Overcoming Opioids: Easing an Epidemic 1 Doctor at a Time

BY CARLA K. JOHNSON

AP MEDICAL WRITER

MONROEVILLE, Pa. (AP) — The U.S. opioid epidemic began in doctors’ offices as drug companies marketed the pills to an ever-widening circle of patients. An estimated 2 million Americans are now addicted to opioid pain relievers and nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths involve prescription drugs.

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Pot Matters: Deadly Drug Policies

The death rate for young Americans has increased by 8 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to a recent analysis by the Washington Post—and the driving force behind this increase is the current opioid epidemic.

From the Post: “Since the beginning of this decade, death rates have risen among people between the ages of 25 and 44 in virtually every racial and ethnic group and almost all states, according to a Washington Post analysis. The death rate among African Americans is up 4 percent, Hispanics 7 percent, whites 12 percent and Native Americans 18 percent. The rate for Asian Americans also has increased, but at a level that is not statistically significant.”

The Post looked at mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  For context, the 10 leading causes of death in 2015 were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide. These account for 74.2 percent of all deaths in the United States.

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Prosecutors’ Lawsuit Says Opioid Drug Makers Deceived Public

BY SHEILA BURKE

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new lawsuit invokes the plight of a baby born dependent on opioid drugs, as three Tennessee prosecutors and the baby’s guardian accuse several drug manufacturers of unleashing an epidemic through deceptive marketing that downplayed the risks of addiction to painkillers.

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Prescription Drugs Still Vanishing at VA Hospitals

If you are in need of prescription opiates, make your way to the nearest Veterans Affairs hospital. Not because VA hospitals prescribe opiates to anybody for any reason, even when it is very bad and dangerous to do so—though they do that, too—but because VA hospitals do a very bad job at stopping employees from stealing armloads of the stuff.

In February, the Associated Press discovered that opiates are going missing from VA hospitals at double the rate private hospital employees are swiping prescription pain pills. In response, the VA announced a “zero tolerance” policy, putting the doctors, nurses and other staffers at its nearly 1,200 medical centers and clinics around the country on notice… who then starting stealing even more.

As the AP reported on Tuesday, another 36 criminal investigations into pill theft were opened between Oct. 1 and May 19 of this year, “an increase from a similar period” the year before.

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GW Pharmaceuticals Files for FDA Approval After Report Confirms Success in Treating Epilepsy

GW Pharmaceuticals has chosen the perfect moment to file its cannabis-derived therapy, Epidiolex, with U.S. regulators.

The New England Journal of Medicine just published results from a Phase III study showing that GW’s Epidiolex (derived from cannabidiol) significantly reduced monthly convulsive seizures, especially in children with Dravet syndrome, one of the most difficult types of epilepsy to treat. Children can have dozens, even hundreds, of seizures per month.

GW Pharmaceuticals first reported in March 2016 that CBD-derived Epidiolex cut monthly convulsive seizures by 39 percent in children with Dravet syndrome, but full results of the 120-patient study were only published last week.

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British Health Authorities Accused U.S. Pharma Giant of Price-Fixing

American drug companies are some of the most profitable corporations in the world. Profit margins of 10 percent, 20 percent, even 40 percent—returns even banks struggle to achieve—are not unknown for firms lucky enough to manufacture life-sustaining prescription pharmaceuticals.

They enjoy this stupendous success in no small part thanks to what amounts to price-fixing.

Not actually conspiracy to artificially keep drug prices high—although some companies allegedly do that, too—but by leaning on the U.S. government hard enough to ensure that potential competitors, who might offer sick people a similar product for less money, don’t have access to the domestic market despite promises from people like the president of the United States to give Americans cheaper prescription drugs (the prices of which meanwhile magically rise by four to eight percent every year).

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Report: Most Heroin Is Tainted by Fentanyl

North America’s opiate crisis has followed a linear, almost predictable script, like a tragedy in five acts piling grief upon grief in an arduous, tedious dirge with no relief (or end) in sight.

First, pharmaceutical companies and doctors conspired—sometimes unwittingly, sometimes deliberately—to flood the country with pain pills. Then, when law enforcement crackdowns on “pill mills” made prescription opiates scarce and black-market pills exorbitantly expensive, heroin use surged—and with it, deaths from drug overdoses.

From there, the crisis has only escalated, with awful, steadfast speed.

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High Pharmaceutical Prices Mean Sick People Are Trading Drugs on Facebook

There were a few Donald Trump promises even a self-respecting Democratic Socialist of America would have wanted to see fulfilled. Actually, most Americans would have liked to have seen one Trump guarantee come through. If it had, sick people wouldn’t have to resort to buying, selling and even swapping pricey pharmaceutical drugs with other sick people via Facebook.

There was a time that the high cost of prescription drugs was a big Donald Trump talking point.

Pharmaceutical companies are out of control, candidate Trump would say on the campaign trail. Their lobbyists have too much power. Senators and congressmen are in their pocket.

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Radical Rant: Meet Trump’s ‘Marijuana-Is-A-Gateway-Drug-To’ Opiates Commission

The opiate overdose crisis has reached epic proportions in the United States.

In 2015, the CDC reported over 33,000 people died from prescription and illicit opiates, like heroin, oxycodone and fentanyl. We consume 80 percent of the world’s opiate painkiller supply and more of us consume opiates than tobacco products.

In response to the epidemic, U.S. President and reincarnation of Benito Mussolini in Cheeto form, Donald Trump, has appointed a special Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. 

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