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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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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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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Pot vs. Pills: Will Cannabis Help End the Opioid-Abuse Epidemic?

With the election of Donald Trump and Republican majorities in Congress, the GOP has vowed to move forward with its longtime pledge to undo the Affordable Care Act. While it remains to be seen what approach the Republicans will take to replace the ACA, overhauling the country’s health-care system presents a timely opportunity to address an epidemic gripping the nation: the explosive growth in opioid addiction and abuse.

The numbers are staggering. The total number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the United States jumped from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. In that time, Americans accounted for nearly 100 percent of the hydrocodone sales in the world and 81 percent of oxycodone sales. This explosive growth in opioid use has resulted in a surge of opioid-related deaths. In 2015, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths, a fourfold increase since 1999 that accounted for 63 percent of all drug-related deaths. As a result of this increase, drug-related deaths for the first time exceeded the number of deaths from car crashes in the United States.

With over two million Americans addicted to prescription painkillers and an additional 600,000 addicted to heroin, there’s a growing urgency to find alternative therapies that can slow or reverse this epidemic.

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Under Donald Trump, It’s Boom Times for Drug Fraudsters

In 2009, Alfred Caronia, then a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company working in New York City and on Long Island, was convicted of federal charges for telling doctors tall tales about the drug he was selling.

Caronia worked for a company called Orphan Medical, the manufacturer and marketer of a drug called Xyrem. Xyrem is a powerful central nervous system depressant that’s approved by the FDA for use in treating narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is by definition a rare disease, so Caronia, unsatisfied with his sales figures, went around telling doctors that Xyrem was also good for treating fibromyalgia, chronic-fatigue syndrome and chronic pain—one of the most common maladies in America. (Xyrem’s active ingredient, GHB, is also notorious as a date-rape drug.)

Caronia had no idea if what he was saying was true—the FDA didn’t know if the drug was useful in treating those conditions, and he hadn’t done any independent research—but if doctors bought his story, they’d surely buy some Xyrem from him.

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Science Says: Why Are Opioids So Addictive?

Pleasure. Craving. Withdrawal.

When opioids act on the brain, they trigger the same processes that give people feelings of pleasure from activities like eating, but they do it far more intensely.

Opioids also make some brain cells pump out a chemical messenger called dopamine, which encourages more drug use. Over time, that can produce craving that continues even long after someone stops using opioids, which can lead to relapse.

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U.S. Drug Problem Is Not Just Opiates—We Are Over-Prescribed Everything

Saturday was “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.” For four hours, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., Americans could take a bottle or a bag full of unwanted prescription medication and hand it over to local law enforcement, no questions asked. 

The pills were then handed over to the DEA for safe disposal—and quantification of just how much superfluous prescription medication is floating around America. 

Like gun buy-backs, drug take-backs are a recent innovation, a non-punitive way of fighting an overwhelming problem. Doing this empties medicine cabinets and bedside tables of expired or unwanted drugs rather than sending them into the water supply, but it also—hopefully—keeps people alive.

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Chris Christie, Opiate Czar: Treat Addiction “Like AIDS” (But Don’t Legalize Marijuana)

For helping elect President Donald Trump, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s reward is solving the nation’s opiate crisis.

Christie is chair of a national commission on opiate abuse. Trump saw fit to form the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis quickly, putting it together in March, even before he named a new White House-level drug czar.

As fast as Trump moved, the crisis worsened even more quickly.

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