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New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

New York City Considering Safe Heroin Injection Sites

Author: Justin Mckibben

Back in February of this year the mayor of Ithaca, New York began pursuing a plan that would establish safe heroin injection sites in Ithaca in an attempt to battle the opiate epidemic raging across the country. This controversial harm reduction tactic is getting brought up a lot more lately. Other states are also looking into starting up similar contingencies for their citizens. Now, the Big Apple is set to spend quite a bit of money and resources investigating the merits of safe heroin injection sites. That’s right, New York City is now taking a closer look at how safe heroin injection sites operate, wondering if it might be a decent plan after all.

Talking about the tab…

One of the big things people seem to be focused on right now is the money. Some believe providing addicts with a clean, medically supervised facility to use is a waste. They believe that what it will be doing is promoting heroin addiction while enabling it, all at the city’s expense.

So far, the tab is already pretty steep. The City Council has announced it will be allocating $100,000 to study the practice. This money will go to the Health Department for a nine-month study to determine whether it makes sense to open safe heroin injection facilities.

Shouldn’t be much of a surprise that these desperate times have called for such desperate measures in New York City. The study comes as the Big Apple is still reeling from a record 937 fatal drug overdoses in 2015, a 66% increase since 2010. With 2016 coming closer to the end, it is a wonder if this will be another record year for the five boroughs. Overdose death rates are a huge factor in a lot of new movements for change.

What are safe heroin injection sites?

Safe heroin injection sites are facilities where intravenous drug users are permitted to use the drug intravenously under medical supervision. The sites offer a place where addicts can use without fear of arrest, in case of an overdose. The idea is to have staff trained and available to be able to save lives. At the same time, the hope is to reduce other risks associated with intravenous drug use.

Several safe heroin injection sites already exist in dozens of cities outside the United States. Should America be next? Some of the countries who use this practice include:

  • Canada
  • Europe
  • Australia

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito commented saying,

“It’s been done and been implemented in other areas [of the world], so we just want to look up what the viability would be in New York,”

This seems like a pretty fair response to the epidemic; trying to explore and educate officials on more options that could help. And beyond reducing overdose deaths, HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, safe heroin injection sites work to connect addicts with drug-treatment options. So it isn’t just about giving them a safe place to get high, but also making them feel safe and supported whenever they try to get help.

Conservatives in opposition

But of course there is a great deal of opposition. Michael Long, the state Conservative Party Chairman, claims the $100,000 could-

“- be put to better use than sending a message that it is OK to use intravenous drugs as long as you use a government-sanctioned place.”

However, the reality is that the money is being utilized in a way that serves it’s initial purpose. $5.6 million is already set aside in the city budget to combat AIDS. The $100,000 for the safe heroin injection site study is coming from that bulk of finances.

So while surely some would not be all for spending the tax-payers dollar on researching “legal drug dens” the truth is the money is going somewhere that could make a huge difference to the effect of what tax-payers originally intended it for.

The safe heroin injection study

According to a council memo, as far as the actual study itself, the researchers will review data that pertains to:

  • Health conditions and disease transmission related to heroin and other injected drugs
  • Evaluate existing supervised injection facilities
  • Assess legal issues
  • Input from select “city officials and community experts”

This isn’t the first radical idea on this side of the country. Seattle is also considering safe heroin injection sites. Earlier this year, Boston opened a facility where addicts can use under safe medical observation. However these people have to inject drugs elsewhere. This doesn’t seem like as good of a plan, because it’s basically asking for addicts to use and drive. Still, it is some kind of innovation in a different direction.

Preventing of death and the spread of disease is vital. As the death rate escalates in relation to heroin addiction and infections caused by intravenous drug use, prevention is increasingly important. These programs may be controversial, but the cost of losing lives is a lot higher than spending some money looking into alternatives.

Beyond harm reduction, there is real recovery. Real recovery begins with effective and innovative treatment. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. You are not alone.

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Truvada Protected 100 Percent of Study Participants from HIV

hivaids

Author: Shernide Delva

A recent study shows that a pill to prevent HIV protected 100 percent of its study participants.  Not a single person contracted the potentially deadly virus in over two and a half years of observation. The research revealed that despite rising rates of STIs in the group, as well as a decline in condom use, the pill was able to protect everyone involved from HIV.

