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
When we are in a crucial time of combating substance use disorder and drug addiction in America, it could be useful to remind everyone of the key differences in different drug categories and which common drugs can qualify for these descriptions.
Needless to say, this is not a complete list of every known drug. Truthfully, there is a vast library of known chemical combinations that are utilized as either medical treatments or abused as a means of recreational intoxication. There are the more abstract medications that have no known recreational use, and there are many synthetics that can be far more complicated.
Still, plenty of drugs that we know of have been put into different classes. Here is a brief breakdown of the different drug categories and what drugs qualify.
Prescription Medical Drugs
First we will make a more solid distinction between medical drugs and recreational drugs. Sadly, prescription drug abuse has become a major problem in the country. The opioid crisis has been largely impacted by the abuse of drugs created for medical use. It is important to be aware of the dangers of prescription medical drugs.
Many medical drugs have side effects that make them appealing to people who don’t have a real medical reason to be prescribed these substances. Common medical drugs to be abused include:
The tragedy we have learned through the opioid crisis is that even though these drugs are typically prescribed for medical purposes, they can be extremely dangerous. That includes people who use them recreationally, and for those who are prescribed the medication because of the risk of physical dependence.
Some prescription drugs are more addictive than others, and many can be deadly when taken improperly or with other drugs, especially alcohol.
Recreational drugs are substances specifically used to achieve a desired feeling, or to get ‘high’. Most recreational drugs are illegal. Some legal drugs are recreational, and some recreational drugs are legalized in certain areas for medicinal purposes.
Recreational drugs are typically categorized into three main categories: depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens.
Depressants, which are also called ‘downers’ are drugs that depress activity in the body, meaning they slow down the messages sent to and from the brain. Examples of depressant drugs include:
- Opiates (such as heroin and morphine)
- Sedatives (such as Valium)
- Some glues, petrols and other solvents
An individual is at an even higher risk of overdose from depressant drugs when consuming different types of depressants at the same time. Large amounts of depressants can cause life-threatening respiratory issues and loss of consciousness.
Stimulant drugs are also known as ‘uppers’. The term refers to the way these drugs make someone feel ‘up’ or ‘alert’ by speeding up the messages sent to and from your brain. Examples of stimulants include:
- Amphetamines (such as speed or ice)
Some of the hazardous side effects of stimulant drugs include:
- Severe strain on the heart
- Increased body temperature
Combining different stimulant drugs, or using stimulants with depressant drugs can create even more strain on the heart and the body, which can cause major health problems or even death.
Hallucinogen drugs are psychoactive agents which can cause hallucinations, anomalies in perception, and other substantial subjective changes in thoughts, emotion, and consciousness. Examples of hallucinogens include:
- LSD (acid)
- ‘Magic’ mushrooms
- High doses of cannabis
Hallucinogen drugs do a number on the mind, and therefore they tend to make people experience things like:
- Risk taking behavior
Legal VS Illegal
One thing that we should always keep in mind is that a drug isn’t necessarily safe just because it is legal. Whether or not a drug is illegal, it can still pose a great deal of problems to different people for different reasons.
Consider alcohol. This is a legal substance, but it is still considered by many to be the most dangerous drug there is. That isn’t to say that it is as potent as drugs like heroin, but the danger rating comes from the fact that it is deadly, addictive AND highly accessible! For one, someone can get alcohol poisoning and die if they drink too much. Also, alcohol withdrawals can be some of the most dangerous there are. Add in the fact that it is extremely addictive, even more lethal when combined with other drugs, and can be purchased on pretty much every corner in America.
THAT is a dangerous drug.
Then, there are synthetic drugs. These substances can be ambiguous when it comes to being flat out illegal. For a while there were constantly news stories about new dangerous synthetic drugs being sold as “legal highs” that were making people deathly ill. In some cases, people did die.
Synthetic drugs can also fall into any of these categories, for example:
These drugs can be far more dangerous than others because of the often random chemical combinations they come in, being cooked in homemade labs with substances that have no clinical trials on human biology.
Drug and alcohol rehab programs are designed to put you in the best position to succeed with as many resources as possible, and it all starts with a healthy detox. Understanding the different drug categories may help you better understand the importance of a safe and effective treatment program. 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
Every year as Super Bowl Sunday strikes the public is privy to a brand new batch of clever and powerful commercials. Some of us don’t even bother to watch the game, but we make sure to check in for those ads that are often unique and creative ways to grab their audience. This year the 2017 Super Bowl LI commercials ranged from political and controversial, to hysterical or inspirational. The depictions accompanying the game seem to have made varied impressions, but one topic stood out in a different way than others of its kind.
