Author: Justin Mckibben
Big Pharma has been called out several times in the past couple years for pricing, aggressive marketing and misrepresenting their products. Big Pharma companies have also been called to court a few times for the contribution prescription opioid drugs have made on the opioid epidemic that has damaged the country. The financial and emotional toll of the opioid epidemic has hit hard in several states. South Florida is no exception. Delray Beach has experienced their fair share of strain from the opioid problem, especially when it had been an epicenter of the huge illegal pill mill problem.
Now community leaders in Delray Beach are seeking restitution from the Big Pharma empires, making it the first city in Florida to take this shot at holding Big Pharma accountable.
The Big Suit
That’s why the Delray Beach commission Tuesday decided to sue drug makers for the part they played in the heroin crisis. The city has enlisted the national law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd from their office based in Boca Raton. So far the suit has set its sights on at least 8 major drug makers and distributors. Two of these have already seen similar cases; Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
Mayor of Delray Beach, Cary Clickstein, has stated:
“With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state … cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population,”
“We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity.”
According to the law firm representing Delray Beach, the Big Pharma companies being pursued are responsible for:
- Downplaying the addictive nature of opioids
- Forcing the burden of dealing with the resultant overdoses on state, county and city governments
One of the more impressive features of this case is that the lawsuit won’t cost the city of Delray Beach. The expenses will be covered by Robbins Geller. However, the case supposedly has the potential to garner millions in damages for the parties pressing the matter.
According to a partner of the law firm, who compared the Big Pharma tactics to the now infamous tactics of Big Tobacco,
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true.”
The Mayor and the law firm seem hopeful, while other states have been laying the groundwork for these powerful fights.
States VS Big Pharma
Back in 2015, two counties in California sought damages against 5 Big Pharma companies for the same reasons, and in no time at all the case had been dismissed. However, recently one of these drug company agreed to pay 1.6 million for substance abuse treatment to settle the lawsuit. 4 others remain as defendants in this ongoing battle.
In 2014, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a similar stance, but in 2015 the case was also dismissed. However, the court did state in one of these cases:
“The Purdue entities made misstatements about opioids on their own websites with the intention that Chicago doctors and consumers rely on those misrepresentations are sufficient to state claims against the Purdue entities for violations…”
And while U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso dismissed many of the complaints, the battle over whether these companies deliberately misrepresented the drug benefits and risks continues.
Even recently Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the state is suing 5 pharmaceutical companies, including:
- Purdue Pharma
- Endo Health Solutions
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Allergan, formerly known as Actavis
There are numerous other suits that have been filed against Big Pharma companies.
- Four counties in New York
- The Cherokee Nationfiled a lawsuit against distributors and pharmacies in tribal court over the opioid epidemic.
- The city of Everett, Washington
While some of these suits may go over better than others, the fact is Big Pharma is under some serious scrutiny.
Delray Beach Making a Case
The Delray Beach lawsuit will seek damages based on the claims that drug makers and distributors violated laws of:
- State consumer protection
- Public nuisance
- Unjust enrichment
According to city officials, every overdose in Delray Beach costs the city about $2,000 in manpower and lifesaving materials. With 690 overdoses last year, that puts the bill around $1,380,000. The only problem is finding a way to prove that pharmaceutical companies can be linked to these overdoses. While many, if not all, of those overdoses were heroin-related, the city may still have grounds to go after opioid drug makers in Big Pharma because these dangerous drugs are considered an underlying problem in the opioid epidemic.
Between 72 and 82 opioid prescriptions are written for every 100 people in Florida, the law firm reports.
While the law firm anticipates other governing bodies will join as plaintiffs, Delray Beach leaders insist they will not wait for other plaintiffs to join the lawsuit. At this point there is not telling how long the lawsuit will last.
There should definitely be accountability for the damage that has been done thanks to the misrepresentation of drug risks and benefits. The misguided and underestimated use of powerful opioids has destroyed countless lives over the years. But beyond holding Big Pharma accountable, there should also be some effort put forth by the state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a huge impact. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
According to some statistics, opioids killed nearly 30,000 Americans in 2014. This includes illicit narcotics and prescription painkillers. In the last two years there have been reports from all over the country of surges in overdoses and deaths, leading one to believe that number has been magnified with the growing epidemic. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in our country.
