Porter and Jick and Unintended Consequences
Hands down this might be the most obtuse headline I’ve ever drafted. But stay with me…
Do you ever wonder how we got to today’s opioid crisis? There are many players we can point the finger at, including one research team (Dr. Hershel Jick and grad student Jane Porter) whose one paragraph, five-sentence letter to the New England Journal of Medicine from 1980 lit the fuse.
According to The Washington Post, Porter and Jick reviewed the records of 12,000 hospital-admitted patients treated with painkillers, and only four became addicted. They concluded “that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”
This obscure research went unnoticed for years until it was cited in Pain (the journal of the American Pain Society). From this point on, physicians, scholars and Big Pharma wildly inflated and misrepresented the Porter and Jick study to justify the explosion of opioids.
Unfortunately, the pain management industry neglected to give the context that the analyzed patients were administered small doses of opioids for serious hospital admissions under strict physician supervision. They were not given large take-home scripts for strains, sprains and other minor injuries. All evidence indicates that Porter and Jick had no intention of shaping a pervasive narrative that long-term opioid use is safe and non-addicting.
Doing better means knowing the context, intent and methodology of scientific evidence.
Call us. We can do better.