Calling Their Bluff

Dr. Wayne “Art” Van Zee, a physician who specializes in addiction medicine in Lee County, Virginia, is one of the first people who made federal agencies aware of the misleading claims by OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Van Zee recently spoke with Freedom.
Falling Money

Freedom: Is the FDA a competent agency?

The FDA was a real disappointment in not seeming to appreciate the severity and extent of the tragedy—and not being able to do something more definitive about limiting OxyContin. The FDA convened a hearing with its Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia, and Addiction Products [which regulates new drug applications] in 2010 to deal with the opioid problem. [The division] voted overwhelmingly that risk education should be mandatory—and the FDA turned around and ignored that. They made [it] voluntary and put the pharmaceutical industry in charge of it.

Is Purdue Pharma responsible for the Oxy epidemic?

Enormous promotion and marketing effected overboard prescribing and increased availability of a very potent, highly abusable opioid. That said, there are other factors. We live in a nation where prescription drugs of any stripe are available and there’s a lot of prescription drug abuse.

Did Purdue Pharma and overprescribing doctors help create the country’s heroin epidemic?

It’s not as simple [as that] because there are many factors in the mix. But certainly they played a role in creating the prescription opioid problem, and, tragically, that led to a much-increased heroin problem.