Author: Shernide Delva
In the past, we’ve talked about the potential of opioid vaccines. These vaccines could have a major impact on lowering a number of opioid overdose deaths. They could completely shift the direction of how we treat opioid addiction. However, is the future of opioids imminent or far, far away?
Sadly, it will be a long time before we see opioid vaccines available for widespread use. Experts all agree that although the future of opioid vaccines looks bright, the process of getting a drug into the market is a lengthy one and we should not hold our breath just yet.
Recently, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price mentioned opioid vaccines as an exciting new development in the war against opioid abuse.
“One of the exciting things that they’re actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is incredibly exciting,” Price said during a briefing about the drug epidemic.
However, experts say it won’t be made public for years… if ever.
The process of a drug going from the research phase to the production phase is a long, tedious process. Opioid addiction vaccines have not even begun human trials yet. Researchers would have to put drugs through phase one, two and three trials before submitting them for approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), given that the trials are successful.
“He may be a physician, but he’s not terribly well-informed about addictions,” said Dr. Thomas R. Kosten, a psychiatry professor at the Baylor College of Medicine with a concentration in addiction vaccines. “I can’t imagine the vaccine would be on the market before the Trump administration is over.”
Dr. Kosten knows all about vaccines. He worked on cocaine vaccines for 16 years before deciding that it “just didn’t work well enough” to continue. Today, he is working on a vaccine for fentanyl, an opioid painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl has been a major culprit for overdose deaths in the current opioid epidemic.
Those who previously used painkillers turn to heroin due to the lower price and easier access. Unfortunately, often heroin is not just heroin and instead is laced with powerful painkillers like fentanyl which make a user much more susceptible to an overdose.
Dr. Kosten hopes his work on the vaccine will pan out, but he wants to ensure people are not holding their breath. These things take time.
“There are no opiate vaccines that have been in people at this point,” said Dr. Kosten.
Even if the vaccine passes trials and goes into full-scale production, it would only be used therapeutically, not as a preventative measure.
“The purpose is not to “mass-immunize a whole bunch of kids,” Dr. Kosten said. “That’s not at all what they’re designed for.”
For now, the vaccine is proving to be effective in animal testing. However, this is not necessarily good news.
“Sometimes, the translation from animals is not necessarily the same in humans. So we have to do the human studies,” said Dr. Ivan Montoya of NIDA’s Division of Therapeutics and Medical Consequences.
The goal of the vaccine is to allow the body’s own immune system to combat opioids before they can reach the brain and take effect.
“We don’t have to modify the brain to produce the effect,” said Dr. Montoya. “You take advantage of your own immune system and prevent access of the drug to the brain.”
In the future, Dr. Montoya hopes to come up with a vaccine that can block the effects of a wide range of opioids including fentanyl, heroin, and OxyContin.
While the prospect of opioid vaccines sounds promising, we are still far away from this becoming a reality. Therefore, stating vaccines as an exciting solution to the opioid epidemic is a bit of a stretch for now. Instead, the focus should be placed on increasing access to treatment. With the right program, recovery is possible. If you are struggling with substance abuse, call now. Do not wait.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Ohio has been a major epicenter of the overdose outbreak. In 2014, Ohio was #2 of states with the most overdose deaths. Since then, Ohio has topped the list for heroin overdose deaths in the country, and remains in the top 3 states with the highest overdose death rates, both overall AND per capita. In fact, the overdose capitol of America is actually Montgomery County, Ohio, with over 365 opioid-related deaths in the first 5 months of 2017.
So with Ohio being one of the states hit the hardest by the ravishes of the opioid epidemic and the overdose crisis, you would think that Ohio officials would be more apt to adopting progressive and preventative measures for saving lives. In some areas, yes. However, in others… not so much.
Butler County Sheriff Richard K. Jones says his deputies won’t carry Narcan, despite its effectiveness reversing the effects opioid and heroin overdoses.
Butler County Overdose Deaths
Making this a much more controversial issue, drug overdose is killing more people than any other cause in Butler County. According to a statement by Dr. Lisa Mannix’s office, in the first 4 months of 2017 the coroner investigated 175 deaths, and 96 of them were lethal drug overdoses.
The month of April was especially deadly for drug users in the area. According to Mannix, her office-
“- has never seen that many deaths of any kind in a single month.”
In just those 30 days, 30 people died from drug overdose. According to the coroner’s office, 83% of the overdose deaths involved illegal opiate substances. This includes the now infamous synthetic opioids such as:
If this deadly trend continues, the coroners office expects those rates will see a 50% increase from the total overdose deaths in 2016.
