Pharmaceutical companies have spread their influence like a “virus,” infiltrating sources of educational information that doctors rely on and encouraging them to prescribe more opioids, a Kentucky pain management specialist testified, The Oklahoman reports. “Their marketing is like the roar of a lion, while their warnings and concerns are like the squeak of a mouse,” said Dr. Danesh Mazloomdoost. “Nobody in this industry was innocent.” His testimony came on the eighth day of a nonjury trial in which Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter accuses Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries of creating a public nuisance. Hunter claims the companies helped cause an opioid epidemic in Oklahoma through false or misleading marketing.
Mazloomdoost said he believes opioids are greatly overprescribed and that many doctors and patients don’t have a good understanding of how opioids act within the human body. While opioids offer immediate pain relief, they also make the body more sensitive to pain, he said. When the drugs wear off, the amount of pain felt will actually increase, prompting patients to need stronger doses for the same amount of relief. Mazloomdoost spoke against using opioids to treat sprains and strains, a practice advocated by Johnson & Johnson sales representatives. A Johnson & Johnson attorney questioned Mazloomdoost about an article he co-authored early in his medical career that advocated for early, aggressive treatment of pain. That article indicated long-acting or sustained-release opioids are often a better treatment choice than the short-acting type. Mazloomdoost said he no longer believes the statement to be true, citing the article as an example of how much he was influenced by pharmaceutical companies at the time. “I think it’s important for those of us who have made mistakes to atone to them,” he testified.