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Delray Beach Suing Big Pharma Opioid Manufacturers

Delray Beach Suing Big Pharma Opioid Manufacturers

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.

  • Mississippi
  • 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
  • Negligence
  • 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.

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New Florida Bills: One to Protect Addicts and One to Punish

New Florida Bills: One to Protect Addicts and One to Punish

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:

  • Manufacturing
  • Selling
  • Buying

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

Prince Sought Pill Addiction Rehab before Death

Prince Sought Pill Addiction Rehab before Death

Author: Justin Mckibben

April 21, 2016 we lost an amazing artist and musical visionary, and the whole world wept in the wake of this tragedy. The day after the news had hit I wrote a story to acknowledge the passing of this celebrated icon, and also to point out some of the despairing speculation surrounding the circumstances of his death. For Prince, a seemingly healthy 57-year-old rock and roll superstar, to suddenly die in an elevator there was sure to be a great deal of suspicion as to how this could have happened. While most were engaged in commemorating his inspiring legacy, some were taking a closer look to see if there was more to this story.

While some rejected the notion of drugs having any part in the death of Prince, others were concerned about the story of his plane’s emergency landing in Moline, Illinois on the way home to Minnesota, where Prince had to be checked into the hospital. This was just 6 days before this incredibly talented icon died, and the story said that he had received a “save shot” which is suspected to be Narcan to save him from a near-fatal overdose.

When tabloid reports first surfaced that this sudden halt in air-traffic was to treat Prince for a drug overdose, some people were still not convinced- but now it seems there may be more truth to the connection between a painkiller habit and his untimely death.

Prince Tried to get Treatment

According to new reports, the musical legend Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) had actually signed up for rehab prior to his sudden and heartbreaking passing in order to battle his pain pill addiction. These sources from the Minneapolis news station KSTP 5 Eyewitness News reported that the “Purple Rain” originator knew he was addicted to the prescription painkiller Percocet before his death, so he entered an outpatient treatment program.

In a desperate attempt to try and free himself from the debilitating bondage of his addiction this actual American idol attended an unnamed rehab center to try and separate himself from using the medication, which had initially been prescribed to Prince for his severe hip pain. The publication TMZ was one of the first to report on the possibility of drug-related illness having anything to do with this terrible tragedy. According to their recent reports Prince regularly obtained the opioid pills from multiple doctors, including “a personal friend.” This side of the story again reflects similar celebrity deaths where the stars either have “personal friends” who are dealing dangerous narcotics or they receive excessive amounts of medications from doctors, turning doctors into dealers and maybe ultimately links to the chain of events that cause these deaths.

Current Investigation

The week before April 21, Prince had reportedly went to a local Walgreens pharmacy in Minneapolis to fill prescriptions four times! If that isn’t an excessive amount of opioids I don’t know what is. TMZ reported that law enforcement raided the pharmacy the following Friday, searching for evidence that could shed light on Prince’s passing, although at this point officials have yet to release a cause of death.

An official autopsy was conducted last week, but the medical examiner said it will take weeks for the cause of death to be confirmed. So far officials have not confirmed or denied what real role prescription painkillers played in Prince’s collapse, but the county sheriff investigating the death has asked for help from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as painkillers were found in Prince’s possession when he died.

According to NBC News, the DEA’s role-“will be to determine such things as where the medications came from, and what prescriptions Prince had obtained. DEA agents often check those records in death investigations.”

While the painkillers might make this investigation a little more difficult, in the end we can at least hope for the truth to come out and that if these painkillers do have anything to do with the death of Prince, it will undoubtedly raise even more concern about prescription drug abuse and addiction. If doctor shopping and drug abuse has a real connection to this catastrophe it is sure to inspire advocates of monitoring medications and restricting opioid use to be more aggressive with their protestations, and maybe more doctors will be held accountable.