The Super Bowl LI commercials included PSAs that set out to target and tackle the details of drug overdose with teens. Two heart-breaking ads were presented by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) in which the narrative concentrated on the likelihood of overdoses with teenagers; specifically prescription drugs.
NCADA is a St. Louis-based charity which aims to prevent substance abuse and overdose. They do so by offering drug education programs in schools and working to increase awareness of addiction.
Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Safe”
The first PSA was entitled “Safe.” It begins with a father talking about his belief in the second amendment right to bear arms. He tells us about his family’s history with guns and respect for gun safety. They show images of a family hunting together, and a happy daughter with a rifle her father bought her. He emphasizes the fact the family always locks their guns in the safe.
Then, in a tragic turn, he tells the viewer about the overdose death of his 17 year old daughter. He shows the empty pill bottle and says the fire department found it in his daughters hand, followed in an incredibly heart-wrenching way saying-
“I didn’t lock it up.”
The closing credits to the ad include the hard statistic:
Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than gun fire.
Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.
This gripping story only took one minute of halftime Super Bowl LI commercials, but it was a meaningful minute.
Super Bowl LI Commercials: “Smart Phone”
The second PSA of the Super Bowl LI commercials was titled “Smart Phone” and depicted a mother who describes her strict demands for her daughter not to text or use her smart phone and drive. The mother begins with telling about how her daughter was so excited for the phone, and how excited the young woman was to get a license.
The mother insists she was clear about the phone being locked in the glove box while driving, but she trails of into a tear-jerking moment where she asks,
“How could I be so stupid? I put the one thing in her hand that she couldn’t control- painkillers.”
The distraught mother holds up the empty pill bottle to the camera. Throughout the narrative, we are given glimpses of a young girl with her friends. Then the woman portraying the mother delivers a line that makes this message devastating.
“There is nothing in the world that will take this pain away. Ever.”
The commercial closes with the statistic stating:
Teenagers are more likely to die from overdose than texting and driving.
Lock up your prescription medication. Dispose of unused medication properly.
Both of these quick stories are so painfully portrayed by the actors that you can’t help but feel a strong emotional response to the faces and voices in the videos. The fact these ads made their message unexpected at first only adds to the impact.
Getting the Message Across
With these Super Bowl LI commercials the tactic of the twist ending is powerful. Schupp Consulting directed the PSAs and Mark Schupp shared this idea saying,
“There’s a spin to these that I think is very effective,”…”And when we showed them to a (preview) group, they were stunned.”
You may remember that last year NCADA aired another dramatic and compelling Super Bowl commercial called “All America Girl” that told of a young cheerleader turned heroin addict.
The year prior the 2015 PSA featured a mother finding her son overdosed on heroin. Consistently the organization has worked to get a very real, very personal message across.
Yet, some reports show that Schupp thinks this year’s Super Bowl LI commercials are the most powerful. Some might say “powerful” is an understatement. These ads have so much feeling it is hard for many to imagine the reality of them; that these stories come true all over the nation.
The Super Bowl LI commercials reminded us of a lot of things this year. They spoke to us about more than products; they spoke to us about who we are as a nation and where we are in terms of dealing with the adversities we face. Prescription drug abuse and the stigma surrounding addiction is one of the hurdles we know we face, and one that we need to work together to overcome. Recovery is full of champions. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
I’m no stranger to writing about the way I take offense to how the pharmaceutical industry has conducted themselves in various aspects concerning the opiate epidemic in America. Firstly, by taking offense to the fact that these companies were actively raising the prices on the overdose antidote medication Naloxone steadily as the opiate epidemic worsened… but now this next piece feels like something straight out of a dystopian Aldous Huxley future where we are pacified with ads that say,
“Pill 1 causing you problems? We promise pill 2 will make it all better. #BraveNewWorld”
For a lot of people there has been a troubling message to be found behind the guise of an ad for a new constipation medication for treating OIC or Opioid Induced Constipation. 111 million viewers specifically who were watching the Super Bowl this year saw it, which sparked a wave of back-lash and outrage.
Of course it has been quite some time since the Super Bowl, so why bring it up?
Well I keep watching TV, surprisingly, and there are other commercials just like this one with Big Pharma pushing pills that a lot of politicians and medical leaders are also seeing as a way the bullies in Big Pharma are trying to further capitalize on the opiate epidemic that has been crippling communities all over the country. It all has me thinking, shouldn’t we be talking about whats wrong with this picture?
Normalizing the Poison
It has been said the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist- and it would seem this is the same mindset these Big Pharma companies are adopting to make more money off of the sick and suffering. Instead of aspiring to create healthier alternatives, companies are opting to pretend the real problem with long-term dependence on opiates doesn’t exist and are creating more drugs that people will come to depend on.