The study was conducted by doctors from the managed care company Kaiser Permanente in Oakland California.  It consisted of 657 people who took the pill PrEP, a daily pill that known to treat and prevent HIV.

Lead Researcher Dr. Johnathan Volk of Kaiser Permanente said that the results are exciting:

“What our study shows very reassuringly is that PrEP works in a real world setting. HIV prevention in 2015 is very exciting because we have several tools that are available for reducing risk, and PrEP is one of those tools.”

The drug PrEP, which stands for preexposure prophylaxis, is more commonly known by its brand name Truvada. It has been on the market for HIV since 2004 but was not approved by the FDA for HIV prevention until 2012.

As of 2014, only about 3000 people had begun taking it even though the pharmaceutical company estimates close to a half-million Americans could be good candidates for the drug.  The findings are significant because it is one of the first “real world” studies of PrEP use as opposed to clinical trials done in the past. In the study, 99 percent of those who participated were gay males.

While the drug seems to be well-known to the gay community, more work needs to be done to reach high-risk men and women, transgender women and injection drug users. Truvada can be used to protect drug addicts who share intravenous needles from acquiring HIV and of course anyone who engages in unprotected sex could benefit. Still, many people from these communities do not know about the drug or know very little.

“We want to make sure we’re reaching all individuals who are at risk for HIV,” said Volk. “When you look at who is getting infected with HIV, we still have work to do.”

Criticisms of Truvada

When the drug was first approved by the FDA, many were critical of Truvada as it felt it would give people a false sense of security and result in engaging in irresponsible reckless behavior.  Some HIV/AIDS experts argued that it promotes irresponsible sexual practices and may be responsible for declining condom use and rising rates of other STIs.

Unfortunately, there concerns are valid. In Volk’s study, it was found that after six months on PrEP use, 30 percent of the participants had at least one STI, ranging from chlamydia to gonorrhea and syphilis. After 12 months, that percentage increased to 50 percent of participants.

“Not a single dude I know that is on Truvada is using condoms,” is a comment I ran over just while I was doing research. Apparently it is even common in the gay community for those who use Truvada to be called “Truvada whores.” Clearly, this form of treatment is controversial in the communities who benefit from it the most.

Nonetheless, Truvada is intended to be used along with condoms. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases. Those for Truvada argue that people would not use condoms or protection anyway so the drug is doing more good than harm.

Conclusion from the Study

Volk is careful to note that he did not expect these results when originally planning the study. He explained that he would have expected an HIV rate of 8.9 cases per 100-person. Instead the HIV incidence rate was zero.

Still, he emphasizes that more research and studies are needed to confirm the results. He believes that this behavioral data is not rigorous enough to establish a causal link to Truvada use. The data does not assess the risk of the participant or their partners and it still does not take into account whether people are not using condoms if there partner is also taking the drug. There also is not a control group that assesses whether PrEP use did or did not change people’s sexual choices.

“Without that more nuanced understanding of when and how people are using condoms, it’s really difficult to make those determinations,” he said.

There definitely is a lot more to be looked at. Another criticism of the study is that it took place in San Francisco, an area with higher rates of HIV therefore higher rates of HIV treatment so the virus may not be detectable. Volk suggests his findings may not be applicable to other cities.

Regardless, Volk is excited about the results:

“It really extends the very impressive evidence we have from randomized controlled trials and demonstration projects and provides us with very exciting news: that this medication can be delivered effectively in a real world setting,” Volk concluded.

What do you think? Should a drug like this be heavily promoted? It is hard to tell where the results of this study will lead to. Still, the news is exciting for those wanting to know about methods prevent the instances of HIV/AIDS. It also affects the drug addiction community and could help lower the risk of contraction of HIV/AIDS from dirty needles.

Regardless, the most important way to take care of yourself is by finding ways to overcome your addiction and not making reckless mistakes in the first place.  If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125

Company Fights Big Pharma Bullies Prices with Cheap Alternative

Company Fights Big Pharma Bullies Prices with Cheap Alternative

Author: Justin Mckibben

Are there any good guys left in the business of medicine?

