Seeking Justice for Lives Lost to Opioid Addiction

By: MaryBeth Cichocki

Lives Lost to Opioid Addiction

If planes were falling from the sky killing a large number of Americans on a daily basis, the Airline Industry would be held accountable. The FAA would be looking at data and investigating every inch of the industry. No one would be buying their way out of the nightmare and no one would be pointing fingers at the victims of the air disasters.

When life is lost due to the malfunctioning of an automobile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducts an inquiry. If they are found responsible, the Automotive Industry involved is held accountable and restitution is paid to the surviving family of the victims. College fraternities are held accountable for drinking and drug use when harm or death occurs. Families are now being compensated for loss of life due to negligence and non-reporting of harmful behaviors practiced by the members.

As a Registered Nurse, I too would be held accountable if my conduct as a professional was responsible for patient harm, especially death.

My question is why should anything be different when we look at the Pharmaceutical Company responsible for the Opioid epidemic? The Sackler’s and their family who own Purdue Pharma chose to cover up the highly addictive properties of their marketed opioids.

This false marketing of abuse resistant, time released poison led to more deaths than the Vietnam War, motor vehicle accidents, gun violence and the AIDS epidemic. In 2015, 44,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. In 2016 the numbers jumped to over 50,000.

This deceptive marketing began in the 1990’s and continued for years. It is widely known that the addictive properties of OxyContin were hidden by the Sackler’s. How did they, and do they get away with not being responsible, or held accountable for this incredible loss of life that continues year after year? In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid $635 million in fines when found guilty of false marketing charges. Just a drop in the family fortune bucket when your company brings in revenues of $3 billion and your net worth is estimated to be $14 billion. So, I ask you- How does a company that was found guilty continue to mass produce and continue to falsely market their precious moneymaker- OxyContin?

You might wonder why this blows my mind. You might wonder why I even care. My youngest son Matt became one of the victims of the Sackler’s deception. Matt had everything to live for, but died at the age of 37 as a result of the misconception that OxyContin was safe for long term pain management. The Oxy’s were marketed as lasting for 12 hours, but only lasted 8 hours, setting Matt and so many others up to need more frequent dosing that led to addiction.

Matt was recovering from back surgery when he was prescribed OxyContin on a monthly basis by physicians who believed the claims that the drug was abuse resistant. Matt became addicted and died from an accidental overdose along with 44,000 other loved ones in 2015.

My heart was broken after my son died and I wanted justice for him. I started doing research and was amazed to learn the power held by this industry. I found that Big Pharma spends millions on political contributions and even more on lobbying. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Pharmaceutical companies contributed $51 million into the 2012 federal election and $32 million into the 2014 election. Pharmaceutical companies also line the campaign pockets of both Republicans and Democrats. In other words, Big Pharma owns our government.

So how do those of us affected by the cover up make them pay? How do mothers like me find a way to hold them responsible for the largest epidemic known to man? How can this industry continue to pump out poison pills and just go about their merry way? How many more lives must be sacrificed before our government puts human life over the mighty dollar?

I question how our government can continue to ignore the root cause of this horrific epidemic that is projected to continue to kill in massive numbers. There is not a state in this country that has not been profoundly affected by opioid addiction. In the 1890’s the Bayer Company commercialized both aspirin and heroin as cough, cold and pain remedies. They promoted it for children with coughs and colds. When they realized people were becoming addicted, the FDA banned the use of it in 1924. So, I ask you- why did the FDA approve it all these years later for Purdue Pharma after knowing how addictive heroin is?

I’ve recently learned that a number of Attorney Generals from various states including Matt Denn in Delaware have filed suit against Big Pharma. Attorney Generals are known as the “People’s Lawyer” and the state’s chief legal officer. This courageous group of lawmakers has decided that enough is enough. Coming together to represent those who can no longer defend themselves against the corruption and greed that goes hand and hand with the Pharmaceutical industry is to be commended. I say Bravo. I pray that these few will be joined by every state and that in the end; Purdue Pharma will suffer tremendous losses, although nothing compares to the profound loss of your children. It’s time for restitution to be paid.

My son Matt lost his life at 37. He was robbed of many years due to the illegally misrepresented OxyContin that made the Sackler family billions of dollars while robbing thousands of mothers like me of their precious children. I wonder if they feel anything when they hear of all the overdoses… all the precious lives that have been lost…would they allow their own children or grandchildren to be prescribed this medication. I wonder.

The Sackler’s have an extensive philanthropic legacy, known for large gifts to both museums and universities. My hope is their true legacy will become known as being responsible for the largest epidemic known to mankind. Hopefully, with the help of the Attorney Generals, they will be held accountable for the massive destruction of thousands of lives, and their restitution will be building treatment centers in all 50 states.

MaryBeth Cichocki is a registered nurse living
in the state of Delaware. She lost her youngest
son, Matt, to an overdose of prescription drugs.
After his death she was unable to return to her
world of taking care of critically ill babies in the
N.I.C.U. and now devotes her time to raising
awareness and educating the community on
the addictive nature of prescription drugs.
MaryBeth works with Delaware legislators and
was involved in the creation and passing of 3
bills that became law in May of 2017.