How do you convince people opiates aren’t the problem? You normalize the poison and give them another pill like it’s the answer to everything. Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, is one authority on the subject who spoke avidly about the distasteful way these Big Pharma ads are portraying the issue with opiate use, stating:
“It’s very disturbing to see an ad like that. It’s normalizing the chronic use of opioids, which aren’t demonstrated to be safe over the long term.”
But that’s exactly what this commercial would lead you to believe- that long term dependence on opiate pain medication is a typical and healthy course for treating pain. Kolodny went on to say,
“There’s no question that their ads make this very dangerous and questionable medical practice seem normal.”
And what better way to convince a mass amount of people that it is OK to keep leaning on opiates than to air an ad promoting an OIC medication during one of the most watched broadcasts in America?
This kind of as is normalizing the poison to belittle the problem! The commercial might as well say,
“Hey there, we know you won’t stop using opiates- that’s just crazy talk! How about instead, we pump you full of more medications (at prices which will undoubtedly escalate while causing more side effects) that won’t make you any healthier, won’t address the fact that an estimated 28,648 people were killed by opiates in 2014, and actually deepen your dependence by exploiting it!”
Slap that delightful message between a black and white montage, or a cartoonish animation (ya know, just in case the kids are watching and need their fix) and watch profits double! Throw in a disclaimer at the end,
“May enable a debilitating dependence long enough to get you hooked on heroin.”– But maybe that’s taking it too far… maybe.
Because when we are talking about opiates, that list includes:
And yes, the abuse of opiates has gotten so bad that opioid pain meds were prescribed 259 million times in 2012- enough for every man, woman and child to get their own bottle of pills. Sadly, it is now 4 years later and the statistics of abuse and overdose have skyrocketed every year since! Then there are various other medications there are new synthetic opioids which are being added to the market.
Of Madness and Medication
Now to be fair, the ad from the Super Bowl was presented by AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo, and neither Big Pharma company produces opioids so they aren’t getting paid at both ends exactly. Together, these Big Pharma giants sell the drug Movantik as a treatment for OIC.
Now on a personal note, the fact that OIC is even such a common issue it had to be given it’s own name is actually depressing the more I think about it. How many illnesses will Big Pharma try to write off as “normal” to bypass the devastation and sickness caused by their products?
Twitter Starts Talking
Shortly after the ad aired on the Super Bowl, Twitter started talking and people were not happy with the standards this kind of commercial was attempting to set. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough weighed took to Twitter writing:
“Next year, how about fewer ads that fuel opioid addiction and more on access to treatment.”
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin also had a few choice words for the Big Pharma propaganda, tweeting:
“Promoting drugs during #SuperBowl to help Americans take more opiates in midst of our crisis? Big PHRMA has no shame”
Shumlin’s outrage is obviously understandable considering Vermont has had alarmingly high levels of opioid addiction in recent years. Shumlin was already an advocate speaking out against the epidemic, and he also put out a statement on the Thursday following the Super Bowl demanding that the commercial be yanked from the air and even pointing out the question of how these Big Pharma companies could justify spending $10 million on the 1-minute spot to pedal more drugs to a population already smothering itself in substance abuse.
Big Pharma Company Claims
What should be even more troubling is that since the commercial first aired the campaign’s website has been visited nearly 40,000 times, and the ad has been streamed on YouTube more than 2 million times! So whether you agree with one side of the debate or the other, it is obvious the ad is pulling people in.
But the companies AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo made claims in their official statement that the ad was aired to raise awareness, stating:
“The objective of the advertisement was to reach people with chronic pain taking a prescribed opioid treatment for long-term pain management and to encourage those who may be suffering from OIC to discuss their symptoms with their physician,”
Really? That’s why you paid $10 million to air an ad? Nothing to do with the astounding response of continued views the commercial has gotten and the dollar amount of business it has probably bought you… no of course not!
Maybe AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo aren’t responsible for the opiate abuse epidemic, but ALL of the Big Pharma companies should be held accountable for the way they are marketing to the public in the midst of a public health crisis.
One thing is for sure, whether they intended to or not their commercial has drawn awareness to the conversation in more ways than one. I have personally spoken with several people both working in the addiction recovery field and in actual recovery themselves who are just blown away by how blatantly Big Pharma can sell ridiculous amounts of dangerous prescription narcotics and make billions, then turn around and pitch sales for the side-effects of these drugs.
There is real help out there; real solutions beyond being medicated to overcome medications. Beyond relying on substances to help treat other substances there is long-term addiction recovery in a holistic healing approach like the effective addiction treatment program at Palm Partners. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
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.
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