Might not seem so considering we have talked a lot recently about Martin Shkreli and how he ultimately became infamous via online and every media outlet that would show his face as one of the most hated men online thanks to an almost deliberate demonstration of opportunistic business tactics at the expensive of the customer, who just so happens to be wrought with cancer and/or AIDS… yeah, he’s a real charmer. Being referred to as the ‘Big Pharma Bro’ I would call him something else… but I digress.

Spoiler Alert: Shkreli is NOT too popular these days. If you’re tired of reading about him, skip ahead to the good news at the bold words.

Shkreli is the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, and now his name is on its way to going down in history with infamy after his company acquired a life-saving medication used to treat patients deathly sick with AIDS or cancer, and then gouged the price of the drug up to $750 a pill.

Then came current CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, J. Michael Pearson, who was shamed through his comments in regards to outrageous price gouging, implying that the companies allegiances were to the shareholders who put made money and invested in them instead of the sick and suffering customers who desperately depend on their medications.

And don’t even get me started on how one of the companies behind the supply of naloxone is slowly but steadily raising their prices in the face of one of the worst periods of death and destruction in the heroin epidemic… OR how Purdue Pharm has stood to make ridiculous amounts of money from the FDA approving OxyContin for kids!

Needless to say, the Big Pharma industry lately has been looking an awful lot like warlords of the dark ages when it comes to caring about the customer.

Just when you thought all hope was lost, this piece of news might just help restore your faith in humanity… as long as it’s not too good to be true. A drug company in San Diego actually announced on Thursday that it would make it a mission to compete with Martin Shkreli’s Turing Pharmaceuticals by offering the same drug used to help AIDS and cancer patients for $1 a pill!

Imprimis to the Rescue

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals is a compounding-drug firm based out of San Diego, California. Recently company officials stated the Big Pharma company would now start selling its own version of the generic drug pyrimethamine, which Turing was advertising under the name Daraprim.

The big difference here is that the version Imprimis provides is actually a combination method of treatment, and included in this cheap alternative method of treatment are two generic drugs:

  • Pyrimethamine
  • Leucovorin

Leucovorin is a medication typically utilized in an effort to help treat cancer patients who are going through chemotherapy.

But Imprimis has a game plan built on the grounds that these two drugs are actually the same active ingredients in the Turing Pharmaceutical version of Daraprim. Mark Baum, who essentially sounds like a Bruce Wayne of heroic Big Pharma proportions, is the CEO of Imprimis. Baum said that his company plans to offer similar compounded drugs soon, so hopefully Imprimis is making a big part of its product and business development strategy taking some shots at the price gouging companies we have seem stepping all over the consumer to capitalize on the market.

Braum told the Associated Press,

“We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up. There’ll be many more of these.”

Now full disclosure here… there is a catch… kind of…

Baum has admitted in his statements that his company’s mix of the two drugs has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

However, both the ingredients themselves and the company’s compounding work have been approved! There are still some limits being imposed on access to the medications, and the drug can only be sold after being prescribed by a doctor to a specific individual.

Still, the company is selling a bottle of 100 pills for $99 through its website. At $1 a pill, it seems like they are at least making an effort to take some of the fight out of the Big Pharma bullies and put more power back in the hands of people who actively advocate for innovative and effective treatment. Maybe the medications haven’t earned their access to be mainstream quite yet, but just knowing there is a company out there that wants to deflate the bloated budgets of these Big Pharma monopolies to change the standard is remarkable.

Fingers crossed Baum and his company can deliver on these ideals.

Like I said before, it’s lucky people are starting to pay more attention to the bullies of Big Pharma and their greedy tactics. Big Pharma may not be the only problem, and some might even be the good guys, so hopefully we can all push for more solutions and less schemes. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

Another Big Pharma CEO Under Fire for Price Gouging

Another Big Pharma CEO Under Fire for Price Gouging

Author: Justin Mckibben

Yup, the Big Pharma big shots are at it again.

You probably remember last month Martin Shkreli basically became a household name seemingly overnight as one of the most hated men online thanks to a blatant display of opportunistic business tactics at the expensive of the customer.

Shkreli is the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, and now his name is on its way to going down in history with infamy after his company acquired a life-saving medication used to treat patients deathly sick with AIDS or cancer, and then gouged the price of the drug up to $750 a pill.

Martin Shkreli took to the media on various formats defending this maneuver, and in one interview he justified his company by basically saying ‘well, everyone else is doing it.’

