Author: Justin Mckibben
Big Pharma has been called out several times in the past couple years for pricing, aggressive marketing and misrepresenting their products. Big Pharma companies have also been called to court a few times for the contribution prescription opioid drugs have made on the opioid epidemic that has damaged the country. The financial and emotional toll of the opioid epidemic has hit hard in several states. South Florida is no exception. Delray Beach has experienced their fair share of strain from the opioid problem, especially when it had been an epicenter of the huge illegal pill mill problem.
Now community leaders in Delray Beach are seeking restitution from the Big Pharma empires, making it the first city in Florida to take this shot at holding Big Pharma accountable.
The Big Suit
That’s why the Delray Beach commission Tuesday decided to sue drug makers for the part they played in the heroin crisis. The city has enlisted the national law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd from their office based in Boca Raton. So far the suit has set its sights on at least 8 major drug makers and distributors. Two of these have already seen similar cases; Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
Mayor of Delray Beach, Cary Clickstein, has stated:
“With virtually no help from our federal government and little from our state … cities like ours are now frantically searching for answers for our own population,”
“We’re right for turning our eyes to those who are known conspirators in this ongoing atrocity.”
According to the law firm representing Delray Beach, the Big Pharma companies being pursued are responsible for:
- Downplaying the addictive nature of opioids
- Forcing the burden of dealing with the resultant overdoses on state, county and city governments
One of the more impressive features of this case is that the lawsuit won’t cost the city of Delray Beach. The expenses will be covered by Robbins Geller. However, the case supposedly has the potential to garner millions in damages for the parties pressing the matter.
According to a partner of the law firm, who compared the Big Pharma tactics to the now infamous tactics of Big Tobacco,
“They went out and said that opioids are less than 1 percent addictive. That is obviously not true.”
The Mayor and the law firm seem hopeful, while other states have been laying the groundwork for these powerful fights.
States VS Big Pharma
Back in 2015, two counties in California sought damages against 5 Big Pharma companies for the same reasons, and in no time at all the case had been dismissed. However, recently one of these drug company agreed to pay 1.6 million for substance abuse treatment to settle the lawsuit. 4 others remain as defendants in this ongoing battle.
In 2014, Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel took a similar stance, but in 2015 the case was also dismissed. However, the court did state in one of these cases:
“The Purdue entities made misstatements about opioids on their own websites with the intention that Chicago doctors and consumers rely on those misrepresentations are sufficient to state claims against the Purdue entities for violations…”
And while U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso dismissed many of the complaints, the battle over whether these companies deliberately misrepresented the drug benefits and risks continues.
Even recently Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced the state is suing 5 pharmaceutical companies, including:
- Purdue Pharma
- Endo Health Solutions
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and subsidiary Cephalon
- Johnson & Johnson and subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Allergan, formerly known as Actavis
There are numerous other suits that have been filed against Big Pharma companies.
- Four counties in New York
- The Cherokee Nationfiled a lawsuit against distributors and pharmacies in tribal court over the opioid epidemic.
- The city of Everett, Washington
While some of these suits may go over better than others, the fact is Big Pharma is under some serious scrutiny.
Delray Beach Making a Case
The Delray Beach lawsuit will seek damages based on the claims that drug makers and distributors violated laws of:
- State consumer protection
- Public nuisance
- Unjust enrichment
According to city officials, every overdose in Delray Beach costs the city about $2,000 in manpower and lifesaving materials. With 690 overdoses last year, that puts the bill around $1,380,000. The only problem is finding a way to prove that pharmaceutical companies can be linked to these overdoses. While many, if not all, of those overdoses were heroin-related, the city may still have grounds to go after opioid drug makers in Big Pharma because these dangerous drugs are considered an underlying problem in the opioid epidemic.
Between 72 and 82 opioid prescriptions are written for every 100 people in Florida, the law firm reports.
While the law firm anticipates other governing bodies will join as plaintiffs, Delray Beach leaders insist they will not wait for other plaintiffs to join the lawsuit. At this point there is not telling how long the lawsuit will last.
There should definitely be accountability for the damage that has been done thanks to the misrepresentation of drug risks and benefits. The misguided and underestimated use of powerful opioids has destroyed countless lives over the years. But beyond holding Big Pharma accountable, there should also be some effort put forth by the state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a huge impact. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)
Author: Shernide Delva
The benefits of playing sports are endless. Any form of physical activity is good for the mind, body and spirit. Team sports teach you accountability, social skills, leadership, among many other traits. Growing up, I was involved in playing soccer and basketball. I was an average player at best, however, I learned so much about myself being involved in sports. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I was capable of, both mentally and physically.
However, the biggest danger of playing sports is getting injured. Injuries and sports go hand and hand. A study even revealed that athletes could have a greater risk of developing a dependency to drugs due to their high risk of injury.
