Devlin MacGregor and Movantix

One of the best characters, in one of my all time favorite movies, is Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive. The wrongly accused surgeon on the run from the incompetent Chicago cops (murder apparently has been a problem there for years) and Deputy Gerard in search of the one-armed man who killed his wife.  In the end, he gets his man – but as we all know the real villain in the story was the evil pharmaceutical giant Devlin MacGregor.

I thought for sure Kimble put those bastards away for good, but Devlin MacGregor is back…and now instead of Provasic they are shamelessly peddling Movantix, a drug to give relief to opioid induced constipation (OIC).  Yep you got it – we have a heroin epidemic in full bloom and the answer isn’t less opioids, it’s how do we manage the scourge of constipation.

The numbers speak for themselves. Between 2010 and 2014 opioid-related deaths rose 47 percent in New York. And judging by the headlines, this trend has continued unabated across the state and nation. In 2016 there were 460 deaths in Westchester, 320 dead in Erie County, 86 in Staten Island, 61 in Onondaga and 57 in Monroe. And already 50 more have died in Erie so far this year. Everyone seems to know someone who is addicted or has died.

Now I ask myself: why would Devlin MacGregor take to the airwaves buying expensive spots in prime time, during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and even the Superbowl, to mass market–yes mass market–this drug? From Wikipedia – Mass marketing is a market strategy in which a firm decides to ignore market segment differences and appeal the whole market with one offer or one strategy,[1] which supports the idea of broadcasting a message that will reach the largest number of people possible.  

Devlin MacGregor is advertising an opioid constipation drug to “…the largest number of people possible.” Deputy Gerard would disagree with the use of the word, but that’s hinky.

Hinky as in strange, weird or just plain old BS. Isn’t the medical community already under a mandate to strictly control the prescription of opioids? And since they are – shouldn’t prescribing doctors be aware of drugs like Movantix to help their patients manage the side effects like constipation?  And isn’t the ultimate goal to get patients off opioids entirely? I tell you it’s hinky.

At first, I joked to myself that this was a “savvy” effort by Devlin and Big Pharma to actually corner the market on a segment of opioid related sales they can still milk the hell out of. Having lost literally millions of customers and market share to the drug cartels who make heroin cheaper and more powerful, they are instead piling up profits from the bound up. After all, Movantix doesn’t discriminate as to whether constipation is caused by smack, snow, dope, dragon or OxyContin or Vicodin.

Turns out – insanely, that I’m right. According to Claire Gibson, an analyst for the research and consulting firm GlobalData, by 2019 the U.S. “will represent approximately 86 percent of the total market” for opioid induced constipation drugs – an equivalent to $563 million in annual sales. She said the estimated patient population for OIC drugs will be “just under 4 million” people.

Let’s recap that –  by 2019 the United States will account for 86% of the total global market for opioid induced constipation drugs.  Whaaaat???

So apparently, despite all the bill signings, drug busts, headlines and hand wringing, real progress in slowing the prescription of opioids is well – bunged up. According to a report in the Journal News, between 2012 and 2014, 251 million pain pills were prescribed just under Medicaid in New York. That’s 13 pills for every New Yorker, apparently an unlucky number for a reason. These numbers don’t include opioids prescribed under private insurance. Is it any wonder one in six unemployed male of working age in America is addicted to an opioid?

Sorry folks – but that’s insane an amount of pain relief. Paul Ryan wants to require able-bodied persons on Medicaid to get a job, they might be too drugged up to work. Seems like the geniuses in Washington on both sides of the health care debate might want to look into this issue.

In the meantime, please,someone–shareholders, anyone–please stop the amoral profiteers at Devlin MacGregor from airing this putrid nonsense anymore. The ads reek of a culture that is beyond repair. It has the glossy stench of giving up, of a tacit acquiescence to an insidious disease that is robbing us of too many of our family, friends and neighbors.

It’s not who we are. It’s wrong. We don’t give up–just ask Richard Kimble.

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