1 in 4 families are directly impacted by drug overdose. Whether that is you or not, you can see the impact it has on our communities. Now Palm Beach County is continuing to advocate for more resources to help the people most at risk fight back.
There will be Narcan Training events for local communities of Palm Beach County starting this month. The first seminar will be in Boca Raton, Florida at the St. Jude Reception Hall. This is about saving lives, and with so many lives be lost and others suffering, the time is now to learn how you may save a life.
The Problem in Palm Beach County
In 2014 there were an estimated 2,062 deaths due to prescription drugs. Many of these were opioid-related deaths, and heroin accounts for thousands more. In Florida, the total drug-related death toll increased by 14% in the first half of 2015 compared to 2014.
Palm Beach County saw an overdose rate increase of 425% so far in 2016 compared to 2015. There were 13 overdoses alone in Delray Beach last weekend. Hundreds more overdoses happened throughout Palm Beach County last month. The opiate epidemic has not spared any corner of the county, and many government officials and community organizations are pulling their resources in an effort to create strategies to prevent drug overdoses and save lives.
More about Narcan
Narcan, or the generic form Naloxone, is a life-saving opiate antidote. Some examples of opioids include:
An opioid overdose can cause breathing to slow down or stop completely, putting someone’s life in immediate danger. Narcan works by blocking the effects of opioids and can actually reverse an overdose in order to get medical attention to someone who is in need.
One major plus is that Narcan has no euphoric effects and cannot get someone “high” so abuse is not an issue. The overdose antidote is essentially harmless if there are no opiods present in someone’s system. If given to a person who has not taken opioids, there will be no effect. Narcan can still be effective when alcohol or other drugs are present with opiates.
Administration to opioid-dependent individuals may cause symptoms of opioid withdrawal, including:
- Fast heart rate
There are other measures that can be taken to help ease these symptoms as well.
Narcan and Naloxone expansion programs have become a huge part of states everywhere trying to solve the overdose death outbreak. Many communities have equipped their first responders with Narcan kits and given training on how to administer the antidote. Some police departments in Palm Beach County now carry Narcan or Naloxone kits. Now these programs are trying to empower more people in Palm Beach County.
The first free seminar on Narcan Training is October 24th at 6 o’clock PM. The training takes place in the St. Jude Reception Hall in Boca Raton, Florida. For more information and events, visit the website here.
The seminar is open to the public and will be teaching participants more about the dangers of drug overdose, as well as about Narcan.
Palm Beach County has seen what an opioid overdose can do. It has also seen how effective Narcan and Naloxone can be to helping prevent an overdose from turning into a death. Not only are there expansion programs out there making the medication more available, but the community in Palm Beach County is actively working to help the people understand how to utilize their resources. Putting this life saving medication in reach and teaching people how to use it can help us from having to helplessly watch our friends, family members or neighbors die.
Palm Beach County also has a strong recovery community, and many people got there through effective and innovative holistic drug and alcohol treatment. It is incredibly important to preserve life, and beyond that to improve the lives that are saved. Drug and alcohol treatment can be the first step to a new life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Two new drugs have hit the streets in South Florida, and both of them have at least two things in common. First, they both are reported to have very dangerous and deadly side effects. Second, they are both being used in e-cigarettes while being sold as a ‘safer alternative’ to smoking tobacco.
E-cigarettes, or ‘vapes’ have already gotten attention in other areas of the country as well for being used to disguise harmful chemical compounds being made for the purpose of getting high. Here in Florida, it seems two in particular are making waves.
First Look at Flakka
First there is a synthetic drug out there that goes by street names like ‘Flakka’ or ‘a-PVP’ and so far reports suggest that this drug is a dangerous and unpredictable one. Authorities state this is the latest form of ‘bath salts’ to hit the area. The Broward Sheriff’s Office crime lab reports to have seen more than 100 cases where submitted materials have tested positive for alpha-PVP between February and October of last year.
Narcotics detectives so far have said that ‘Flakka’ tends to look like a cross between crack cocaine and meth, with a unique and distinctively foul smell.