See, it starts off quite innocently. An athlete suffers an injury and is prescribed an opioid painkiller to ease the pain during the healing process. The next thing you know, that same athlete finds themselves with an addiction to painkillers.
A recent article delves into this addiction crisis in sports. A Maryland doctor admits he sees this occurrence on a daily basis. What starts out as a simple sports injury leads into abuse of powerful, narcotic painkillers. And when the pills run out, teens often turn to a cheaper alternative: heroin.
In the article, Conner Ostrowski is used as an example. Conner was a varsity team wrestler with plans to attend college on a full scholarship. Suddenly, Conner’s plans were derailed when he suffered a life-changing injury and cracked the base of his spine during a match.
As you can imagine, this was very devastating for Conner. Conner was told he could never wrestle again. As a precaution, his mother told his surgeon not to prescribe him opiate-based medication. Addiction ran in the family, she said. However, Conner’s pain consumed him. Soon, he even became depressed.
A family member who had extra Percocet pills offered Conner a full bag. The rest, as explained by mother, Andrea Wildason, was history:
“So he took the Percocet, and you know, all the anxiety and the depression and the racing thoughts in his brain, he sort of went, ‘Ah,’ you know, and his back pain went away after one pill.”
Percocet is a highly addictive opioid. Conner went through the bag quickly and tried to find more at school, but he could not afford the high street value cost, so he turned to a cheaper alternative: heroin.
“He was sleeping, nodding off all the time, and he was angry. He became mean,” Wildason said.
Conner’s story is all too common. A 2014 study in the Journal of Adolescent Health found boys who participated in organized sports have higher odds of being prescribed opioid medication, putting them at greater risk of drug abuse.
Sports injuries, in many cases, are the gateway to drug addiction. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Edward McDevitt says stories like these are all too common. Doctors are eager to help athletes get back to the team quickly.
“As a team doctor, you want to help them, so you give them medication, but sometimes you give them too strong a medication or on medication for too long, and once they’re on it for a length of time, they get addicted to it,” McDevitt said.
He said physicians need to take some responsibility.
“We have to realize that we are sometimes the ones who are steering these people on the road to addiction. We have to talk about the dangers of these drugs and how they should be used for a very short period of time,” McDevitt said.
McDevvitt believes other less addictive options should be explored before prescribing addictive painkillers. Alternatives like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can be very effective. Even physical therapy and ice can go a long way in treating an injury.
As for Conner, after several failed attempts, he is now three years sober. The pain from his wrestling injury is still there but he has learned a valuable lesson.
“Pain doesn’t kill you. Addiction will, and he knows that. He knows that, and I hope everybody knows that,” Wildason said.
Parents should explore other pain relieving options that are less addictive. If that does not work, carefully monitoring narcotic prescriptions and asking for a smaller dose could help prevent drug abuse.
What do you think? Are sports injuries contributing to teens abusing pain medications? Pain is a real thing, however knowing the dangers of addiction can help avoid a major problem. If you are struggling, it is time to finally overcome your dependence to opioid medications. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Shernide Delva
It turns out a brush with death is not enough to keep addicts from continuing to use. A recent study reveals that 90% of people who overdose on painkillers continue using despite their near-death overdose experience.
The study was conducted by The American College of Physicians and involved data from 3000 patients over a 12-year period collected from a national insurance claims database known as Optum. All the patients had a previous history of having a nonfatal overdose on prescribed opioids originally given to them to treat chronic pain.
Despite nearly dying from these medications, 91% of the patients continued to use the painkillers even after the overdose. Even more surprising, 70% of the patients continued to use the same healthcare provider to refill their prescriptions. Researchers followed up with the patients two years later and discovered that individuals who continued using opioids were twice as likely to have another overdose in comparison to those who ceased after the initial overdose.
Overdoses from Opioids
The opioid and heroin epidemic has gained media attention for being the nation’s biggest challenge for the next coming years. President Obama released a memorandum to combat the opioid epidemic through training medical professionals in understanding drug addiction as an illness and not a crime. Americans wait eager to learn what solution could possible help bring down the numbers of people dying from drug overdoses.
Similar to heroin, prescription painkillers bind to receptors in the brain to decrease the perception of pain. These powerful painkillers create a feeling of euphoria that eventually will result in physical dependence an addiction. Therefore, even with an overdose, a person will still have cravings to continue taking the drug.
As more addicts are entering treatment centers and detoxing, there needs to be increased awareness about overdoses. Research reveals there is an increase in overdoses after treatment since a person’s tolerance to drugs will have decreased. After leaving rehab, an addict may relapse and overdose.
