Gloucester PD Calls Out Big Pharma CEOs To Help With Opiate Problem

By Zachary Siegel 09/21/15

A problem largely attributed to the overprescribing of their drugs, pharmaceutical companies have a duty to help what they started.

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Chief Campanello
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The ever-resourceful Gloucester Police Department once again caused a stir with their commitment to address the opiate problem that’s overwhelming their small Massachusetts town.

Gloucester PD’s latest tactic was in a Facebook post that explicitly called out the CEOs of drug companies such as Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson for manufacturing opiate painkillers that many believe are generating more illicit drug users. 

The post listed the names, salary, and email addresses of various Big Pharma CEOs followed by a call to action:

“Just politely ask them what they are doing to address the opioid epidemic in the United States and if they realize that the latest data shows almost 80% of addicted persons start with a legally prescribed drug that they make. They can definitely be part of the solution here and I believe they will be ... might need a little push.”

Immediately, the post received thousands of likes and shares. Those who have been impacted by the heroin problem made several heartfelt comments. One mom said, “I sincerely hope the rest of the Nation will follow your lead. As the Mom of a recovering Heroin addict, I applaud this approach [and] wish I could hug you.”

Another grateful commenter said, “I applaud Gloucester Police 110%. Unlike many PDs, they're actually taking alternative approaches to make a real difference in society. You have to start somewhere!”

This is the same police department that started the Angel Program, which promises to not arrest drug users who walk into the station and ask for help. The Fix interviewed Chief Campanello last June after their compassionate technique began to show positive results.

In that interview, Campanello discussed his thoughts on why their approach has garnered so much attention. “I think the provocative nature comes from the fact that a particularly conservative entity such as law enforcement is willing to change their thought process in order to address a social problem,” he said.

Months later, Campanello and his department continue to provoke, as they recently updated their Facebook page stating that biopharmaceutical company Pfizer, had called them back. A dialogue is beginning, “[Pfizer] could have ignored us all. Instead, within 48 hours, they responded.”

Pfizer recently acquisitioned Hospira, the company which once held an “accidental monopoly” on naloxone, the life-saving opiate overdose antidote. Perhaps with Pfizer’s cooperation, naloxone, the price of which recently doubled, will become more affordable, and be distributed to users and their families.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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