UD’s friend Roy Poses at Health Care Renewal takes a look at Russell Portenoy, a professor at Yeshiva.

In the last few decades, Portenoy has been busy making the world safe for opioids, insisting that millions of Americans can take them with little to no risk of addiction. He has also been enriching himself through consulting and speaking for pain pill manufacturers.

Portenoy isn’t alone. Here’s another advocate:

[In 1998, one doctor] said he understood that a patient would simply ‘go to sleep’ before stopping breathing. While asleep, he said, the patient ‘can’t take a dangerous dose. It sounds scary, but as far as I know, nobody anywhere is getting burned by doing it this way.’

This is the functional equivalent of John Willke on rape.


Plenty of academic doctors continue to exploit the legitimacy their academic positions give them to shill for pain pill pharma, but what’s intriguing here is that Portenoy now expresses some regrets:

‘I gave innumerable lectures in the late 1980s and ’90s about addiction that weren’t true,’ Dr. Portenoy said in a 2010 videotaped interview with a fellow doctor.

Not just not true. They helped create the stupendous pain pill addiction epidemic in this country.


It seems obvious that we should, as Roy says, be skeptical of “people paid by narcotics manufacturers advocating increased use of these drugs, no matter how distinguished, scholarly, or influential these people appear to be.” But in the equally destructive matter of anti-psychotics for children, Joseph Biederman, who continues on the Harvard faculty, seems to have met with no skepticism at all – at least none that could stop him as he almost singlehandedly caused a 40-fold increase in the use of these dangerous drugs.

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