The ability for someone to overdose depends on a wide variety of factors including tolerance, age, state of health and how the substance was consumed. Some people do not make it out of an overdose. Treatment for an overdose may be quick and easy or may include long-term treatment such as an alcohol rehab center or longer hospitalization. Pharmacies like CVS have worked to make the overdose antidote Nurcan available over the counter to reduce the amount of overdose deaths.
Statistics released in September 2014 show that prescription drug deaths have quadrupled in the US between 1999-2011, from 4,263 to over 17,000 and those number show no signs of slowing down. The pharmaceutical industry had contributed to the opioid epidemic by over prescribing painkillers.
“The amount that [opioids] are administered by well-meaning physicians is excessive,” said Dr. Robert Waldman, an addiction medicine consultant not involved with the research. “Most physicians are people-pleasers who want to help and want to meet people’s needs, and they are more inclined to give people the benefit of the doubt until you are shown otherwise.”
The medical profession began transforming the way they approached pain in the early 90s when it was decided that pain would be treated aggressively. Traditionally, opioids were only prescribed for cancer patients and recovering from surgery. However, this new change made it okay to proactively treat patients who suffered from symptoms of pain. In 1995, more powerful drugs like extended release OxyContin was approved for use.
Doctors continued to prescribe pain medications and the medical use of opioids grew by ten-folds in just 20 years. The consequences of the opioid epidemic have been far worse than anyone could have imagined just two decades ago. Opioids are now reported in 39 percent of all emergency room visits for non-medical drug use. Even worse, the direct health costs of opioid users have been estimated to be more than eight times that of nonusers.
The opioid addiction is affecting Americans in every part of the country. Now, there needs to be an increase in awareness in educating on how to prevent deaths from overdoses. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Justin Mckibben
This is the kind of thing it is hard enough to read… and even more difficult to write.
I have written several articles in the past year about the outbreak of overdose deaths in America. I’ve written about the insurgence of the heroin and opiate epidemic, about the rates of overdose deaths across different states– blindsided by the staggering statistics in my own hometown– and about the tenacious and avant-garde approaches being pursued in various communities in this beautiful country that seems to be bleeding internally from a trauma thousands of addicts are suffering through every day.
Recalling all of this, knowing I’ve lost a few friends this year and knowing that I have loved ones out there fighting for their lives right now, it is very distressing to have to write that so far it’s not so good out there.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just released a report on Friday stating that deaths from opioid drug overdoses have hit an ALL-TIME RECORD in the United States.
The Dire Increase of Overdose Deaths
According to the report from the CDC these new numbers show that overdose deaths have been risen a daunting 14% in one year alone! Now the tallies show that more than 47,000 people were claimed by drug overdose deaths last year, and 28,647 were opiate overdoses.
Rose Rudd from the CDC wrote with some of her colleagues in this most recent and truly despairing report that these finding actually indicate that the opioid overdose epidemic is actually getting worse. Now this isn’t too shocking since I also wrote a while back that experts predicted the overdose deaths would show no sign of dwindling until probably 2017. Estimating the rates will reach 50,000 deaths before dropping.
Apparently even some experts weren’t expecting it to get so bad so quickly. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden stated,
“The increasing number of deaths from opioid overdose is alarming…. The opioid epidemic is devastating American families and communities. To curb these trends and save lives, we must help prevent addiction and provide support and treatment to those who suffer from opioid use disorders.”
The CDC report was able to indicate a very clear pattern. The report directly states that the sharp increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids in 2014, other than methadone, overlapped with reports from law enforcement of increased availability of illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a synthetic opioid.
The tricky thing about this is that illicitly manufactured fentanyl cannot be distinguished from prescription fentanyl in death certificate data, so it was hard to pinpoint the exact amount of deaths illicitly produced fentanyl was responsible for. The availability of opiates is obviously a main issue, and a Stanford University team also reported last week that primary care physicians are actually by far the biggest opioid drug suppliers.
Losing the Fight
Illegal or legal, Dr. Tom Frieden was adamant about availability being a primary focus in the future fight against overdose deaths, stating,
“This report also shows how important it is that law enforcement intensify efforts to reduce the availability of heroin, illegal fentanyl, and other illegal opioids.”
According to the Stanford team prescription opioid sales rose by 300% since 1999, making the early 2000’s thus far an even more treacherous battlefield.
But again I say that all this is not for lack of trying to change the way the nation is suffering. Overdose deaths of all sorts of drugs are steadily skyrocketing despite efforts to formulate prescription drugs in ways that make the drugs more difficult to abuse.
Then again, as a former addict I admit that an addict who has been at it for a while will always find a way to abuse a substance.
Now the CDC is enthralled in a scrupulous debate over the best way to step back onto the battlefield. So far it has proposed to draft new guidelines this month to including using every possible pain management approach before allowing opiate painkillers like fentanyl or OxyContin to be prescribed, excluding terminally ill cancer patients.
