In efforts to combat the ongoing opioid crisis in America, the US House of Representatives is currently working to push through dozens of bills that many believe could help curb the rising overdose death rates and give the country a fighting chance. However, some have pointed out that Big Pharma MAT drug makers are spending millions lobbying Congress, and those same companies stand to bank big money off these new laws.
So, while we want to believe that new laws supporting Medication Assisted Treatment or “MAT” could help with harm reduction efforts, it is also good to point out that the drug companies who are positioned to benefit substantially are also those who have been racking up a lot of influence in Washington through huge donations.
In just a two week period, the House has already cleared several measures that would soon launch these MAT drug manufacturers into a sales spike.
Top MAT Drug Makers Lobbying Congress
So how much are these Big Pharma companies spending?
This biopharmaceutical company focusing mainly on central nervous system disease has already spent $1 million in lobbying. Part of that money went to support a bill that would fund full-service centers where people can:
This MAT drug maker is poised to cash in on this law because it could bolster the sales of anti-addiction injection Vivitrol. This is currently Alkermes best-selling product. However, the need for patients to fully detox before taking the drug is a limitation.
The aggressive marketing tactics this company is using, on top of their big budget for trying to influence Washington is already gaining them some attention. One thing that draws some of that attention is that the main focus of Alkermes lobbying was the bill presented by Representatives Brett Guthrie and Gene Green. Coincidentally, one of Alkermes main lobbyists served as Guthrie’s chief of staff, and another was Green’s former legislative director. Yet another example of people working in Congress making a jump to rallying government officials behind drug companies.
Guthrie and Green both reject any implication that they drafted the bill to support Alkermes. It is true that by several MAT drug makers also support their proposal.
This UK based specialty pharmaceutical company spent $180,000 on lobbying Congress. Indivior’s money went to support a bill easing restrictions on certain controlled substances used in injectable anti-opioid treatments.
Indivior rivals Vivitrol with their own product, Sublocade. This anti-addiction treatment is a once-a-month injection to fight opioid cravings. The bill they are bidding for would make it much easier for doctors to buy Sublocade for addiction treatment.
Sublocade was approved back in 2017 as an extended release buprenorphine compound. It became the first once-monthly injectable buprenorphine formulation for treating opioid use disorder (OUD).
Braburn Pharmaceuticals is an MAT drug maker from Pennsylvania that dropped a cool $100,000 along with Indivior to support the same bill for easing restrictions on controlled substances.
Braeburn is also developing a competing injectable MAT drug. But back in January, the FDA sent a complete response letter to the company. In the letter the FDA requests more data to be compiled for the therapy. The product was previously recommended for approval by the FDA’s Psychopharmacologic Drugs Advisory Committee in November 2017.
As of May 2018, Braeburn announced Phase 3 of testing on CAM2038- the buprenorphine weekly and monthly injectable- had some positive developments. The results we published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.
If this MAT drug does get approval, it will be the first and only injectable opioid use treatment that healthcare professionals can administer from Day 1 of patient’s treatment.
But let us not forget that each of these injectable MAT drug treatments says they should only be a part of a complete treatment program that includes counseling and psychological support.
Big Pharma Supergroup
That may not be the actual name, but it is essentially what we are talking about. A group of non-opioid pain relief drug makers has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying. This Big Pharma “supergroup” aims to push for legislation that will allow for additional Medicare payment for non-opioid pain drugs. One such drug company is Heron Therapeutics out of California.
Heron alone spent $40,000 from January to March lobbying on the issue of setting rates for post-surgical non-opioid drugs.
Pros and Cons
None of this is to say the MAT drug makers should not support more options for addiction treatment. There should always be support for establishing more comprehensive and inclusive treatment opportunities. In the midst of one of the most devastating drug epidemics in American history, every little bit counts. MAT programs and harm reduction can save a life and give someone an opportunity to get treatment.