Officially have gone on to expand on the methods users have been using to take the drug including:
This potentially deadly drug is used to create a feeling of euphoria, but that users also report to have experienced hallucinations, and some speculate it can even cause psychosis. The high usually wears off after a couple of hours, and Pettit said the urge to re-dose is very intense.
Narcotics detectives from St. Lucie stated that they were aware of the existence of Flakka, and that they had observed the drug recently gaining a foothold in Broward County, but had not seen Flakka locally until a recent call about a disturbance a couple of weeks ago at a night club in the Ft. Pierce area. When the responding deputies arrived they had ended up arresting a man involved in the disturbance, and upon searching the individual they discovered he was in possession of Flakka.
So far authorities claim that it is unknown at this time if Flakka being found in Ft. Pierce was just an isolated incident, or if it’s starting to gain a foothold on the Treasure Coast as well.
Bad News Budder
Another newly popular synthetic drug to make waves in Florida is referred to as ‘butane hash oil’ or ‘marijuana wax’ while going by street names like ‘Budder.’ It is a described as a gooey substance made in grow-houses using a highly unstable process that requires soaking the leaves and stems of marijuana plants in a chemical solvent like butane in order to extract the most concentrated ingredients for inducing a high.
Crime labs in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties have all reported seeing multiple cases of Budder showing up in recent months. At this point the exact number of cases are not being tracked because the drug is still fairly new, and because it ultimately tests as a marijuana product. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera has made a statement saying,
“[Budder] is gaining in popularity and is very potent with a high THC level. It is very dangerous and explosive to produce.”
On May 6 2014 around 5 a.m. there was an explosion that shook a west Boca Raton neighborhood, blowing out the windows in a grow-house and waking up the neighborhood. Law enforcement sources were able to confirm the explosion has been linked to the grow-house’s Budder operation.
The Boca explosion caused a lot of attention from law enforcement locally, and shortly after officials say they started hearing about other cases. Due to these dangerous circumstances area police officers are now approaching grow-house raids across the board with the same precautions used to raid meth labs.
Budder grow-houses are not the only concern present in the situation, and users should be acutely aware as authorities have stated the waxy material is more potent and more toxic than marijuana. Budder can cause several hazardous side-effects, such as:
- Severe hallucinations
- Heart problems
With these two substances being expected to be drugs with such dangerous side-effects, it is no wonder that local law enforcement urging the public to be cautious. With Budder being sold as an easy way to use marijuana, and Flakka being a synthetic substance in a new wave of drug dealers creating ‘legal’ chemical concoctions by using substances that have yet to be banned, the police say this is another reason they must do everything in their power to keep up with the changing drug trends. Many law enforcement officials are avid about the problem, and say that with the existence and popularity of e-cigarettes we will continue to see dangerous synthetics being sold as something else entirely.
The illicit drugs we know and the synthetic ones that are constantly reformulated and re-labeled all pose a serious threat. Some of these substances are sold as ‘legal’ highs, but do NOT be fooled. These are said to also be some of the most dangerous. In the end a drug is a drug, and no matter what kind it is, it is not worth a life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
(Right to left: Hassan Jones/Terry Utter/Antonio Francula)
Author: Justin Mckibben
Some people still think that an area like Boca Raton, Florida is basically immune to things like drug addiction run rampant or felons running the streets. Most people when you say Boca Raton think of retirement and golf courses, or shopping malls and spas. But what if that stigma was shattered, and we replaced the club houses with drug houses?
When something seems like a little insignificant thing, I know plenty of people who call these luxury problems ‘Boca Problems’, but what if there were more things to take into consideration. Well after a few things have happened in the past year, this weekend’s SWAT raid shows us just that when you think you know the mean streets of Boca Raton, there goes the neighborhood.
Details on SWAT Raid
This past weekend there was a supposed SWAT raid on a “drug house” in the West Sandalfoot trailers of the Watergate Estates. Friday night it was estimated that about 10 Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) squad cars and 2 armored SWAT trucks were involved in the arrests of 3 multiple felons . The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office shows three arrests that fit the description of this incident, and the details have been pieced together by some local media.
