to acknowledge the reality of opioid abuse.

Dr. Portenoy, a medical-school professor at New York-based Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University, will be testifying against the pharmaceutical industry in lawsuits filed by local governments. These lawsuits are seeking billions of dollars in social costs associated with opioid addiction. According to Portenoy’s sworn statement, drug makers were too aggressive in promoting opioids for all sorts of ailments.

In his court declaration, Portenoy said, “The opioid manufacturers should have tempered their positive messaging about opioids with a greater focus on risk, particularly as early signals of opioid risk emerged.”  According to Portenoy, drug makers also “should have responded as evidence of increasing adverse effects mounted” to increased awareness and “reduce inappropriate or risky prescribing.”

Dr. Portenoy switched his stance on the issue after U.S. cities and counties agreed to drop their lawsuits against him if he agreed to cooperate. Portenoy provided documents and testimony that might be used in the lawsuits against the following opioid manufacturers:

  • Purdue Pharma
  • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.

A 2017 investigation revealed that more than 50,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2015. A third of those deaths were caused by prescription opioids

The federal-court filing touts Dr. Portenoy as one of the leading U.S. experts on pain treatment and a “key opinion leader.” The filing says Portenoy will testify that companies “overstated the benefits of chronic-opioid therapy” and “understated the risks of opioids, particularly the risk of abuse, addiction, and overdose.”

Have you lost a loved one to opioid abuse and addiction? Our team of attorneys at Bertram & Graf, L.L.C is here to help you pursue the justice you deserve. Call (888) 398-2277 today to discuss all of your options under the law. Don’t hesitate, schedule your free consultation.