But we should also be aware of how much money any drug maker is pouring into the political system in hopes of greasing the wheels of the legislative branch. When the opioid crisis became a major campaign issue, Congress used February’s budget deal to authorize $6 billion in spending to address the epidemic. That is what suddenly inspired over 300 drug companies and interest groups to rush to Capitol Hill and lobby.
Overall, the House package is something that many anti-addiction advocates and other lawmakers see as only minor progress toward addressing such a massive public health crisis. Most agree that it is important to take what steps you can. Still, many agree these efforts fall far too short of what is truly necessary in order to make an impact.
These proposals can be a good step in the right direction. MAT drug programs can be useful in giving people a chance at getting off illicit drugs. However, MAT is only one element to treatment. It is not a sustainable substitute. Hopefully, more energy and funding in the future will help create detox and treatment expansion programs. Then more people can get the help they need instead of depending on drug companies to provide them with a temporary solution to such a complex issue.
Palm Partners Recovery Center believes in providing personalized and holistic treatment options. That is why we also offer MAT programs for those in need. Recovery is never one-size-fits-all, and we strive to help each individual find the recovery plan that is right for them. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
In Philadelphia, there have been nearly 800 fentanyl overdoses this year.
According to figures released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) a sharp rise in drug overdose deaths, which many attribute in part to fentanyl, is causing a drop in American life expectancy.
As 2018 begins, many are afraid of what the future may bring concerning more deadly drugs reaching the streets, overdoses, and deaths. One area, in particular, is the streets of Philadelphia. Now, many in the area are pointing out that heroin is no longer the poison most popular on the illicit market. Fentanyl in Philadelphia is now the main ingredient in the drug problem.
How Fentanyl in Philadelphia is Changing the Scene
Patrick Trainor is a special agent with the Philadelphia division of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Trainor has kept an eye on the Kensington neighborhood for two decades. When talking about the drastic impact the lethal synthetic opioid has brought to the heroin market, he states,
“Fentanyl has drastically changed the landscape… Sixty-four percent of fatals in Philadelphia County are fentanyl-related. There’s no dope out here now, it’s all fentanyl. Even the old timers are scared of it.”
In areas like Emerald Street, AKA Emerald City, even drug users carry Narcan regularly.
Dangers and Death
Even addicts who are now content with using fentanyl are aware of the risks. But many say that compared to heroin, fentanyl’s rush is intense and immediate.
It is painful to use because it burns the vein. Some choose to chance the elevated risk of abscesses by injecting under the skin. This practice is said to reduce the risk of overdose and prolong the high. Yet, overdoses come almost instantaneously. Beyond that, the comedown of fentanyl is said to be abrupt, and the withdrawal period is a long and difficult one.
Tolerance for the drug builds quickly; dependence on the drug is rapid and pretty much unavoidable. Even those revived by Narcan can fall back into overdose due to the immense strength of the drug.
A lot of the issues related to fentanyl in Philadelphia can be connected to how it hit the street in the first place. According to interviews with drug users in the Kensington area, when fentanyl first started flooding the market the dealers didn’t know how to handle it, and the users didn’t even know about it. They had no idea about the risks of the drug, and overdoses were everywhere.
But then the dealers caught on when customers started dying all over, and so they changed the way they cut the drug in order to keep their consumers. Trainor himself notes,
“You’re paying the same for something that’s roughly 100 times more powerful, so why would you buy heroin? The demand is for the most powerful thing they can get. Heroin will never be able to compete with fentanyl. It just can’t.”
There is no wonder why fentanyl in Philadelphia has become the dealers choice, the economics of fentanyl trafficking are easy to understand.
Unlike with heroin, there is no need to wait for the poppy harvest to start production. To yield a kilo of fentanyl, the chemicals one would need cost less than $5,000. At $55,000-$60,000 per kilo delivered, fentanyl is the about the same price as heroin but earns traffickers far more once it is cut and packaged for the street.
Each kilo of fentanyl can be cut out to approximately 330,000 doses, according to Trainor. A single kilo is enough to kill half of the counties residents.
