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CDC Director Steps Down after Conflict of Interest Controversy

CDC Director Steps Down after Conflict of Interest Controversy

The Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resigned last week, only a day after a POLITICO report was released stating that she had purchased stock in the tobacco industry after taking the position. The move has garnered a lot of public attention recently, as many view it as a glaring conflict of interest for someone in such an important position.

Conflicting with CDC Mission

When Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald took the position as Director of the CDC, she should have known that tobacco is one of the very drugs she is supposed to be fighting against. The slogan of the CDC is:

“24/7: Saving Lives, Protecting People.”

To many, this is in direct opposition to the tobacco industry, with cigarette smoking being the leading cause of preventable death in America. This year alone cigarettes will result in the deaths of approximately half a million Americans. So how could someone in charge of an organization that is supposed to save people invest in something that kills so many?

Before taking office, Fitzgerald owned stock in tobacco companies:

According to the initial report that was released last Tuesday, Fitzgerald purchased “tens of thousands of dollars in new stock holdings in at least a dozen companies,” including one of the largest tobacco companies in the entire world, Japan Tobacco. So before getting rid of a lot of these assets in October, she had her hand in 4 out of the “Big Five” tobacco companies in the world.

As if that were not suspicious enough, the very next day after purchasing these stocks, Fitzgerald reportedly took a tour of the CDC’s Tobacco Laboratory. This is the entity that researches the harms of tobacco’s chemicals on human health. Then, almost as if to add insult to injury, news outlets have looked back to Fitzgerald’s statement in November when she said,

“Too many Americans are harmed by cigarette smoking, which is the nation’s leading preventable cause of death and disease.”

She then vowed to “continue to use proven strategies to help smokers quit and to prevent children from using any tobacco products.”

For someone with such substantial monetary involvement in tobacco companies’ interests, it wouldn’t be very beneficial for her to follow through on her promise to fight the use of tobacco products, would it?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Fitzgerald claims that she did not make the investments herself. She says the stocks were purchased by someone working for her investment manager, and that she directed them to sell the stocks when she did find out about the purchase.

Stocks and Scandals

Dr. Fitzgerald is definitely not the only official to be facing backlash for investments that seem to be in conflict with their official responsibilities. While executive branch employees are forbidden to work on issues in which they have a financial interest, members of Congress don’t play by the same rules.

Lawmakers are allowed to write and vote on bills that would impact themselves financially. They are required to disclose their financial positions and report when the assets are bought and sold. This includes holdings of their spouse and dependent children. But when you take a close look at some of these instances, it is kind of rattling.

Last month, Democratic Senator Patty Murray had claimed Fitzgerald’s ability to perform her role was hindered by conflicts of interest. And yet, when Murray was the top Democrat on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) her husband owned an account with a manager who bought and sold stock in Reynolds American, another tobacco company.

Aides to Senator Murray state,

“The disclosure form shows the liquidation of an account managed by a broker without guidance.”

Even the most senior Republican in the Senate, Orrin Hatch from Utah, who is also a member of the HELP committee, owned stock in Marlboro manufacturer Philip Morris International. In late 2012 Hatch was a joint owner with between $15,001 and $50,000 of stock in Philip Morris.

Fitzgerald had also recently procured stocks in two Big Pharma giants, Merck and Bayer. While the CDC does not regulate the pharmaceutical industry, their recommendations and policies do have an impact on drug manufacturers.

To be fair, there is no evidence thus far that Fitzgerald has committed any wrongdoing; there is no indication her financial ties influenced her leadership, and she has denied she was aware of the purchases being made in her name. The same goes for Murray and Hatch.

However, the fact that this shake-up is making headlines for all the wrong reasons has some people wondering how many politicians involved in public health are using stocks to bet against healthcare getting better.

How could private investments indirectly impact other areas of healthcare, like pharmaceutical drugs or mental health and addiction treatment resources? How could the issues currently surrounding the CDC end up impacting the fight against addiction and the opioid crisis?

The CDC and other health agencies play a big part in helping fight the opioid epidemic and other serious issues pertaining to drug addiction. The more resources we have, the more chances we have of turning things around. The same goes for people trying to recover from drugs or alcohol. The more resources you have, the more chances to get better. Palm Partners Recovery Center offers personalized holistic treatment options to help you transform your life. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

What Were the Drug and Alcohol Death Rates in Your State?

