The Opioid Paradox


According to the CDC, around 130 Americans die each day from opioid pill overdoses.

You probably know someone who has been affected by what many have designated as a “national epidemic.” Naturally, the anger this evokes drives us to search for who is to blame. Manufacturers, wholesalers, pharmacies, physicians or government?

The answer is YES, they all deserve a slice of the blame pie, but the slices are not equally proportionate.

Some manufacturers misled physicians into believing opioids were safe for less severe ailments, and some wholesalers and pharmacies sold vast amounts of pills into communities well beyond what logic would dictate is appropriate demand. Some physicians believed opioids were safe and treated accordingly.

Others abandoned their Hippocratic Oath to not do any harm by becoming “pill mills,” writing prescriptions until their hands ached to satiate the exploding demand while enriching themselves beyond their wildest dreams.

As public awareness grew and people turned to the government for answers, money and influence wielded by the pharma lobby was unleashed, weakening the political resolve to create comprehensive laws to address this systemic issue.

Some supply-side efforts to arbitrarily constrain the physician’s ability to prescribe opioids have passed. While well-intentioned, this approach is contradictory to what has been proven over time, which is that the best patient outcomes are achieved when treatment is personalized.

Meanwhile, some legitimate patients with chronic pain who need opioids to maintain an adequate quality of life are experiencing difficulty obtaining access to opioids. An estimated 25 million Americans live with chronic pain and are stuck in the middle as the stigma and societal burdens associated with the addiction epidemic have driven new legislation and policies to curtail the supply of opioids.

Some patients have been forced to turn to acetaminophen or NSAIDs to manage their pain; however, those medications also have serious, harmful side effects if taken for extended periods of time. It has also been reported that chronic pain affects cognition and behavior and may ultimately lead to social isolation, contributing to depression. (Ref. 1.)

Patients with chronic pain are vulnerable to depression and may present with higher risk for suicide, according to findings from a literature review presented at PAINWeek 2017. (Ref. 2.)

This Opioid Paradox is one of the most serious, complex challenges of our lifetime. Covectra has been focusing on this dilemma for years through work with stakeholders across the treatment spectrum including: physicians, patients, insurers, pharmacies, manufacturers and government agencies.

Out of this in-depth analysis ControlTrack® was developed. It is a serialization-based solution that documents the demand-side of the opioid equation, thus improving the physician’s ability to monitor that the right patient is taking the right dose, for the right period of time.

Subscribe to the Covectra blog to read about how we make that happen in my next post.

Covectra, Inc. is dedicated to the study of supply chain integrity and the deployment of proven counter-measures to help achieve brand protection and enhance supply chain intelligence. Contact us for more information about how we can help you prevent counterfeiting, diversion, and brand erosion.


1.Nekovarova T, Yamamotova A, Vales K, et al. Common mechanisms of pain and depression: are antidepressants also analgesics?. 2014;8:99.

2.Pergolizzi J, Jr, Raffa R, Taylor R Jr, et al. The risk of suicide risk in chronic pain patients. Presented at: PAINWeek 2017. Las Vegas, NV; September 5-9, 2017. Poster 48.