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UNODC – The role of pharmaceutical companies in creating drug epidemics

Home / UNODC – The role of pharmaceutical companies in creating drug epidemics


When most people think of drug labs, they imagine illicit laboratories – some in garden sheds and garage boxes, and some huge and professional, often in countries that cannot control the drug cartels – but the role of the regular pharmaceutical industry is often overlooked. The opioid epidemic, for example, has claimed more than 300,000 lives in the United States alone since 2000, and could claim another half million over the next decade. Although heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl account for an increasing proportion of opioid-involved overdoses, the majority of persons with opioid addiction started with prescribed painkillers. The search for solutions has spread in many directions, and one tentacle is probing the legal accountability of companies who supply opioids to the prescription market. Even as governments, among others, pursue civil and criminal actions against physicians and pharmacies to address inappropriate prescribing and dispensing of opioids, an increasing number of lawsuits have been filed and continue to be filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors. The main problem here, which should be the focus of the committee, is how to even enable the prosecution of the often multinational pharmaceutical companies, and how to streamline national responses to this highly international problem.

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