The Sheriff Says “I Don’t Do Narcan”
He’s Jones just happens to be the only sheriff in Southwest Ohio whose department does not use the opioid overdose antidote Narcan, or the generic Naloxone. And apparently, he has no intention of starting anytime soon.
Jones was asked about the lack of Narcan use by his police department shortly after the now controversial comments made by a Middletown city councilman suggesting a policy to refuse giving a response to overdose calls. According to the sheriff, local residents and even social workers often ask him why law enforcement continue to revive people who overdose multiple times. His response was simple; his deputies don’t. When interviewed and asked about it, Jones stated:
“I don’t do Narcan.”
Yes… let that just sink in for a second.
This is a man who has the job description of ‘protect and serve’ but when it comes to addicts, he would prefer to do neither.
So what was his justification?
Jones went on to rationalize his opinion by, according to the original report, ‘talking about babies he has seen born addicted to heroin in his jail and mothers who teach their teenage children how to use heroin so they can shoot the mom up.’ When the reporter pressed on about the lack of Narcan in his department, Jones stated:
“They never carried it. Nor will they. That’s my stance.”
The sheriff went on trying to validate his rationale by claiming safety was the primary priority. He argued that people revived from an overdose are often violent and are almost never happy to see the police.
So in short, it sounds like this sheriff would let sick and suffering men and women, even teens, die from overdose rather than save their lives… because they might be upset or aggressive?
What Do You Do?
As expanded access programs to provide Narcan to first responders have become more popular it seems some have gone on to debate how long should tax payer money do to saving lives, and how many times should someone be revived.
This is a tough conversation to have. For some there is no easy answer. Those who are more focus on being monetarily minded and conservative will typically argue that resources should not go to repeatedly paying to save addicts from death. But is it fair for anyone to decide whether someone should die or not simply because they are addicted to drugs? Are we really willing to let people die to boost the government’s budget?
However, for some of us the answer is easy- you cannot put a price on a life. Struggling with substance use disorder does not diminish the value of a person. It should go without saying that if the resources exist to prevent death from overdose, than we should use it. Narcan may not be the cure to addiction, but it might keep just enough people alive long enough to find help and make a difference in the world.
Thankfully, this isn’t how all of Ohio is handling the opioid overdose outbreak in their state. Sheriff’s deputies in surrounding counties carry the opioid overdose antidote, including:
- Warren County
- Clermont County
- Hamilton County
Other expanded access programs in Ohio are going strong and saving a lot of people, but of course the next step to solving the issue is helping to establish sources of effective treatment.
Drug addiction treatment can be the decisive variable that allows for these overdose victims and others suffering with substance use disorder to get a new chance at life. Holistic healing with innovative and personalized recovery programs has the potential not to just save a life, but transform lives. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Sometimes new policy can be good. Sometimes, not so much.
The opiate epidemic in America has hit some states with staggering rates of overdose and death. The paralyzing truth gripping the nation today is that more people are dying from drug overdose than homicides and car crashes. Heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers collectively decimate entire communities. People from all over are starting to push officials and lawmakers for more progressive and effective solutions.
Addiction has led to an overdose outbreak that shakes the country to the core, everywhere. Now, Florida lawmakers are pushing for new legislation to try and protect and serve those who suffer from an overdose. One of the first bills on the 2017 agenda is one that hopes to change how law enforcement treats overdose victims.
Although, another bill is trying to turn things in a very different direction.
Florida HB 61 Bill
Florida Representative Larry Lee, a Democrat from Port St. Lucie, has filed a proposal titled HB 61. If approved, this piece of reform would require several new policies for healthcare providers, starting with hospitals.
- It would require hospitals to screen overdose victims to determine the need for additional health care services
- Prohibits hospitals from discharging overdose patients to a detox or treatment facility until stabilized
- Requires attending physician to attempt contact with patients primary care physician, or other treatment providers, who prescribe controlled substances to notify them of overdose
- Requires hospital to inform medical director of treatment center (if patient is currently in treatment) of the overdose
- Hospital must inform overdose victim’s family or emergency contact of overdose
- Must inform contacts what drugs they suspect to have caused overdose
- Attending physician must provide list of drug treatment providers and information about Florida’s Marchman act and Backer act in case the family or contact wishes to seek legal action to protect the addict
The Big Change in HB 61
Lastly, what is probably the most progressive part of this legislation, is the HB 61 bill would prohibit criminal charges from police officers and prosecutors against the overdose victim for possession of any drugs found on them during the incident.