Unfortunately this proposal has been met with stern resistance from patients, doctors and of course the drug industry. Many patients with serious health problems contest that they should not be made to suffer and be treated as criminals because others abuse these drugs, while the U.S. Pain Foundation and the American Academy of Pain Management fight for the rights of patients who live with severe chronic pain to have access to effective pain medications.
At the end of the day the ravages of the monstrous opiate epidemic have left both suburbs and city street corners desolated with overdose deaths. Families and friends have lost the ones they love most to this sinister and lethal disease of addiction. It is beyond words to try and express how horrific the impact of these casualties in the fight against opiate addiction truly is.
The report stated that since the year 2000 the rate of overdose deaths has increased an overwhelming 137%! We have seen the body count climb year after year, and we have hustled to keep even a foothold in the fight against it. Hopefully with all the revolutionary ideas, programs and political policies trying to move toward compassion and cooperation we will see something spark a change. Believing in a better world is part of the reason we have the capacity to make one. For now, we need to be aware of where we stand if we can ever hope to make it better.
Maybe it had to get worse before it gets better. Maybe it truly is darkest before the dawn. Either way, every step we take as individuals toward making a contribution the closer we get to a world without the pain so many are barely surviving right now… and so many others are dying from.
There is a way out. We each can do our part to change that statistic, and for the addict or alcoholic who still suffers there are thousands of people just like you who have recovered and who want to help you. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Shernide Delva
Travis Barker recently talked to Billboard about his path to recovery and the several bottoms that he had to overcome in his life as the drummer in the popular pop-punk band Blink 182.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, Barker was at the top of his career and Blink 182 was riding on the coattails of fame with top hits like “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things.” However, Barker’s difficult childhood marked by his mother’s death and the relentless schedule of recording and touring spiraled Barker into an addiction to painkillers that made it impossible for him to function, much less perform for an audience.
“I was addicted to oxycodone, and I had security that would sleep during the day and then stay up at night to make sure I was still breathing. That was pretty pathetic,” he told Billboard.
Fortunately, Barker is now sober and has kicked his regular marijuana habit after finding pre-cancerous cells in his esophagus. He has emerged with remarkable clarity about his past and is most grateful for his two children from his marriage to Shanna Moakler. Most of all, he still has passion and joy for playing music.
“Once I was clear-headed, and I hadn’t been clear-headed in so long, I was like, I can never go back. And I’m still thankful,” he said.
During Blink 182’s Australian tour, the band went through a rough path and fighting sent the band into a self-described “indefinite hiatus” in 2005. In the meantime, Barker busied himself with an array of projects such as performing with Rancid’s Tim Armstrong in the Transplants and providing beats and production for hip-hop artists and his own solo project, TRV$DJAM, which paired him with his best friend, turntablist DJ AM.
Barker also made the decision to star in the reality series, Meet the Barkers, with his wife until their divorce in 2006. To cope with the stress and depression from the breakup, Barker indulged in painkillers and alcohol.
Then something even more traumatic happened. Most of us remember seeing the tragedy all over the news. In 2008, Barker was involved in a private plane crash that left him with second and third degree burns that required numerous surgeries and skin grafts.
The path to recovery was so rocky that Barker became near-suicidal from the combination of constant surgeries and morphine. The post-traumatic stress left him addicted to Xanax. Eventually he overcame his medical issues and drug dependency and in 2009, he reunited with Blink-182 only to face devastation when DJ AM died later that year.
Adam Goldstein (DJ AM) was Barker’s closest friend and had survived the plane crash along with Barker. They were there for each other as survivors dealing with the emotions and the survivor’s guilt. Barker states there was a six month period after the crash where he focused solely on getting his “mind right.” Losing his friend was a tragedy that he still struggles to let go of today.
“He was my best friend. It was beyond friendship. It was like there was only one other person in the world. And then losing him and just wondering, “F—k, is there something I could have done?” It was like the one thing that will never stop resurfacing in my head.”
The barrage of life-changing events transformed Barker and gave him a clearer perspective on his own mortality and worth:
“I see what’s important and what’s not important,” he said. “I’d see people walking through their day and they don’t realize they’d never looked death in the face. They don’t realize how quickly some unfortunate shit could happen, and usually, there’s no warning. But every day since the plane crash is another day I walked away from death. I’m very fortunate.”
Travis Barker has been sober from hard drugs for eight years and stopped smoking marijuana four years ago. He says his clarity of life has allowed him to be a better parent and person to others.
The hardships of life can affect the chances of us falling into addiction. Instead of negatively coping with trauma, find healthier ways to work through them. Don’t let addiction take you away from those you love. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-561-221-1125