Shkreli contested that Turing Pharmaceuticals is not alone in the Big Pharma bad-boys club, and claimed many of Big Pharma companies are actively acquiring drugs already on the market and being used to treat people only to raise their prices and subsequently drive up the company stock price at skyrocketing speeds.

Turns out, he’s not wrong. Another Big Pharma CEO has since made a similar claim, and might just be making his own way toward the throne of Martin Shkreli as most hated drug dealer in Big Pharma.

Pearson Talks Pharmaceuticals

Now throwing his hat in the ring is the current CEO of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, J. Michael Pearson. One reason Pearson himself is drawing some attention is for comments some have considered to be blatantly cold and calculating in spite of the sick and suffering.

Recently Pearson said in an interview that his company’s responsibility is to it’s shareholders, while making no mention of his customers who rely on his drugs to live. It seems to be completely void of any compassionate notes that even Shkreli tried to imitate in his interviews. Pearson stated:

“If products are sort of mispriced and there’s an opportunity, we will act appropriately in terms of doing what I assume our shareholders would like us to do.”

Yea, so again another opportunist who sees a drug at a price he could take advantage of and jack up to help shareholders, but seemingly neglects to mention any priority going to the sick people the Big Pharma companies essentially exist to serve.

Sure, a business is a business… but this kind of business is supposed to exist to make medicine accessible to people who need it, not hold their health hostage by limiting their supply with a monopoly choke hold.

During one news interview Pearson defended his business practice of acquiring drugs instead of investing in research and development.

“My primary responsibility is to Valeant shareholders. We can do anything we want to do. We will continue to make acquisitions, we will continue to move forward.”

Yes, you are moving forward… financially. But at what cost?

You can do anything you want to do?! So you want to make medicine more and more expensive for the sick in order to make rich people richer?

Track Record of Price Gouging

Pearson’s company Valeant has increased the price of 56 of the drugs this year alone! And we aren’t talking about small price bumps here or there, throughout his entire portfolio the average increase of price is jumping up 66%.

Then, mirroring what we’ve heard about Shkreli , Pearson’s company acquired the drug Zegerid and punctually raised the price-tag… by 550%!

Since being named CEO in 2008,

The company is obviously making plenty of money. Instead of investing in research and development, it seems this man’s only prerogative is lining the pockets of anyone pumping funding into his companies tyranny.

I know, this is a frustrating thing to ponder.

Yet there may still be some justice in the world. It appears that all of the public backlash over price gouging of prescription drugs is under a very smoldering heap of scrutiny. Prescription price-gouging in Big Pharma has become a focal point of the presidential campaigns for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who has openly expressed his interests in taking a real stand against the pricing practice AND waging war on wall street and white collar crime.

Reportedly the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is already planning to issue a subpoena for information on recent price increases from both Pearson and Shkreli, which could finally put their feet to the fire and might even expose further injustice, but only time will tell.

For now at least those who are offended by the Big Pharma price-gouging of life-saving medicine may be happy to hear that since the pending investigation was announced against Pearson’s company, Valeant’s stock price has collapsed more than 27% in the last month! So even if there is no public hearing to punish these unfair practices, or if they are deemed to be somehow “acceptable,” at least they are making less money on account of their callousness.

That’s one more scandal for Big Pharma, and luckily people are starting to pay more attention to their every greedy tactics. Big Pharma may not be the only problem, but maybe it would help if they focused less on money and more on creating solutions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

 

 

New Owner of AIDS and Cancer Medication Spikes Prices

New Owner of AIDS and Cancer Medication Spikes Prices

Author: Justin Mckibben

This is a disturbing example of how Big Pharma companies and those in charge of them are taking advantage of the system. In my personal opinion, it kind of shows us where we are at as far as allowing drug companies to take hostage the ones who desperately need their medications.

Martin Shkreli is a 32 year old former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical businessman who is the founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, and according to recent reports that have been all over the internet the past few days, he is getting a lot of bad attention after he purchased the rights to a 62-year-old drug used for treating life-threatening parasitic infections… and then raised the price overnight… by 5,500%!!

Dominating Daraprim

Shkreli purchased the rights to Daraprim, a medication used for treating toxoplasmosis — a cunning parasitic infection that often causes serious or even fatal problems for infants or people with compromised immune systems like patients battling AIDS or cancer.