Two factors make fentanyl in Philadelphia such a difficult drug to get ahead of:
No dominant trafficker
With drug problems in the past, a substance coming into any area would probably be controlled by a single, relatively predictable trafficker or trafficking family, but not with fentanyl.
This incredibly powerful and potentially life-threatening drug is coming from China, ordered over the dark web, or coming up from Mexico. It isn’t being shipped in through the typical channels, and thus law enforcement has found it increasingly difficult to track.
It is easy to modify
Fentanyl is a synthetic drug, therefore it is pretty simple to change the formula. Every time traffickers make subtle changes to the chemical ingredients of their batch, the DEA analysts struggle to adapt and catch on before the recipe has been changed again.
“It used to be just fentanyl but now we’ve noticed eight different analogs in this area and around 40 nationally. Our chemists estimate there could be 200 additional variants.”
One of those variants is Carfentanil. This horrifically hazardous material is a painkiller… for elephants and other large mammals! It is estimated to be up to 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Carfentanil has shown up in other areas in the past, such as Cleveland, Ohio. It is still rare for street consumption, but it has shown up along with fentanyl in Philadelphia medical examiner’s office.
Over the past three years, fentanyl-related deaths across America have increased by 540%. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, for the first time, the majority of fatal overdoses are fentanyl-related, accounting for nearly all the increases in drug overdose deaths from 2015 to 2016. Part of facing the ongoing opioid epidemic is providing effective and comprehensive addiction treatment opportunities. As more and more people die every day from these insidious substances we have to do all that we can to help fight back. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help!
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
A few weeks ago, my sister told me about an upcoming concert that would celebrate popular acts such as DMX and several others. The event was called the “Ruff Ryders and Friends – Reunion Tour – Past, Present and Future” and would be in Miami on September 7th.
Tickets were cheap so I figured why not. I opened my computer and prepared to purchase the tickets for the show until I read the letters in red: “Canceled.” This was certainly not what I had hoped for.
Why did the show get canceled?
In fact, why did the entire tour get canceled? I could not believe my eyes as I glanced over the list of cancellations. Cancelling an entire tour is practically unheard of. What happened? Sadly, the answer involves drug addiction.
After some careful searching, I discovered a TMZ article which reported back in April that DMX had to cancel his shows due to an “unspecified medical issue.” Sources at a Los Angeles show state the rapper had been drinking heavily.
His history with substance abuse is not anything surprising. In the past, the rapper was open about his journey to addiction recovery. Therefore, when news of his drinking spread, relapse concerns heightened.
It turns out DMX has reportedly sought treatment for drug addiction. Addiction treatment reports surfaced a couple weeks after the rapper was put on house arrest for violating bail conditions.
According to speculations, the 46-year old is undergoing treatment in the Nashua, New Hampshire area or is living in a sober home. The Nashua Telegraph reported that DMX, whose real name is Earl Simmons, was spotted at a local Buffalo Wild Wings, a Shaw’s supermarket, and a Walmart.
Along with addiction troubles, Simmons is facing charges that he allegedly owes $1.7 million in back taxes dating back to 2000. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges and was freed on $500,000 bail, according to Billboard. Still, while he was on bail, the rapper failed drug test four times. These test found cocaine, opiates, and pot in his system. Because of these results, Manhattan Federal Judge Jed Rakoff put him under house confinement on August 11.
During the hearing, the judge stated that Simmons had violated bail “probably more times than I can remember,” according to Court House News. He chose not to send the rapper to jail, although he described Simmons’s drug addiction as “gross.” He said that his past run-ins with the law exemplified that he’s had “more than a passing acquaintance with illegal drugs.”
After that hearing, DMX told a reporter, “When God is for you, who can be against you?”
The judge reportedly lifted Simmons’s house arrest on the condition that he enter a sober program and travel with a sober coach around the clock. According to court documents reviewed by TMZ, the rapper would need permission to leave New York State.
