Author: Justin Mckibben
Some serious justice has been dealt this month as another crooked “pill mill” doctor has been struck with a serious of guilty verdicts for his participation in the illegal enterprise of over-prescribing patients shopping for dangerous opiate painkillers.
In a Palm Beach County courtroom earlier in November Dr. Barry Schultz stood in a frozen stare as the word “guilty” was read out 55 times pertaining to charges brought against him. Each sentence was assurance that Schultz would be serving at least 25 years in prison for his pill mill drug trafficking activities.
This is just one story out of so many similar instances across the country where doctors essentially ran illegal drug dealing operations out of their offices and clinics, writing prescriptions for addictive and deadly drugs to people who didn’t need them, fueling the opiate painkiller abuse issue that made a devastating contribution to the opiate epidemic.
The Case and the Charges
Barry Schultz is a 59-year-old former doctor of the suburban Delray Beach, Florida area. During the trial brought against him Shultz claimed he had been pumping out the obnoxious amount of prescriptions for massive quantities of oxycodone and other narcotics to help people in chronic pain. Since the verdict Shultz was shipped off to Palm Beach County Jail to await sentencing set on January 8th.
During the trial, Assistant Palm Beach County State Attorney Barbara Burns and prosecutor Lauren Godden said Schultz prescribed as many as 20,000 pills a year to patients without medical justification. Barbara Burns retired after spending 25 years as a county prosecutor with this case marking the end of her career, showing that she finished strong.
Schultz carried out his illicit operations from the pharmacy out of his office on Jog Road. Prosecutors refuted his claims of trying to help people with pain by stating he was simply greedy, and eventually it caught up to him. The pharmacy only accepted cash, and it was estimated by Burns that on a weekly basis it was raking in about $10,000!
That is a lot of chronic pain.
The jury that heard Schultz’s case deliberated for roughly 17 hours over a three day period before announcing the verdicts. Schultz escaped a few of the charges, which came to about 19 of the 74 drug trafficking charges he initially faced, but the other 55 are nothing to be overlooked. At least 20 of the 74 chargers are all punishable by mandatory 25-year prison terms, so Shultz is sure to be getting more than enough time to spend reflecting on his crimes.
Schultz’s attorney declined comment. But the show isn’t quite over for Schultz. He was stripped of his medical license, and now also faces a charge of manslaughter for causing the overdose death of a 50-year-old patient in 2010. The pieces of the pill mill seem to have fallen apart and are now piling up on top of this crooked doctor as the prosecutors aim to make this case a staple in the fight against drug trafficking and opiate addiction.
This county is full of doctors who have been prosecuted in recent years as pain clinics created a health crisis throughout the state. Doctors have plead guilty to a variety of related charges, including wire fraud, while others were convicted of other charges.
Schultz’s attorney tried to use the pain clinic crackdown to persuade jurors that Schultz was the victim of a witch hunt. Schultz said he became attracted to the potential benefits of narcotics while working as a hospice doctor and treating the elderly, and stated he was only doing what he thought was right to assist his patients. It is expected that Schultz’s legal team will appeal the verdict on these grounds.
Either way, it would seem that the state of Florida is attentive to the issue with prescription pain medications being sold to the highest bidder by doctors who knowingly supply the drugs for them to be abused, taking it very serious and actively trying to bring down those who are trying to profit from pill mills. Making money off of the pain and suffering of sick people is no joke, neither is a 25 year sentence for drug dealing out of a pharmacy. Sooner or later it all catches up.
Battles against prescription painkillers and the doctors running the pill mill empires seem to still be making waves. There are still thousands of addicts and alcoholics seeking help. But there is hope, and it can be as simple as a phone call. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
Author: Shernide Delva
Considering the NFL’s long history with prescription drug abuse, many were surprised to see a 60-second ad for a prescription painkiller product air during the commercial break. Though a potentially useful product, many argue the drug Movantik turns a deaf ear toward the nation’s opioid crisis.
The commercial is a bit strange. For one, it features a middle-aged women carrying around an overstuffed suitcase labeled “constipation.” By her side is a sad human-like capsule labeled “Opioid” that shadows her like a concerned best friend. As the opioid epidemic rages all over the United States, viewers questioned if a cute cartoon advertisement for the opioid-induced drug Movantik is appropriate to air during NFL football games.
Fans saturated twitter and Facebook last week with concerns over the message the commercial sends about the prescription painkiller epidemic. People are concerned that the cartoon is insensitive and may lessen the dangers of prescription painkillers by turning a pill that is abused by addicts into a Disney-like character. And unlike Disney movies, opioid addiction is anything but child-like and fun.
Here are some examples of feedback posted on twitter regarding the ad:
“WHAT THE F*** IS THIS TV AD CONDONING OPIODS FOR CHRONIC PAIN? F*** YOU #MOVANTIK”
“#movantik You should be ashamed. Animated ad for a drug. Woman carrying bag of shit. Promoting opioid use. #wtf “
“So when you made #Movantik were you just like “eh, someone else will cure cancer. Let’s fix stomachaches for people on oxy”?”
“I think national TV ads for people on opioids with constipation means we have too many people on opioids. #Movantik #TNF”
“Wtf america? So many people on opioids that it makes financial sense to advertise solutions to opioid-induced constipation?!?! #Movantik”
Those are just a few of the (very opinionated) responses to the commercial aired during last week’s football game.