This final aspect of HB 61 this writer thinks is a big deal, because from personal experience I have seen and heard many stories of individuals not calling for help in the event of an overdose out of fear of prosecution. In some cases people actually die because of the fear of criminal punishment. Adding this kind of measure to the bill is an attempt at eliminating the loss of life due to fear of discrimination. Even if it is not a perfect system, this kind of reform takes first responders and law enforcement a step closer to dealing with addicts who are fighting a fatal illness like sick people instead of criminals.
Florida SB 150 Bill Attacks Fentanyl
From across the aisle we see another push from Republican Senator Greg Steube from Sarasota. The question is, will this push go in the right direction? On December 12, he introduced bill SB 150. This is set to be a direct attack on fentanyl.
For those who are not yet familiar, fentanyl is an incredibly powerful, and lethal, opioid painkiller. It’s medical use is to sedate surgical patients and relieve chronic pain. However, being several times more powerful than heroin, it has crept into the illicit drug trade in various parts of the country. And with its arrival also came a horrifying increase in overdose and death.
This proposal means to make 4 grams or more of fentanyl a first-degree felony through:
November 20, the Palm Beach Post released an analysis of people who died in 2015 from heroin-related overdoses. Out of the 216 individuals profiled in this report, 42% of the cases were found to involve fentanyl. So of course, with Steube coming from a district hit particularly hard by the opiate epidemic, it is logical to want to do everything you can to cut the flow of fentanyl off.
Yet, some say that this kind of strategy is too close to the concept of mandatory minimums.
Is SB 150 Too Close to Mandatory Minimums?
For those who need more clarification, mandatory minimum sentencing laws were a “one-size-fits-all” strategy implemented originally back in 1951 against marijuana, then repealed in the 1970s, and refined in 1986. In 1973, New York State enacted mandatory minimums of 15 years to life for possession of more than 4 ounces of any hard drug.
The idea is that regardless of the individual or the circumstances that a certain crime will have an inflexible punishment across the board. Ever since their introduction, criminal justice advocates have fought these laws, and they have always been surrounded by debate and controversy.
Essentially, some are already saying that SB 150 will ruthlessly make addicts into victims of the already overpopulated prison system. To be clear and fair- the bill does not seem to directly require a specific prison sentence like mandatory minimums, but it’s similar in that it treats every issue related to fentanyl the same.
The issue has already been argued time and time again that non-violent low-level drug offenders have spent excessive amounts of time in prison for possession of a substance. In some cases, an individual will do more time behind bars for possessing a large quantity of drugs than someone who has actually killed someone. Some have come to the conclusion that this tactic just doesn’t work.
The fear with SB 150 is not about the manufacturers or the dealers as much as it is for the consumers. Sometimes individuals purchase drugs on the street believing it to be heroin or another substance without even knowing there is fentanyl in it. So this bill would make first-degree felons out of desperate addicts?
What is Right?
The big question we all face at the end of the day is- what is the right thing to do? How is the best way to handle something that feels so utterly out of hand?
Well, it would seem like its time to finally let go of the archaic stigma. More states and law enforcement officials are turning to compassionate and supportive progress. Many places in America are starting to do everything they can to help people struggling with addiction to find help before it is too late. So why move backwards?
In my opinion, strictly based on what has been presented so far, SB 150 seems dangerous. There are countless advocates out there who say that intensifying the punishment is not how you deter the crime. Especially when it comes to addiction, because this kind of method still suggests it is a moral failing and not a psychological and physical illness.
HB 61 seems to be trying to call health care providers to action and add more accountability on the front lines in the fight against the overdose outbreak. At the same time it seems to move in the opposite direction of SB 150 by trying to limit the persecution of addicts. HB 61 makes more room to help preserve life and offer treatment and solutions. By now we should already know, the solution isn’t a War on Drugs, it is community and compassion.
These are some of the initial responses to recommendations recently made by the grand jury. Every day there are countless people suffering. And every day there are countless more recovering and fighting to help others recover. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
In the midst of the nation’s opiate addiction crisis, fentanyl is like a virus. It is spreading in reach and destroying the lives of thousands, and with overdose deaths climbing every day this incredibly powerful element is more present than ever. The fight has not only been on the streets with illicit dealers, but also within the pharmaceutical industry. Big Pharma executives are being brought to task now that the contribution of prescription narcotics is more obvious than ever.