He bought Daraprim for $55 million on the same day that Turing announced it had raised $90 million from Shkreli and other investors in its first round of financing! Now he has admitted that it barely cost anything to produce Daraprim, but claims that the necessary increase in price also has to do with various other aspects of marketing, distribution and FDA costs, but does that really make sense?

To put this in perspective, this is a medication that sold for slightly over $1 a tablet several years ago. Now of course with most medications the prices have increased as the rights to the drug have been passed from one pharmaceutical company to another, but never has that increase been th devastating and newsworthy increase since Shkreli acquired it from $13.50 per tablet to $750.

For a bottle of 30 pills, it used to cost $450… now, it will cost around $22,500! This once commonly utilized treatment will now register hundreds of thousands of dollars for the millions of people who need it, and the sickening part is that Shkreli doesn’t see anything wrong with it.

Sounds familiar… like another ridiculous price problem I wrote about last week with Naloxone companies. I think we are starting to see a serious problem with patterns in Big Pharma.

Shkreli’s Side of the Story

According to Shkreli, his company will use the money it earns through this drastic price spike in order to develop better treatments for toxoplasmosis, with fewer side effects. Shkreli claimed,

“This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,”

Many argue that this makes no sense, but Shkreli is saying that many patients use the drug for far less than a year, so basically what I hear is the company needs to squeeze as much as they can out of each sick and suffering patient?

Shrkeli also defends his marketing strategy by saying this new price is more akin to other drugs used for rare diseases.

Shkreli Scandals

This is not the first time Shkreli has found himself in the depths of a scandal for his strategies in the area of medications and their price changes. He has been accused in the past with previous ventures of urging the FDA to not approve certain drugs made by companies whose stock he was shorting.

Shkreli also worked to form Retrophin back in 2011, which also acquired old drugs and immediately raised their prices. Retrophin’s board fired Shkreli a year ago and has filed a complaint in Federal District Court, sueing Shkreli for $65 million in damages last month for his actions, claiming he used Retrophin like his own private Big Pharma piggy-bank, burning through $3 million in personal assets even as he dismantled the company from within.

In a joint letter from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, the organizations described this recent and incredibly high spike in drug price as

“unjustifiable for the medically vulnerable patient population”

 “unsustainable for the health care system.”

Currently Shkreli is justifying the companies decision to raise the prices by insisting the company has implemented protocols for co-pay assistance programs to help eliminate costs, as well as expanding the free drug program to help patients. As someone who has worked in the past with prescription assistance companies, I can say from experience these companies and their prescription assistance programs can be notoriously tricky to enroll in and get approved for.

Shkreli has also stated that half of their produced medication they are giving away for $1, and that the company is adamant about providing the medication to those who cannot afford it through various prescription assistance programs.

His claim goes on to state the companies aim is to put this drug, which is life-saving BUT toxic, out of business by giving a serious incentive for the development of a new treatment. So wait… you raise prices to force people to find alternatives? Why is that any better than allowing them what little help they can have while looking for it?

So he says he’s raising prices, to turn a profit, and so that his company can put the money into 3 or 4 new drugs they are currently trying to develop to replace Daraprim. Shkreli has also cited that there are various drug companies out there raising prices who are NOT putting money into research and development, and he thinks the spotlight on him is unfair scrutiny.

Really? Well when a generic drug is making plenty of money at $13 a pill, and you skyrocket it for “research and development” while pushing for big profits, people are going to notice, and they won’t take kindly to your logic.

Let’s just pretend his reasoning sounds as if it could be somewhat (and I mean this in the loosest possible way) logical, even though it is grossly insensitive and utterly lacking in compassion… even if he could somehow come up with a more reasonable explanation as to why he and his company have jacked the price of an important AIDS medication up so high, still the guys track record leaves more than a few eye-brows raised as to whether or not any explanation he offers could even be trusted… especially with any kind of million dollar operation this vital to public health care.

Big Pharma has seen more than enough scandals in the past year to know that people are starting to pay a lot more attention to their every unsavory action, and with this move gaining the media momentum in such an unattractive way, drug companies desperately need to be on their best behavior. Big Pharma needs to stop contributing to problems, and contribute more to solutions. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

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