What Were the Drug and Alcohol Death Rates in Your State?

Author: Justin Mckibben

A reality that is undeniable in this world is that somewhere on the planet, someone passes away every day. It is completely possible statistically that while you are reading this, someone is taking their last breaths. It is part of the process; the circle of life. Nobody lives forever. Yet, one tragic truth we have today is that so many are dying because of something as insidious as addiction. Right now, somewhere someone is dying from a drug overdose.

In all reality, several people just like you and I will die of a drug overdose, or a related illness or incident, today. As death rates due to opioid overdose death escalate higher than ever before, we find that drugs and alcohol are the most lethal threat facing Americans.

Last year we did an article providing overdose death rates for each state. So with that in mind, we took the time to provide some perspective by giving you the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, as far as an entire year’s worth of statistics for drug and alcohol induced deaths.

What do you think is your states statistic? Where does your state fall on the scale of highest to lowest?

The following information is in regards to 2015, and the population figures for year 2015 are bridged-race estimates of the July 1 resident population, from the Vintage 2015 postcensal series released by NCHS on June 28, 2016.

California

  • Drug deaths- 5,025
  • Alcohol deaths- 5,150
  • Total- 10,175

Florida

  • Drug deaths- 3,377
  • Alcohol deaths- 2,489
  • Total- 5,866

Texas

  • Drug deaths- 2,732
  • Alcohol deaths- 2,073
  • Total- 4,805

New York

  • Drug deaths- 3,009
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,479
  • Total- 4,488

Ohio

  • Drug deaths- 3,418
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,027
  • Total- 4,445

Pennsylvania

  • Drug deaths- 3,376
  • Alcohol deaths- 879
  • Total- 4,255

Michigan

  • Drug deaths- 2,316
  • Alcohol deaths- 985
  • Total- 3,301

Illinois

  • Drug deaths- 1,872
  • Alcohol deaths- 946
  • Total- 2,818

Arizona

  • Drug deaths- 1,351
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,277
  • Total- 2,628