The 3 that have been allegedly linked to this crime are:
Jones faces two drug charges, including felony drug possession with intent to sell.
Utter is charged with two felony drug possession counts (cocaine and another drug without a prescription) and one misdemeanor count for possession of drug equipment.
- 25 year old Antonio Francula
Jones and Utter were both booked shortly after midnight this past Friday. Both reports on Jones and Utter were written up with the same address on Atlantic Circle, which is near the west end of Sandalfoot Blvd where it meets Tradewind.
The arrest report on Francula stated that he was arrested within minutes of the other two. He was also booked on drug charges, along with resisting an officer without violence, which probably indicates that he led officers on a slight chase from the scene of the raid before being apprehended. This however is purely speculation.
For anyone who has any doubts about the kind of neighborhoods these things happen in, don’t be too surprised to hear that Francula’s reported address is in the city in East Boca. Now the arresting agency is PBSO, which does not operate in the city of Boca. When taking that and the timing into account, there’s a substantial chance he was part of the initial SWAT related incident.
At this point Francula remains in custody, while Jones and Utter were released Saturday evening. Hopefully the two do not go starting any more immediate trouble, and maybe while locked up Francula will have some time to reflect.
The Unusual Suspects
These are no first time criminals living in Boca either. Jones’ would be facing his sixth felony with this arrest. He’s had 4 other cases in this county since back in 1998, including a traffic felony in Broward from 2012, and another with 5 prior minor criminal charges there. For Jones alone a few of his more prominent arrests include:
- In 1998 grand theft and he got probation
- In 2003 he got 30 days in jail on felony drug charges
- In 2011 he did a short county jail stint on a misdemeanor drug charge
- In 2012 he got four months for two grand theft felonies
Terry Utter had a little bit less baggage on her record. She was charged with a felony drug arrest in 2012 that was later dropped by the prosecutors. Then there was a felony cocaine arrest in 2013 after which she was sentenced to a day in jail that she had already served.
Francula on the other hand has his own track record to show off, and for some of those who think that crime is limited to a certain neighborhood; Boca Raton is not only for the retired and the well to do. Francula’s record includes:
- 2008 he had a robbery felony and he completed his probation for that in 2012.
- 2013 he was arrested for a misdemeanor retail theft and paid a fine (no jail sentence). A few months later he had another misdemeanor theft charge and got 4 days jail time.
- Earlier this month he was arrested for burglarizing a car and that case is still pending.
Living down the Street from Stigma
The point that this is trying to make is pretty simple, not just to be informative, but to highlight the fact that no specific area is absolutely without exposure to the suffering of addiction. Some people may still live down the street from someone who they hold up to a stigma for no real reason, while the real addict lives right next door.
Boca Raton is a beautiful area, and there are a lot of beautiful properties and luxury homes in the area, but I can personally say I know of dozens of addicts and alcoholics living there, many of whom are functioning and happy members of society. There are halfway houses, and there are drug houses in Boca as well. No neighborhood or social class is immune to the disease of addiction, but too many people let stigma convince them otherwise.
Not every addict or alcoholic looks the same and lives in a slum. Not every addict or alcoholic chooses to do the right thing, regardless of what areas they live in. But there is a choice that is never too late to make. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addicrion, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Meth for Ministry
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Walter White of the hit series Breaking Bad was a preacher instead of a teacher? OK, me neither, but this is pretty close anyway. Judith Hemken, 53, and Tiffany Burton, 26, were accused of cooking meth inside a southern Illinois church and arrested near Hillsboro. A member of the Waveland Hillsboro Presbyterian Church apparently ‘noticed activity’ in the building on a Tuesday night when it was supposed to be empty and reported it to the authorities.
According to Montgomery County Undersheriff Rick Robbins the church member reportedly spotted one woman outside the church and another in its basement, with what appeared to be parts of a meth lab. The women fled, but were pulled over by police. After which a clandestine meth lab in the church basement was discovered and officers had to extinguish a small fire that started due to the lithium and moisture from a sink drain.
Neither woman was affiliated with Waveland, Robbins said. Since the alleged lab was inside a church, the women could face enhanced sentences of up to 40 years in prison. May God have mercy on these two, because with this being such a strange case and the criminal activity in question being done on holy ground there is no telling if the judge will.
