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Opioids: 'Sell, Baby, Sell!"

As in the 2009 movie, "The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard," in which a floundering used car dealership hires a "hired gun" to push out cars no matter what, major drug manufacturers are being accused of essentially doing the same thing to sell addictive opioid painkillers to the American public.

In the film, used car liquidator Don Ready and his salesforce team succeed in selling every car on the lot over a July 4 weekend, thus saving the dealership from a fire sale to an unscrupulous competitor. Ready even sold the last car -- a tired old muscle car up on a display rack-- for $80,000 to that very same competitor.

The Washington Post reports today that documents filed in a massive federal lawsuit in Cleveland reveal that drug manufacturers paid doctors and movie stars to promote aggressive pain treatment.

Just like used car dealers who are often guilty of underhanded sales tactics, the documents reveal they created campaigns for their sales forces, tying bonuses to opioid sales and holding contests to reward top earners.

“You only have 1 responsibility,” a senior sales manager at one drugmaker wrote in a 2013 email. “SELL BABY SELL!”

Ring that bell!

That's what happens in many car dealerships when a car is sold. Somebody pulls a cord and rings a giant bell in the showroom.

It doesn't matter that millions of people are getting hooked unnecessarily on opioids prescribed for everyday aches and pains. It doesn't matter that health and public officials alike are struggling with finding solutions to opioid addiction and the devastation and death it causes.

"SELL BABY SELL!" That's what's important. Ring that bell!

The attorneys in that Cleveland case argue that drug manufacturers' aggressive sales efforts nearly doubled the number of pills made with oxycodone, from 2.5 billion in 2006 to 4.5 billion in 2012, an 80 percent increase. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration's database, the nation's largest drug companies produced 76 billion oxycodone and hydrocodone pain pills during that period.

All of this is disclosed in this Washington Post article and an accompanying documentary film, which begins with these words:

"The opioid crisis has lasted for more than 20 years and has touched almost every community in America."


That apparently is the mantra of the pharmaceutical industry, now in the gunsights of the White House and Congress alike as they seek to stop out-of-control drug prices that are costing the lives of people who simply cannot afford them.

It also, apparently, is the mantra of the opioid manufacturers who have pushed the sale of their addictive painkiller products, just like Don Ready did with his used car hard-sell tactics in that movie, "The Goods."

Only problem is that this is real life, not a film. And "the Goods" aren't cars, they are peoples' lives.

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