North Carolina

  • Drug deaths- 1,636
  • Alcohol deaths- 915
  • Total- 2,551

Massachusetts

  • Drug deaths- 1,851
  • Alcohol deaths- 633
  • Total- 2,484

Washington

  • Drug deaths- 1,189
  • Alcohol deaths- 1,100
  • Total- 2,289

Tennessee

  • Drug deaths- 1,546
  • Alcohol deaths- 637
  • Total- 2,183

Georgia

  • Drug deaths- 1,370
  • Alcohol deaths- 726
  • Total- 2,096

New Jersey

  • Drug deaths- 1,506
  • Alcohol deaths- 527
  • Total- 2,033

Indiana

  • Drug deaths- 1,310
  • Alcohol deaths- 689
  • Total- 1,999

Kentucky

  • Drug deaths- 1,331
  • Alcohol deaths- 466
  • Total- 1,798

Colorado

  • Drug deaths- 893
  • Alcohol deaths- 857
  • Total- 1,750

Virginia

  • Drug deaths- 1,070
  • Alcohol deaths- 655
  • Total- 1,725

Maryland

  • Drug deaths- 1,320
  • Alcohol deaths- 301
  • Total- 1,621

Missouri

  • Drug deaths- 1,098
  • Alcohol deaths- 512
  • Total- 1,610

Wisconsin

  • Drug deaths- 894
  • Alcohol deaths- 638
  • Total- 1,532

Oregon

  • Drug deaths- 609
  • Alcohol deaths- 896
  • Total- 1,505

Louisiana

  • Drug deaths- 901
  • Alcohol deaths- 388
  • Total- 1,289

South Carolina

  • Drug deaths- 793
  • Alcohol deaths- 495
  • Total- 1,288

Oklahoma

  • Drug deaths- 751
  • Alcohol deaths- 530
  • Total- 1,281

Minnesota

  • Drug deaths- 653
  • Alcohol deaths- 599
  • Total- 1,252

New Mexico

  • Drug deaths- 516
  • Alcohol deaths- 656
  • Total- 1,172

Connecticut

  • Drug deaths- 827
  • Alcohol deaths- 341
  • Total- 1,168

Alabama

  • Drug deaths- 810
  • Alcohol deaths- 316
  • Total- 1,126

Nevada

  • Drug deaths- 629
  • Alcohol deaths- 433
  • Total- 1,062

West Virginia

  • Drug deaths- 750
  • Alcohol deaths-193
  • Total- 943

Utah

  • Drug deaths- 667
  • Alcohol deaths- 266
  • Total- 933

Iowa

  • Drug deaths- 332
  • Alcohol deaths- 344
  • Total- 676

Arkansas

  • Drug deaths- 425
  • Alcohol deaths- 242
  • Total- 667

Kansas

  • Drug deaths- 349
  • Alcohol deaths- 278
  • Total- 627

New Hampshire

  • Drug deaths- 433
  • Alcohol deaths- 173
  • Total- 606

Mississippi

  • Drug deaths- 369
  • Alcohol deaths- 175
  • Total- 544

Maine

  • Drug deaths- 278
  • Alcohol deaths- 194
  • Total- 472

Rhode Island

  • Drug deaths- 318
  • Alcohol deaths- 146
  • Total- 464

Idaho

  • Drug deaths- 224
  • Alcohol deaths- 240
  • Total- 464

Nebraska

  • Drug deaths- 139
  • Alcohol deaths- 199
  • Total- 338

Montana

  • Drug deaths- 152
  • Alcohol deaths- 194
  • Total- 346

Alaska

  • Drug deaths- 127
  • Alcohol deaths- 161
  • Total- 288

Delaware

  • Drug deaths- 208
  • Alcohol deaths- 80
  • Total- 288

Hawaii

  • Drug deaths- 175
  • Alcohol deaths- 95
  • Total- 270

Wyoming

  • Drug deaths- 99
  • Alcohol deaths- 152
  • Total- 251

South Dakota

  • Drug deaths- 72
  • Alcohol deaths- 152
  • Total- 224

District of Columbia

  • Drug deaths- 130
  • Alcohol deaths- 80
  • Total- 210

Vermont

  • Drug deaths- 111
  • Alcohol deaths- 96
  • Total- 207

North Dakota

  • Drug deaths- 65
  • Alcohol deaths- 96
  • Total- 161

The total drug related deaths in America- 55,403

Total alcohol related deaths in America- 33,171

Then the total combined (Drug/Alcohol) deaths in America- 88,574

Analyzing the Data of Deaths

Again, these are the CDC’s statistics from 2015; the most recent comprehensive data they can provide. The year 2016 saw some of the most damaging spikes of overdose rates in some cities. Some reports show 2016 to have the highest rates of drug addiction in the history of America. So if we look at the numbers for 2015, it is truly heartbreaking that in all likelihood well over the 88,574 people who died in 2015 lost their lives in 2016.

Some states have seen a huge jump in drug related death. My home-state of Ohio saw 3,778 in 2014, putting them at 3rd highest rate of drug/alcohol-related deaths. That grew to 4,445 in 2015; an increase of 667 people. California held onto the 1st spot on the top highest with 9,562 in 2014, which shot up to 10,175 in 2015; an increase of 613 people.

Oklahoma actually saw a decline in drug-related deaths,  bringing their total drug/alcohol-related deaths down from 1,348 in 2014 to 1,281 in 2015. But they did see an increase is alcohol-related deaths. Mississippi also saw a slight dip from 548 total to 544.

But while some were more intense shifts than others, besides Oklahoma and Mississippi, drug/alcohol-related deaths increased across the board.

Conclusion

What can we take from this? Well, quite simply, that we need to be aware of the true threat that substance abuse poses to our future. If we can expect based on headlines over the year that 2016 was much worse, we need to ask where we are heading. What is being done to change our direction?

We can also conclude that substance abuse an addiction is not limited to any geographic or demographic. It is a very real epidemic. For more detailed information you can visit the CDC’s site and pull up a variety of statistics.

Addiction to drugs and alcohol is stopping so many people from living out their lives and giving to the world. But true recovery is possible. We have the power to change these statistics. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

    CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135

Tweets against Prescription Addiction: #RxProblem Campaign

Tweets against Prescription Addiction: #RxProblem Campaign

Author: Justin Mckibben

This is the era of social media. Good or bad it is here to stay it seems, and while sometimes it can be abused, social media has opened new avenues for marketing, research, gathering and sharing information, and raising awareness. The constant connectivity of WiFi signals and the World Wide Web has given us the ability to reach out to people worlds away, giving each other images, experience and hope.