The part that makes this case so unique is that federal prosecutors are bringing racketeering charges against several Insys employees. Criminal charges are almost unheard-of in cases involving pharmaceutical companies. What does this mean about the future of fighting corporate greed?
Insys Therapeutics Inc.
One company, Insys Therapeutics Inc., has been heavily under fire recently, and new light has been shed on the dirty dealings of these sales-managers and even CEOs. Six former executives and sales-managers from Insys Therapeutics Inc. were arrested this past Thursday. The charges, according to the Justice Department, are:
- Conspiring to defraud health insurers
- Conspiring to bribe doctors into needlessly prescribing Subsys, the company’s fentanyl painkiller
These Big Pharma executives may soon find out how much they hurt the people they are supposed to heal.
Setting the Stage for Subsys
Before we get too far into the details of this appalling story of corporate greed and corruption, let us explain the substance itself. This writer feels it is vital to set the stage for the conversation with a foundation of comprehension. It will help people understand the true gravity of these crimes if they understand the drug itself.
The drug Subsys, approved in 2012, was sanctioned to treat acute cancer pain. This potent opioid analgesic is to be sprayed under the tongue for quick absorption of fentanyl. Most people know now after seeing the state the country is in that the fentanyl narcotic carries an extremely high risk of dependency, abuse and addiction.
This brings us to the horrific truth of these crimes; that many agencies believe doctors and nurses were encouraged to prescribe the drug for unapproved uses, despite knowing how powerful and even lethal this drug can be.
The Kick-Back Scheme
According to reports, the scam put on by these Big Pharma executives was an operation in “sham speaking programs.” How did it work? Allegedly, doctors and nurses were paid to attend dinners at “high-end restaurants” that disguised as speaker programs. Typically, this kind of event is for educational activities with professionals. However, these events were described as “gathering of friends and co-workers” who had no power to prescribe medications.
The “speakers” we said to be paid fees up to several thousand dollars. The names of health care providers were falsified on sign-in sheets to ‘legitimize’ the meetings.
According to the federal court’s affidavit, one health care provider who actually did participate in these sham programs received illegal kick-backs to the tune of an estimated $83,000! The purpose of these payments; to influence these providers to prescribe Subsys, even when unnecessary.
The scheme didn’t stop at expensive dining. Prosecutors say there were other elements to this massive racketeering style operation, including:
- Insys employees being assigned to work the offices of doctors who used their drug
- The drug company hiring the relatives of health care providers
- Insys set up a system to defraud insurers. Their employees pretend to be calling from a doctor’s office to speak with insurance representatives.
In Alabama, one doctor had a sales representative from Insys assigned to attend to all of his needs. That same doctor took a job as a paid speaker for the drug, and once put on their illegal payroll went from writing two Subsys prescriptions a week… to 11 a week!
Big Bad Big Pharma Executives
According to the indictment the list of names includes:
- Michael L. Babich- Former chief executive
- Alec Burlakoff- vice president of sales
- Joseph A. Rowan- former regional sales director
So the trail of shady sales tactics and dirty money leads all the way to the tip-top of the Big Pharma executives.
You would hope that given the fact that these people made billions of dollars a year off of manipulating doctors, lying to insurers and endangering countless lives that they would face some kind of real prison sentence, right?
Nope, not really.
War on White Collar Crime
The War on Drugs doesn’t touch the corruption of the War on White Collar Crime, especially in the drug industry. Most people may not even realize that in recent years Big Pharma executives have paid billions of dollars to settle claims with state and federal prosecutors. Why? Because it’s been said the pharmaceutical companies sold drugs for uses that were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
But sadly, bringing criminal charges against these Big Pharma executives is still rare. Despite calls from various groups to hold top executives more accountable, most will never see a jail cell.
The irony here is that we have prison systems choking with overpopulation from people serving years behind bars for non-violent, low-level drug crimes. Many of these convicts are addicts themselves who have been trapped by a system that promotes punishment over treatment. Yet those who have made millions up millions of dollars by bribes and fraud to push drugs like fentanyl, that kill thousands of people, get a slap on the wrist and a fine.
Criminal Charges Bring a New Change
This new perspective is taking the fight to those who sit in positions of great power. Instead of singling out those who are already beaten down, it targets those who make great profit of the pain of millions. Patrick Burns, the acting executive director of Taxpayers Against Fraud, is an advocate for corporate whistle-blowers. In regards to the recent arrests of the Insys Big Pharma executives, he stated,
“It’s just like bank fraud and mortgage fraud — no one in the big companies ever seems to go to jail… If this is the start of a real change in how we deal with corporate crooks, it’s a very big deal.”
