Reckitt Benckiser chasing opiate addicts
Alexander Trocchi once wrote a dreamy tale (though not perhaps as strange and nightmarish as this one), in which he said there is no more systematic nihilism than that of being a junky in America. Systematic nihilism sounds like an oxymoron, but let’s continue anyway. Another happy storyteller advises we judge the degree of civilization in a society by entering its prisons. Wait. Don’t be frightened. Most of the prisoners here are admittedly harmless. They were persecuted for crimes in which they did no wrong and didn’t hurt a fly. Why would scientists and politicians and corporations want to hurt these harmless souls? Lest you judge this society not harshly enough, let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, there was an exception made to the not-so-golden rule of leaving addiction treatment in the dark ages, which only served to illustrate it. Two generic potions, buprenorphine and naloxone, were compounded together by an evil corporation with the demonic epithet of Reckitt Benckiser. Reckitt’s financial wizardry yielded a magical patent from these simple, garden-variety potions. He named the newest monster he’d created Suboxone. Curiously, buprenorphine was already in use for the very purpose Suboxone was created. Even curioser, Reckitt added naloxone to poison the new potion!
Meanwhile, buprenorphine was thought to be safer than mean mister methadone because buprenorphine is just a partial agonist. Weak willed. And naloxone, you see, doesn’t mix well with buprenorphine, because naloxone is an opiate antagonist, which is to say it reverses the effects of opiates and can cause people to suffer the tortures of the damned if taken in the wrong way. And the wrong way to take naloxone is to take it at all. Unless, perhaps, you’re dying in the ER from a heroin overdose. It’s not the sort of thing you want for breakfast with your Honey Smacks.
So, evil Reckitt Benckiser bribed Congress and told the certain kind of doctors who don’t care much for their victims–sorry: patients–that the poisonous naloxone would provide for a very instructive punishment. It would happily cause unbearable agony if people misused nasty Suboxone. And if they didn’t “misuse” it, they’d still be taking naloxone anyway, even though it might be quite bad for their bodies! Evil Reckitt and the careless doctors showed little compassion, as they were quite prejudiced toward these people they were supposed to be helping. Governments, too, found the punishment element quite appealing, what with the aforementioned and widespread cultural prejudices that exist toward harmless, innocent, flower-loving, hippie junky scum. After all, these were the same evil scientists, evil doctors, and evil politicians who made sure all forms of prescribed codeine in the land of America would be cut heavily with Tylenol, in order to kill children by inducing liver failure if they tried to enjoy taking the pills! After lots of pressure, even the good doctors in Italy who had been prescribing buprenorphine switched to the toxic Suboxone, the better to protect themselves from the social prejudices generally aimed at their patients.
Before crooked old Benckiser rolled out his toxic potion, the politicians in their Congress rushed to help him by passing an enabling act for doctors to prescribe Suboxone. The National Institute on Drug Abuse helped fund evil Reckitt’s new cash cow with Mommy and Daddy’s taxpayer money, awarding Suboxone orphan drug status—pretending the evil monster was even good enough to be called an orphan drug at all! Reckitt, for his part, claimed he faced poverty and was doing this for all the children of the world. He begged and begged for government aid. Then, in 2011, Reckitt reaped $1.3 Billion in sales of the pointless drug and laughed all the way to the nearest, crookedest JP Morgan Chase Bank.
When Reckitt’s patent was about to expire on the Suboxone tablet, he patented a sublingual film version, and promptly claimed the tablet he had previously sold was killing children (literally, that’s what Reckitt claimed). Insane as it sounds, using this kind of propaganda made a lot of sense, because Reckitt was talking to people who had been brainwashed by hysterical antidrug TV ads in the 1980s. This attempt to keep the harmless patients paying through the nose didn’t work, however, as Reckitt was promptly sued by an eager manufacturer of generic Suboxone, who wanted to join the cash cow. That cash cow is still being slaughtered today since generic Suboxone costs more than generic buprenorphine which does the exact same thing without the added risks and side effects of constantly ingesting naloxone without reason. Why is it so? Because the evil scientists and politicians and doctors, just like drug pushers, conspired to make sure no one can get buprenorphine without the dirty naloxone cut added to it.
Monstrous Suboxone, of course, should never have been born. Buprenorphine already existed to help people. Reckitt behaved no differently than the mythological drug pusher of those hysterical 1980s taxpayer funded TV ads. The government predictably put its weight behind the giant corporation. Medical professionals predictably cashed in with Big Pharma, and are even now lobbying the government for less arbitrary restrictions on prescribing Suboxone. And we all lived miserably ever after.
So, children, does it all sound pleasant and just? Would you like to be treated as a social pariah without any redeeming qualities except when you’re seen a cash cow for the butcher’s block? Would you like to be subjected to punishment without crime and have force set before you in place of choice? When you get sick, would you like to have no other choice but to swallow medication designed to inflict harm upon you, and pay dearly for that privilege?
If so, maybe you would like to become a systematic nihilist too.
p.s. don’t use drugs