While I have admittedly written before talking about the dangers of social media and excessive and obsessive usage, I have also written about the positive side and the tools that it offers up to changing our understanding of mental health and stigma. Now one of the most popular social media tools of its time is being used to spread experience, strength and hope in a way that may make a world of difference for addiction.

The CDC Campaign

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to get that conversation going, and so they have taken advantage of the miracle of social media with Twitter, hashtag (#) in hand to raise awareness about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. In an attempt to shed new light on the issue the CDC hopes to recognize prescription opioid abusers who have been working to change their lives for the better. This week the new campaign was launched with the initiative asking for the stories of those who have been affected by prescription painkiller addiction.

“When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” is that name of the new CDC campaign that was announced at the fourth annual National RX Drug Abuse Summit. The CDC hopes to establish a safe sanctuary so those who are or have been addicted to prescription painkillers by giving them an opportunity to step forward and tell their story. The idea is one not unfamiliar to those who are used to the rooms of recovery, and the thought of sharing experience and personal stories in regards to prescription painkiller addiction will get people talking about it, and help more people to relate and understand. The associate director for Communication at the CDC’s Injury Center, Erin Connelly, stated:

Prescription drug overdose devastates individuals, families and communities. We’d like to get everyone talking and thinking about the risks involved with opioid painkillers.” 

As with a lot of issues that come with a degree of stigma, raising awareness in the public eye is a vital part of creating change and inspiring innovation in treatment.

Approaching the Issues

Addiction is one of those conditions that’s origins are often debated, and there are various differing viewpoints on what motivates prescription painkiller addiction in particular, and how to prevent it. Some are firm in the belief that addictive behavior can be in some ways genetic, many also believe it is a perfect storm of both nature and nurture, but regardless the CDC believes it all starts in the doctor’s office.

According to the CDC, there were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012. With the escalating concerns with the overdose epidemic, especially in relation to opioid drugs, Connelly went on to explain this focus on the doctors and health care professionals:

“[The] CDC’s approach to prescription drug overdose remains on primary prevention of opioid addiction and overdose—that is, addressing the problematic opioid prescribing that created and continues to fuel the epidemic… States drive prevention—they regulate the health professions, run prescription drug monitoring programs, administer large public insurance programs like Medicaid, and have the public health surveillance capacity to track the behavior of the epidemic.”

The Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus appropriations bill accumulated $20 million for the CDC to cultivate its Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program, and that money will allow 17 states to improve their prescription drug monitoring programs as well as implement new, evidence-based prevention programs. Keeping doctor shopping and pill mills from supplying the prescription drug problem will make a huge difference.

Hashtag Hero

The usage of a hashtag (#) is an easy way to keep sources compiled and connected, and for a campaign designed to share as much experience, inspiration and solutions as possible it is an easily way to gain traction as a simple networking and marketing tool. If you want to get involved in the CDC’s “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” campaign, or simply just to show your support, all you have to do is tweet a six-word message with the hashtag #RxProblem. Also through that hashtag you are given access to other information and stories.

Working together with the treatment industry and individuals from the recovery community the CDC is making the best of social media marketing in an attempt to get more of that message out there. The campaign is to run until May 15th, 2015.

We learn through early sobriety that a huge part of our recovery and the recovery of others is helping others. We should all do our part to helping the addict and alcoholic who still suffers from know there is a way out, and there are trained professionals ready and willing to welcome you to a new way of life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135

Is Drug Industry Keeping Secrets?

Is Drug Industry Keeping Secrets?

Author: Justin Mckibben

When it comes to medications and prescriptions knowing the extent of the effects a drug can have on someone is paramount. Being aware of negative results is not just useful; it is essential to good science as well as personal health, and it is said that randomized clinical trials are considered the best way to test a drug.

When you get two groups of patients with the same problem, give one group an experimental treatment and see if it works better than no treatment you can find out all the ways it can affect someone’s health. When you accumulate the results of multiples of similar clinical trials, level the differences and draw even more precise conclusions from a larger amount of data, it’s called a systematic review.

