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Doctor Who Wrote 1980 Letter On Painkillers Regrets That It Fed The Opioid Crisis

A 1980 minute published in a New England Journal of Medicine was after widely cited as justification that long-term use of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone was safe, even yet a minute did not behind adult that claim.

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Education Images/UIG around Getty Images

A 1980 minute published in a New England Journal of Medicine was after widely cited as justification that long-term use of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone was safe, even yet a minute did not behind adult that claim.

Education Images/UIG around Getty Images

A one-paragraph letter, hardly a hundred difference long, unwittingly became a vital writer to today’s opioid crisis, researchers say.

“This has recently been a matter of a lot of angst for me,” Dr. Hershel Jick, co-author of that letter, told Morning Edition horde David Greene. “We have published scarcely 400 papers on drug safety, though never before have we had one that got into such a weird and diseased situation.”

The letter, published in a New England Journal of Medicine in 1980, was headlined “Addiction Rare in Patients Treated With Narcotics.” Written by Jick and his partner Jane Porter of a Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program during Boston University Medical Center, it described their research of hospitalized patients who had perceived during slightest one sip of a analgesic painkiller. Among a scarcely 12,000 patients they looked at, they found “only 4 cases of pretty good documented obsession in patients who had no story of addiction.” Their end was that notwithstanding widespread use of narcotics in hospitals, obsession was singular in patients who had no story of addiction.

Inaccurate representations of that 1980 minute led to a thespian boost in a prescribing of opioids for ongoing pain, according to an article published this month in a same medical biography by Dr. David Juurlink of a University of Toronto, who researches drug safety. He and his co-authors found some-more than 600 citations of a letter, a infancy of that unsuccessful to note that a patients Jick and Porter described were in hospitals for brief stays when prescribed opioids. Some of a citations “grossly skewed a conclusions of a letter,” they found.

“We trust that this reference settlement contributed to a North American opioid predicament by assisting to figure a account that allayed prescribers’ concerns about a risk of obsession compared with long-term opioid therapy,” they write, indicating out that citations soared after a introduction of OxyContin in 1995.

Jick says when a minute was published in 1980, it was roughly inconsequential. “Only years and years later, that minute was used to publicize by new companies that were pulling out new pain drugs,” he says. “I was arrange of amazed. None of a companies came to me to speak to me about a letter, or a use as an ad.”

He says a drug companies used his minute to interpretation that their new opioids were not addictive. “But that’s not in any figure or form what we suggested in a letter.”

Asked if he regrets carrying created a letter, Jick says, “The answer is, fundamentally, sure. The minute wasn’t of value to health and medicine in and of itself. So if we could take it behind — if we knew afterwards what we know now, we would never have published it. It wasn’t value it.”

Morning Edition editor Steve Tripoli contributed to this story.