According to his lawyer Murray Richman, the rapper has decided to go to rehab on his own.
“This is a voluntary move on his part,” Richman said.
It is clear that DMX has struggled on and off with drug addiction. We wish him the best as he seeks a life free from the grips of substance abuse. Recovery is possible, and it is the answer out of this cycle. If you are struggling with drugs or alcohol dependency, please call now. We are here to help. Do not wait.
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(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
If you thought all the attention surrounding the opioid epidemic would result in immediate progress, think again.
According to experts, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.
But just how bad will it get?
Leading public experts agree the epidemic of people dying from opioids could reach up to a half million over the next decade.
Experts at ten universities were asked to project the death toll from opioid overdoses over the next decade. If the worst-case scenario plays out, by 2027, we could be losing 250 people every day to heroin/painkillers in the United States. Right now, that number is closer to 100 deaths per day.
Even scarier, substances like fentanyl and carfentanil, which are many times stronger than heroin, continue to drive up the death toll.
Recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in 2015, at least 33,000 people died from a fatal opioid overdose. Nearly half of those deaths involved prescription opioids like OxyContin or Percocet.
Still, there is hope that the death toll won’t continue to rise as fast as it currently is. In the best case scenario, STAT predicts 21,300 opioid deaths in 2027 which is lower than 2015 numbers. However, getting to this point will require major investments in evidence-based treatment.
Regardless, all experts agree on one fact: the opioid epidemic will get worse over the next decade before any improvement occurs.
Here are the 10 Opioid Epidemic Scenarios Projected by 2027
The worst scenario: In this scenario, the death toll projection for 2027 is 93,613, an 183% increase from 2015.
In this scenario, the drug overdose total will continue to climb at a steady rate as they have for decades. This scenario assumes that opioid deaths will continue to make up roughly the same percentage of all drug deaths.
In this scenario, the death toll projection for 2027 is 70,239 opioid deaths. This change would be an 112% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes that opioid use climbs for the foreseeable future, but it takes into consideration the potential progress from reducing opioid prescriptions and other interventions.
In this scenario, the forecast for 2027 is 56,118 opioid deaths. This change would be a 70% jump since 2015.
This scenario assumes that total opioid deaths will rise slightly because of increasing fatal heroin and fentanyl overdoses. The influx of fentanyl and heroin will offset any improvement in prescription opioid abuse.
In this scenario, the opioid deaths forecast for 2027 is 46,740. This would be a 41% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes that the death toll will increase due to fentanyl and lack of naloxone access. The decline of deaths would occur due to fewer doctors overprescribing opioids due to increase awareness.
In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 45,000. This would be a 36% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes an increase due to fentanyl use and a reduction in prescription opioid abuse. After several years, this scenario assumes that doctors will begin to prescribe painkillers more responsibly.
In this scenario, the opioid death forecast for 2027 is 44,843. This forecasted change would be a 36% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes a sharp increase in deaths for the first few years before the effects of interventions and funding through the 21st Century Cures Act kicks into gear, driving the numbers down.
In this scenario, opioid deaths for 2027 is 40,652. This would be a 23% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes opioid deaths will increase until a combination of intervention strategies like increase naloxone access, decreased prescription opioids, and increased treatment access lower fatal overdoses.
In this scenario, opioid deaths for 2027 is 40,000. This change would be a 21% increase since 2015.
This scenario assumes that heroin laced with synthetic opioids will cause opioid deaths to rise for several years. This rise will peak and then later decline as drug users either fatally overdose or seek treatment.
In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 25,000. This is a 24% reduction since 2015.
This scenario assumes heroin laced with synthetic opioids will result in increased fatal overdoses for several years. Only after this increase will numbers start to decline, as increased naloxone access, addiction treatment, and more supervised injection sites reduce the numbers significantly, resulting in an overall decrease.
– The best scenario: In this scenario, the death forecast for 2027 is 21,300. This is a 36% reduction since 2015.
