Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Emily Walden, December 11, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Life in Louisville, Kentucky / Beginning of her son TJ's substance abuse

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Partial Transcript: Today is December 11th, 2018, I am here interviewing Emily Walden at her home in Louisville, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Emily Walden talks about how her son TJ’s use of opiates began when he was in elementary school and broke his arm. He was subsequently prescribed opioids on-and-off during childhood. As a teenager, he starting taking Oxycontin and Walden says he was immediately hooked.

Keywords: Louisville (Ky.); Opana; Oxycontin; Pediatric surgery

Subjects: Drug abuse; Medication abuse.; Opioid abuse; Opioid use; Substance abuse; Substance abuse--Treatment

00:07:47 - Leap from Oxycontin to Opana to TJ’s death from an opioid overdose

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Partial Transcript: So tell me the story of your son and what happened to your son, eventually.

Segment Synopsis: Walden tells the story of how she put eleven thousand dollars on a credit card to send her son to treatment about one year into his addiction. She talks about how TJ was 18 when he began abusing opioids and was 21 when he passed away from an overdose of Opana, right before he was scheduled to be deployed.

Keywords: Deployment; Family; Military; National Guard; Opana; Overdose

Subjects: Drugs--Prescribing; Opioid abuse; Opioid use; Substance abuse; Substance abuse--Treatment

00:11:05 - History of Opana and Endo Pharmaceuticals

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Partial Transcript: So what is Opana?

Segment Synopsis: Walden talks about the history of Opana, the drug her son overdosed on. Opana is oxymorphone, a narcotic developed by a German pharmacist. Walden says that Endo Pharmaceuticals acquired the patent to Opana in the 1950s. Walden says that when Opana came on the market in the 1950s, the drug was so addictive that it got yanked from the market. In the 2000s, Endo tried several times to get the drug approved by the FDA. It was approved as a prescription painkiller in 2006.

Keywords: Endo Pharmaceuticals; Federal Drug Administration (FDA); Narcotics; Opana; Opioids; Oxymorphone

Subjects: Drug addiction and recovery; Drugs--Prescribing; Opioid abuse; Opioid use; Substance abuse; Substance abuse--Treatment

00:33:09 - Meeting with Mitch McConnell about Opana

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to talk to you about your--how you ended up eventually connecting with now-Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Segment Synopsis: Walden recalls going to Washington, D.C. in 2013 to meet with Senator Mitch McConnell. She talks about the countless trips she made to Washington on her own dime to meet with any elected official who would listen to her about the dangers of Opana.

Keywords: Kentucky; Mitch McConnell; Politics

Subjects: Drugs--Prescribing; Opioid abuse; Opioid use; Substance abuse; Substance abuse--Treatment

00:40:36 - Meeting Andy Beshear at a coffee shop

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me about how you ended up, um, getting in contact with, uh, Andy Beshear?

Segment Synopsis: Walden tells the story of how she met with Andy Beshear a year before he was elected as Attorney General at a coffee shop in Louisville. She explained to him her concern about Opana being approved by the FDA. She says Beshear listened to her and began to set the stage for an investigation.

Keywords: Andy Beshear; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Kentucky; Opioids; Politics

Subjects: Drug abuse; Drugs--Prescribing; Opioid use; Substance abuse

00:48:36 - Opioids, politics, and party lines

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Partial Transcript: You know when I--uh, as I'm sitting here talking to you, I think the thing that comes to my mind is...

Segment Synopsis: Walden talks about how being focused on political party lines is not the way to accomplish the goal of holding pharmaceutical companies accountable and getting highly addictive opioids off of the market.

Keywords: Advocacy; Kentucky; Opioids; Politics

Subjects: Drug abuse--Treatment; Drug addiction and recovery; Opioid use; Substance abuse

01:00:03 - Thoughts about the future of the opioid epidemic

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Partial Transcript: Um, my last--um, I've taken up an hour of your time so I just have one more question for you.

Segment Synopsis: Walden talks about how the past several years have been an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. She discusses how she has decided to document her struggle against Endo Pharmaceuticals for her nieces and nephews, so that they will know how hard she fought. She says she does not believe the problem will be fixed in her lifetime. She talks about how pharmaceutical companies are starting to market opioids in other countries.

Keywords: Capitalism; Corruption; Endo Pharmaceuticals; Family; Global; Opioids

Subjects: Drugs--Prescribing; Opioid use; Substance abuse

01:04:51 - Trying for five years to speak to the FDA Commissioner

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Partial Transcript: How were you able to speak with the Commissioner of the FDA?

Segment Synopsis: Walden discusses how she tried for five years to get in touch with the commissioner of the FDA. She finally was able to meet in person with the commissioner in the winter of 2018. She talks about how the study data from the clinical trial Endo Pharmaceuticals used to get FDA approval had serious flaws. She says the FDA commissioner's staff told her he had read the data.

Keywords: Federal Drug Administration (FDA); Opioids; Pharmaceutical industry

Subjects: Drug abuse; Drugs--Prescribing; Medication abuse; Opioid use; Substance abuse

01:06:56 - Leaving a record for family members

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, so here we are and we're still, you know, hearing about news of, of, of new opioids being prescribed.

Segment Synopsis: Walden explains that what happened to her son was part of a larger societal issue of allowing the pharmaceutical industry to control government agencies like the FDA and politicians. She stresses that Opana is a drug that should have never been so easily available.

Keywords: Family; Kentucky; Opioids; Record; Story

Subjects: Drug abuse; Drug abuse--Treatment; Opioid use; Substance abuse--Treatment