Mikey Mouse Ain’t Nothing to Mess with
Now this has yet to be revealed as a hoax, but a recent road rage video clip caught on camera in Russia over the weekend shows a disgruntled motorist stopping a vehicle with which he’s had some kind of problem. The video shows him walk toward the vehicle and be quickly over-run and assaulted, as people dressed as Mickey Mouse, Spongebob Squarepants, Scrat from “Ice Age” and some kind of spotted furry creature jump out and start beating him. Kicking and punching the man.
Some might say that he was being viciously attacked after exhibiting some road rage, others might say he was an adoring fan or cartoons who was greeted by his favorite giant stuffed animals with a fury of ‘fist cuddles’.
Hallucinated Hostage Situation
In a Florida home of Jackson County there apparently was a hostage situation that turned out to be more- or less- than it appeared. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded last Sunday after several reports came in that there were three people screaming out of a home, claiming to have been taken hostage.
Authorities arrived at the residence and were told that the three supposed victims were 18-year-old Madison Douglas, 21-year-old Damian Hines, and 30-year-old Matthew McDaniel. The officers answering the distress call were informed that the 3 had been taken hostage for several hours. Bullet holes were found in the windows and walls, and the victims completely removed a large rear window from the house on the second floor and threw the bathroom sink at the attackers. Chunks of sheetrock, wood, firearm parts, and anything they could tear out of the residence was thrown outside including the toilet, which was ripped from the floor. In the end the damage done to the home was over $10,000.
Police soon after investigating discovered that the 3 distressed individuals had in fact hallucinated the entire situation while on meth. The young woman Madison Douglas even claimed she had been stabbed by a suspect, but authorities said she had only a light scratch on her abdomen which was, the rest of this ridiculous and disturbing hallucinated hostage situation, self-inflicted.
Park Ranger Placed on Leave: Drunk on the Job
A California State Parks ranger was allegedly found drunk with an open beer container between his legs and asleep in his patrol car. The officer has apparently been placed on leave and his peace officer status has been revoked pending a full scale investigation as reported by the California Highway Patrol.
A passerby spotted Tyson Young, the Park Ranger in question in Humboldt Redwoods State Park on August 15th and first tried to wake ranger Young. The observer, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Lost Coast Outpost that he shook Young trying to wake him, but to no avail. The anonymous observer then took a photo of the ranger, which California State Parks later confirmed to be officer Young after the Lost Coast Outlet had posted the photo on twitter.
Apparently nobody told this guy it’s tough to preserve wildlife and prevent forest fires while in a black-out. Thankfully he does… oh wait, yes he does carry a firearm on the job.
Cat-burglar Caught by Adorable Distractions
So if you are going to commit a crime, then get high and run for police, whatever you do DO NOT pet the cats. Cats obviously cannot be trusted! 21-year-old Daniel Pinedo Velapatino had just talked his way into a woman’s home in Boca Raton, Florida after leading police on a chase that had jumped to a start in Delray Beach. He knocked on her door last Tuesday to ask for a drink from the home-owner who assumed he was a landscaper.
Candace Noonan, who lived at the Boca Raton residence, obliged the suspect with a drink of water he requested unaware that Velapatino had allegedly consumed drugs the night before, stole thousands of dollars from a buddy, and then smashed into a bunch of cars as he ran from police. When she returned with the water, Velapatino was lying on her floor, playing with her fuzzy and adorable detectives, the cats.
“It was odd, very odd,” she said. “He was stroking my cat. It almost looked like he either was on drugs or he was mentally handicapped.”
When Noonan’s husband began questioning Velpatino, he fled out the back door. The Noonans led police to him, and he allegedly attempted to jump in a nearby canal but was apprehended by a police boat. I can’t decide whether those cats are just too adorable to ignore even in the midst of a high tensions police chase, or if they are clever and cunning undercover agents of the animal kingdom, coughing up fur balls… of JUSTICE!
Some of these stories seem crazier than usual, but then again to the addict or alcoholic these could seem like a Friday night or resemble stories we have been told about ourselves. Luckily, things do not have to get this bad, and even if they do there is always help out there. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135