The United States attorney in Massachusetts Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement,
“Patient safety is paramount, and prescriptions for these highly addictive drugs, especially fentanyl, which is among the most potent and addictive opioids, should be prescribed without the influence of corporate money.”
“I hope that today’s charges send a clear message that we will continue to attack the opioid epidemic from all angles, whether it is corporate greed or street-level dealing.”
After consistent outrage about the hypocrisy of Big Pharma in the War on Drugs, it seems many are sick and tired of the pharmaceutical industry taking advantage of the system to make them sicker.
Hopefully, this will change more than the penalties, but also the entire prescription drug process in some way. As drug policy changes, along with the stigma, revolutionary ideas in treatment are available to help save lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
It should be obvious by now that expanded Naloxone access is a necessity. With the opioid epidemic spreading more and more and the overdose outbreak claiming so many lives everywhere, we must take advantage of every available asset to save lives. Because of price hikes that coincide with the increasing rates of overdose and death Big Pharma companies that produce the overdose antidote have come under fire many times in the past year. Now, one such company has reached an agreement with the state of Ohio to help ease the financial burden of protecting the people.
Authorities and city officials in Ohio battling the overdose outbreak will soon receive some financial relief. The state has struck a deal with the makers of Naloxone, Adapt Pharma, to provide the life-saving nasal spray at a discount.
The Ohio Overdose Outbreak
Being from the Buckeye State myself, it is disturbing to know Ohio has been hit so hard by the heroin epidemic. This is in large due to the recent introduction of Carfentanil. This incredibly poisonous substance is currently mixing into the drug supply through Chinese vendors, according to an Associated Press investigation. The investigation found several businesses based in China that export dangerous drugs with relative ease to the United States, including:
Carfentanil is so potently perilous that it even poses a risk to law enforcement that may come in contact with it during drug seizures.
The terrible truth is that Ohio has been an epicenter of the overdose outbreak. In 2014, Ohio was #2 of states with the most overdose deaths. Since then several stories of horrific overdose upsurges and deaths due to opiates have highlighted the devastation in the state.
Just this year Cincinnati, Ohio statistics show the city sees at least four overdoses per day on average. The dangerous drug Carfentanil has been seized at least 343 times in Ohio. In July, Akron paramedics responded to 236 overdoses, including 14 fatalities linked to carfentanil, in a period of just 21 days! July also saw Ohio Governor John Kasich push for Naloxone expansion, and the battle has been uphill to equip all those in need.
Ohio Public Interest Price Deal
The Public Interest Price deal was announced by Attorney General Mike DeWine this past Friday. The discount agreement with Adapt Pharma states that Ohio officials will be able to purchase naloxone nasal spray for $75 per dose. Now this still seems a bit high, but this price is a 40% discount from the wholesale cost of $125. DeWine explained the need for such action in order to make any progress on saving those in Ohio who are suffering.
“The cost to purchase naloxone has prevented some agencies from carrying this life saving drug. I hope that Adapt Pharma’s new price freeze for Ohio will allow more agencies to consider keeping naloxone on hand. I continue to urge law enforcement agencies to carry this drug, because it can mean the difference between life and death for those suffering from addiction.”
The Attorney General’s comments echo an issue that is present in many places across the country. Law enforcement agencies and First Responders are aware of the need for Naloxone. However, because the makers have spiked the price so high in the last few years the demand has been met with financial hurdles.
Continued Overdose Antidote Expansion
This isn’t the only deal Ohio is involved in to make the communities safer. The agreement Ohio has with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. stands to to provide $6 rebates for every Naloxone syringe. This deal applies to all Naloxone purchased through March 2017. This deal has been active for a year now. In that time 82 local agencies have been reimbursed over $209,000 to offset the cost of Naloxone purchases.
The new Public Interest Price deal is set to last a year. In that time it could mean the difference between life and death for many people. Having the resources is now especially vital. One can only hope that more allowances are made where needed.
Naloxone and Narcan, both opioid overdose antidotes, should be made as available as possible. The fact that price has become such a problem is not just unfortunate; it is unsettling with all things considered. It is some consolation that companies are willing to acknowledge the need and offer some semblance of compromise to help.
The preservation of all lives should be a responsibility of all who have the ability to help; not just for public health officials, but everyone. As part of that, Palm Partners is dedicated to contributing to the rehabilitation and revolutionary growth possible with holistic treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. If you or anyone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135