While it is very distressing to hear that drug addiction might have stolen yet another awesome and moving idol from us, it is important to take note that he was trying to get help. How many people lose their lives every day because they want help but don’t get it in time? There is help out there, so no one should wait until its too late. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-851-6135

No More Paper Trail: Prescription Drugs Going Digital

No More Paper Trail: Prescription Drugs Going Digital

Author: Justin Mckibben

Prescription drugs have held an integral role in the opiate epidemic laying siege to the nation, sending a swelling portion of the masses headfirst into a downward spiral that more often than not leads to heroin addiction and devastating overdose death. Faculties of reform advocates, law enforcement and healthcare advocates have teamed together with community leaders in recent years trying to find ways to fight back, and now New York State has a plan that might change the game entirely.

Effective as of Sunday, March 27 2016 a new law dictates that doctors in New York State will be throwing the old methodology of doling out medications out the window, specifically with the pen and prescription pad. Physicians will be required to write all prescriptions electronically and transmit them directly to the pharmacy.

According to Governor Andrew Cuomo this new legislation is intended to cut down on some of the key factors that make it possible for abusers to obtain prescription drugs, including:

  • Reducing the number of fraudulent prescriptions
  • Reducing the number of stolen prescriptions

By cutting off some of these major sources of prescription drugs to the street-market New York State hopes to make some serious headway in the battle against prescription drug abuse. Last week in a press release Governor Andrew Cuomo stated:

“Addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life and this administration will continue to use every tool it can to combat this epidemic and provide help to those in need,”

So officially starting next week, doctors in the area will ONLY be allowed to write any prescriptions by hand under very limited circumstances, such as exceptional situations like natural disasters or electrical failures.

I-STOP Initiatives

The jump to prescription drugs going digital is the latest big innovation in a series of prescription reforms from the New York State’s I-STOP initiative, which are all parts of legislation aimed to curtail the pattern of over-prescribing and abuse of painkiller medications and other controlled substances.

Now this move isn’t anything too drastic, since electronic prescriptions have been required for controlled substances since 2014. Except now electronic prescriptions will be required for ALL prescriptions. For one, this gets the pad of paper for prescription drugs out of the office, and then cuts out the middle-man by eliminating the patient from the equation of sending information by transmitting the doctor’s orders directly to the pharmacy.

One of I-STOP’s first initiatives was enacted back in August of 2013, which created an online monitoring program that requires doctors to consult a patient’s controlled substance prescription history before they can prescribe additional controlled substances, which can be useful for obvious reasons.

Efforts against Epidemic

Across New York State overdoses and overdose death rates have continued to increase at alarming rates. Like many other states in America, these local lawmakers have been clamoring to find ways to fight the opiate epidemic.

Heroin has made a majority of headlines and has a longer history for its bad reputation, but in recent years it has become brutally obvious that many heroin users were first addicted to prescription pain medications before they began using heroin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of young heroin users reported abusing prescription drugs before making their way to heroin itself.

These new efforts are being put into place as lawmakers hope by reducing the number of people who have access to prescription drugs they can subsequently inspire a decrease in people becoming addicted to heroin. Felicia Scocozza, director of Riverhead CAP, a local drug prevention group said that getting paper prescription pads out of the office will likely cut down on fraudulent scripts and prescription theft, adding:

“Instances of people changing the prescription on the pad – changing the name of the medication, or the amount being prescribed – would basically be eliminated. It seems like it would really reduce the amount of prescription drugs out there that are not being taken as they were prescribed to be.”

Bobby Gunjupali, owner of Barth’s Drug Store in Riverhead, said that for years many local doctors have already been writing their prescriptions electronically. Southold Pharmacy owner Paulette Ofrias added that while he does fear the new requirement would probably have a “learning curve” for some local residents, especially their elderly population, it really is a more efficient process and an effective effort to try and make a difference.

Is getting rid of the prescription pad going to make a difference? Will adding more security to prescription drugs via direct digital transmission make enough of a difference when it comes to the abuse of prescription drugs? What kind of impact could this have on the heroin epidemic and should more states be pushing to get rid of the paper-trail and put their trust in electronic prescriptions?

One could easily argue with everything leading up to our current state of affairs across the country that there isn’t enough being done for those who have become addicted as a result of prescription drug abuse. Hopefully as more initiatives go into place we will see some real change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135


Could a Heroin Vaccine Really Work?

Could a Heroin Vaccine Really Work?

