U.K. Doctor Learns of Pharmaceutical Company’s Sinister Study

Pain specialist Dr. Cathy Stannard can recall the glamorous promise of being filmed as she traveled from the U.K. to New York. Stannard and her group indulged in dining at luxurious “smart hotels” and attended Broadway shows, all sponsored by a pharmaceutical company for pain management education. Napp Pharmaceutical — the company that funded the trips and accommodations — encouraged discussions between practitioners and pain specialists to educate staff on upcoming trends and innovation in the pharmaceutical world. In addition, debates were hosted to promote awareness of Opioids and the marketing of new drugs. Little did the group of doctors know they would be soon be convinced by marketing to prescribe more prescription painkillers.

Before the extravagant trips were planned, pharmaceutical companies counted the number of prescription Opioids each doctor gave out in the hopes that pain specialists and doctors would prescribe more painkillers to patients. The trips were meant to sway physicians toward prescribing certain brand name Opioids, as well as prescribe them more frequently.

Most of the doctors began prescribing more of the product.

Dr. Ed Charlton
British Pain Society newsletter editorial, 2007

When Stannard eventually learned of the pharmaceutical company’s agenda, she felt remorseful for being part of the scheme. Nobody confirmed or denied doctors’ prescribing activity being monitored in hospitals when prompted for information and the company has remained silent on the matter.

Globally, there have been numerous attempts to reduce the amount of prescription pain medications. The U.K. has had “strict rules around the marketing of medicine” to help patients manage their pain medication and reduce the rising number of Opioid-related deaths that occur annually. In the U.S., Opioids like Oxycodone and Ultram® are some of the most commonly-abused medications in the Opioid Epidemic.

Prescription Opioids’ Effect on the Overdose Crisis

Patients recovering from chronic pain who have been given prescription painkillers like Percocet®, Vicodin®, and Codeine often become dependent, quickly upping their dosages to get the same effects. In some cases, patients will even visit multiple doctors in an attempt to get more pills to sell or misuse personally. Once patients decrease their intake of any Opioid (including Heroin), they experience painful withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, body pains, nausea, and chills. In order to avoid these upsetting symptoms, many will continue to abuse Opioids despite negative consequences.

The result of high Opioid prescribing rates has led to the deaths of millions worldwide. For those who live with a chronic addiction to Opioids, many eventually transitioned to illicitly-manufactured Opioids such as Heroin and synthetic Opioid, Fentanyl. As such, the role pharmaceutical companies have played in the current overdose crisis is major. Some have been accused of making misleading claims in marketing materials and downplaying the danger of Opioids.

Consequently, there was a 34% increase in prescriptions. Furthermore, when researches took into account the increased strength of today’s Opioids, they believe the true increase to be closer to 127%. This is largely due to the physical and mental effects today’s Opioids have on the individual.

Author: Krystina Murray – Last Edited: June 26, 2019



Cavell and Harte. (2019). Doctors Used As “Guinea Pigs” In Opioid Painkiller Promotion. Retrieved on May 17, 2019 from