This scenario assumes that doctors will prescribe fewer opioids, and states will embrace prescription drug monitoring programs. Insurers will begin to enact reforms to increase treatment access.
Overall, all scenarios projected by experts agree that the opioid epidemic will get worse before it gets better if it gets better at all.
The experts agree that opioid deaths won’t begin to slow down until at least 2020. It takes time for governmental efforts to kick in and for education and public awareness to result in positive change.
“It took us about 30 years to get into this mess,” said Robert Valuck, a professor at the University of Colorado-Denver’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “I don’t think we’re going to get out of it in two or three.”
The opioid epidemic costs the US economy nearly $80 billion annually, according to federal officials. STAT notes that the US already spends about $36billion on addiction treatment, yet only 10% of the estimated 2.2 million Americans with opioid use disorder ever seek help.
This epidemic is not going off the radar anytime soon. Plenty of people are still deep into their addiction and need treatment immediately. If this sounds like you or someone you know, please call now. We want to help.
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Celebrity Rehab Host Dr. Drew Blames Opioid Epidemic on Doctors
Dr. Drew Pinsky, a board-certified addictions specialist, famous as the host of Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew, recently responded to a New York Times analysis. The analysis revealed that drug-related deaths have spiked to 19% across the country in 2016. According to the report, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
In response, Dr. Drew says this epidemic was brought on by the doctors. He blames doctors who continued prescribing opioids to patients despite their awareness of the high risk of addiction.
“The reason we have all these heroin addicts is because physicians over-prescribed opiates and then cut these patients off as opposed to getting them treatment,” he said recently on KABC radio. “And when you cut an opiate addict off, the state they’re in requires they find an alternative source of opiates. The cheapest best route now—fentanyl.”
Although his words are quite direct, they hold true.
Last week, an article published in The New England Journal of Medicine argued that the medical community wrongly cited a small 1980s editorial to repeatedly claim that opioids did not have highly addictive qualities.
“The crisis arose in part because physicians were told that the risk of addiction was low when opioids were prescribed for chronic pain. A one-paragraph letter that was published in the Journal in 1980 was widely invoked in support of this claim, even though no evidence was provided by the correspondents,” the editorial reads.
Essentially, doctors were using a letter rather than a clinical evidence to validate the claim that opioids were not addictive. This led many patients into believing that the medications they were using would not cause any form of dependence.
Addiction Stigma Further Wreaks Havoc
Furthermore, Dr. Drew states stigma surrounding addiction prevents doctors from addressing any concerns they may feel regarding their patients.
“They are afraid of the term addiction. They feel as though diagnosing someone with addiction is somehow judging them,” he continued.
Doctors who regularly prescribe opioids are at the root of the problem, Dr. Drew states, because the chances of dependence are high, and patients are often unaware of how real the risk really is.
“70 to 80% of people develop disabling consequences from their relationship with opiates,” Dr. Drew said,
The problem is when doctors continue to prescribe opioids despite the high risk of addiction, or worse, cut off a patient’s supply to opioids without providing some sort of addiction treatment option.
Patient Satisfaction is King
There is also a mindset in medicine that must abide by the patient when it comes to pain management.
“The discipline holds that ‘pain is what the patient says it is. Who are we to say when we have pain control? Pain control is achieved when the patient says it’s achieved.’ And that group will only admit to the fact that perhaps 30% of the patients get a little bit of a problem,” he said.
Stigma around addiction keeps physicians from talking to their patients about the risks of dependence. This leads to long-term dependence. While there have been regulations in place to prevent abuse, this often backfires.
Many people who were once dependent on opioid prescriptions turn to heroin due to the increased availability and decreased price cost. Heroin varies significantly in strength and many strands contain powerful substances like fentanyl which lead to overdose fatalities.
The opioid epidemic is a complex problem with a myriad of potential solutions. However, it is uncertain what solution will boast the best results. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135