Publication Bias

The big problem is a systematic review only works if the reviewers have all the information. Good, bad and inconclusive results should always been included so that companies and governments can decide whether drugs should be legal, and so that an individual can decide for themselves if the risk is worth it. Unfortunately, there has been plenty of history that shows that pharmaceutical companies have had a habit of keeping some of these symptoms a secret.

The revelation of hidden data reinforced a growing movement against “publication bias,” which is when scientists stash away mostly negative or inconclusive findings and broadcast only their positive results in order to fulfill their agenda. Concealing trial data has basically become routine in the pharmaceutical industry. PLOS Medicine reported last year that as many as half of all clinical trials are never published.

Publication bias in clinical trials was something only scientists cared about for the longest time. But lately the issue has raised a crop of lobbyists and gone mainstream. In 2005, John P.A. Ioannidis, a researcher at the Stanford School of Medicine, published a paper under the heading “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” and mentioned publication bias. Meanwhile British doctor Ben Goldacre leads a movement called AllTrials, and his appearance on TED talks on publication bias has been seen 1.8 million times, so the word is slowly but surely making its way to the public as to the lies this industry has hidden behind.

The Tamiflu Fumble

Cochrane Collaboration, a London-based nonprofit has released evidence earlier this year that shows a significant amount of negative data from the drug Tamiflu. Clinical trials were conducted, but many reports were hidden from the public. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knew about it, but the medical community did not. Tamiflu has been implicated in several suicide deaths, and some circumstances of these incidents seemed too surreal to be coincidence.

Because of the withheld information the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which doesn’t have the same access to unpublished data as regulators, had recommended the drug without being able to see the full picture. When results from those unpublished trials finally emerged, they cast serious doubt over whether Tamiflu is as effective as the manufacturer says.

It is true that millions of people have taken Tamiflu without incident, and you are far more likely to die from the flu than you are to have a dangerous reaction to the drug. But if Tamiflu does nothing, and there’s even a slight chance of life-threatening side effects, why was it approved? And why do we continue to use it when there have been some reported cases of negative responses to the drug?

Accidents Can be Avoided

Sometimes the results of not sharing information are a lot easier to notice, and more obviously avoidable. Back in 2001 a 24-year-old technician at Johns Hopkins University named Ellen Roche volunteered for a study to find out how healthy people’s bodies avoid asthma attacks. She would receive a dose of the drug hexamethonium to induce a mild attack, and the idea behind the study was that her healthy body would overcome that attack, and then doctors would observe how her body accomplished this.

But despite the previous expectations, Roche would cough, her lung tissue broke down, and her kidneys failed. She was dead within a month. There was already data from 1978 in a study that had discovered this kind of reaction to hexamethonium, but because the paper that was published didn’t mention it, the information was not available to the doctors and researchers, and this death could have easily been avoided with the right information being published and accessible on a public level.

Putting More to the Public

Cochrane Collaboration has a respected reputation as one of the most rigorous reviewers of health science data. It takes results of multiple trials, looks for faults and draws conclusions. Very admirable is the fact that Cochrane does not even accept funding from businesses with a stake in its findings, thus actively working to avoid the conflict of interest.

National health agencies along with other organizations are working on solutions to the issue with publication bias. There are now innovations such as the online registries where researchers announce that they’re starting a trial and then post the results when they’re done. But so far neither resource has been utilized frequently enough to notice a definitive change.

So now, the World Health Organization (WHO) is preparing an official statement saying that “there is an ethical imperative” to use these registries. WHO’s “imperative” may or may not carry more force than the current laws that are in place, but without more serious personal consequences for violations, many suspect it’s not likely that too many of the big pharmaceutical companies will change.

With prescription medications causing more death than ever, and issues with substance abuse and addiction related to pharmaceuticals, there should be more of an outcry than ever to hold these massive medicine manufacturers to higher standards in testing. Publishing any and all data should be required and strictly enforced so that the government can be aware of the reality of the substances they allow to be available to the public, and so the people can know exactly what they are getting into. No one should die because a company sweeps things under the rug to get past the red tape.

Pharmaceutical companies must be held accountable for their products and the way they conduct business, especially with that business being one that endangers the lives of the customers. Too many people suffer because they did not know that something that was meant to heal them could hurt them so much. 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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