Author: Justin Mckibben

Heroin and other opiate abuse and addiction have been described as a plague across the country. Deaths from overdose have been deemed an outbreak, and the issue with trying to put an end to the suffering has been labeled a public health crisis. So with any illness, there are ways to try and provide treatment. But now some say we could be taking a different approach in prevention… the same way healthcare providers have worked to treat other illnesses… with a heroin vaccine.

So could a heroin vaccine really work? What big change could be brought about if people could be vaccinated for heroin addiction? What if drug addiction could be treated like the flu? What if it could be obstructed by a medicine before it ever even has the chance to take a hold of the person’s life?

Is a heroin vaccine actually possible?

Heroin Vaccine: Addiction is Illness

Kim Janda is a professor at the Scripps Research Institute. He developed this new compound believing that the same nature of the vaccine as intended to treat other sickness can and should be applied to addiction. When discussing the possibility of a heroin vaccine Janda stated:

“One thing people don’t realize is one thing that has probably changed (the) world health outlook of all the things you could imagine is vaccines,”

“We’ve tried this road where we treat drugs with other drugs and that didn’t work for me … Instead of like these wind-up toys that keep walking into the wall, I thought we should turn the toy around so it could start off in another direction. I wanted to come at (addiction) from a different angle.”

Janda also claims to have the data to prove that a heroin vaccine is a very real possibility. Commonly vaccines are designed to use our own immune system to combat an illness, such as:

  • Diphtheria
  • Tetanus
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Polio

Janda’s idea is to use the same strategy to combat substance abuse, strengthening the immune system to attack the drugs before they affect the body. He and his research team have developed a heroin vaccine that works by causing the body’s immune system to attack heroin much like it would any other disease. So far it has shown encouraging results in rodent testing.

Janda explained in the study rodents were previously addicted to heroin and went “cold turkey” off the drug. Then some were given the heroin vaccine while others were not. In the end Janda claims that the rodents who did not get the heroin vaccine re-assumed and even escalated their drug intake, while those that were treated did not- suggesting:

“It extinguished their drug-seeking behavior.”

Janda said the vaccine could potentially save lives by preventing overdoses as well as help recovering addicts remain clean.

Heroin Vaccine: Overdose Antidote

According to Janda another astonishing discovery in this process of testing was that the rodents that received the heroin vaccine were actually able to survive fatal doses of heroin – sometimes 20 times the normal dose! This is an exceptionally exciting prospect for such a medicine. Janda went on to say,

“It’s not something that’s been seen in these vaccines in the past. Mostly the vaccines in the past have tried to extinguish the drug-seeking behavior and provide a means for abstinence, but not for overdose cases … Potentially if people take too much and overdose, this could combat that also.”

As of now the heroin vaccine requires several shots over about a month period, currently the effects last for several months. Recovering addicts would need a booster shot when the effectiveness of the heroin vaccine begins to dwindle, but a practical application could be for individuals leaving incarceration to help them overcome temptations that lead to relapse.

Heroin Vaccine: Transforming Treatment

While this is a very thrilling and optimistic concept, Janda is adamant that this heroin vaccine is not meant at all to replace behavioral therapies. So this new heroin vaccine could be eventually developed into a highly advanced and more effective form of medication assisted recovery, but even the scientist behind it believes in behavioral therapy for addicts.

Right now heroin is the only drug they have worked on, but Janda said if it shows to be effective, the method could theoretically be applied to a wide range of dangerous and addictive substances.

This heroin vaccine may be coming to fruition sooner than you think. Janda’s research team recently received a two-year $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Institute of Drug Abuse to conduct non-human primate tests and apply for clinical trials through the FDA.

With all the talk in the media about people so against flu shots and other vaccinations this story might even find its way into that discussion. But it surely is interesting to imagine where this powerful tool might take us… if it actually works.

Around the nation the epidemic rages on. Policy makers, law enforcement and community activists and advocates have been striving to save lives by raising awareness to the issue and inspiring innovation in both treatment and drug policy.

This new heroin vaccine may be a huge leap in the right direction for treating heroin addiction. Even with the vaccine, holistic drug rehab will always be a huge part of lasting recovery. 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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