So What is Movantik?
The drug Movantik (naloxoegol) is an oral treatment for opioid-induce constipation that was FDA-approved in 2014. At the time of the approval, Julie Beitz, M.D., director of the Office of Drug Evaluation III in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said: “Supportive care products such as Movantik can lessen the constipating side effects of opioids.”
There is no question that the drug was needed for many who suffer constipation due to opioid use. A common known side effect associated with the use of prescription painkillers is the reduction of the gastrointestinal tract’s motility. This reduction makes bowel movements difficult and results in patients straining to go to the bathroom. Often, stools are hard or lumpy and many are unable to have bowel movements for days at a time. Movatik is meant to treat this condition.
The drug was developed at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals LP, based in Wilmington, Delaware. Though potentially a helpful product, the company has yet to address the opioid epidemic that is affecting so many families nationwide. As a response, many drug abusers and addicts have vented their frustrations throughout social media.
Not to mention, prescription drug abuse is a major problem in the NFL. Just last year, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, Jovan Belcher, was found dead after killing himself and his girlfriend. An autopsy revealed the Belcher was abusing alcohol and painkillers to deal with severe brain injury he had sustained during his career. Brain injuries and bodily injuries are all too common in the NFL and often players are prescribed prescription opioids to deal with their condition. Over time, some players fall into a cycle of abusing painkillers that leads into addiction.
As a result, the Movantik advertisement left many with a bad taste in their mouth who feel the company is placing profits over people. They are focusing on the side effects of drug use rather than a problem of addiction so prevalent especially in athletes. Opioid addiction is no laughing matter. 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 drug addiction is still a very real threat to the lives of Americans today, with mass amounts of individuals being held hostage by the disease of addiction and the opiate epidemic raging on in our homes and communities, but politicians have no intentions of staying silent about this issue, and many initiatives are going into action to fight prescription drug addiction.
These days some might say America could be seen as the land of the over-medicated and the home of the addict, but the American government seems aware of the need for action and is taking every chance it can in the month of September to talk about it.
September 26 was National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, and on that day President Barack Obama took the opportunity in delivering another one of his weekly addresses to the nation to talk about prescription drug abuse and the plans put forth to fight drug addiction. In fact the first thing he noted was National Drug Take-Back day, explaining the meaning behind it and emphasizing the impact these kinds of collective efforts could have on the overall drug epidemic.
President Obama told viewers in the course of his address,
“More Americans now die every year of overdoses than they do in car crashes.”
This is a fact we have seen mentioned time and time again as overdose has become the leading cause of injury-related death in America. More disturbing is to point out that most of those fatalities aren’t from illegal drugs either. Currently prescription drugs are the big offender in this case, and in 2013 alone more than 16,000 American overdosed on prescription painkillers. Obama made another important point when talking about the importance of National Prescription Take-Back Day by saying that most young people who end up abuse these medications “don’t buy them in some dark alley, they get them from the medicine cabinet.”
The president went on to make the connection between abuse of prescription pain medication and heroin addiction, also stressing that between 2013 and 2014 there was a 33% increase in the number of heroin users in the country, which had a lot to do with the mounting issue of prescription drug abuse.
Obama also made a point to note that these drugs were not just being abused in urban areas, but in every community including rural and suburban areas.
Fighting Prescription Drugs
Four years ago the Obama administration announced its Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, at which point the government officials were actively partnering with communities to confront the overdose issue. According to president Obama the administration has been seeing some promising results, and the hope is to build on those results.
This year’s budget includes more money for various programs to contribute to these efforts, including:
Obama was very conscious of the expenses that stood to be spent in this respect, but added:
“Getting smarter about how we address substance abuse disorders is a vital part of reforming our criminal justice system,”
The president again voiced his belief that the fight against drug abuse and addiction would be more effective if instead of spending an extortionate amounts of government finances on incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, the country could save money and get better outcomes by getting treatment to those who need it. One powerful statement Obama made during this address was:
“With no other disease do we expect people to wait until they’re a danger to themselves or others to self-diagnose and seek treatment. So we should approach abuse as an opportunity to intervene, not incarcerate.”
While this was going on that same day, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of Michigan called on federal prosecutors from six neighboring states to convene during a one-day summit to address issues fueling the heroin and prescription opiate epidemic in the area.
Among these authorities were officials from:
All these people got together as part of an initiative by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force to halt heroin and prescription pill trafficking, with McQuade noting that organized groups in Michigan and Ohio have expanded their drug enterprises to many of the above-mentioned states, plus:
They have set their sights on going after and arresting high-level drug traffickers, as well as an increasing education about the addictive nature of painkillers and more expansive treatment for addicts.
Prescription drug addiction is a massive concern when it comes to the opiate epidemic and the overdose outbreak all across America, and while a lot of efforts are going into fighting prescription drug abuse some officials still feel it’s important to plan for the worst and talk about the basics.
Still many states are fighting their own battles and designing and implementing their own protections, regulations and resources to try and revive their communities that have been devastated by overdose, death, heroin and prescription opiate addiction. America has nowhere near given up on this effort, so what more can we as citizens do?
This is the conversation we need to be having, and one that won’t have an easy and obvious answer because there is so much to be done, but we have to try. For some of us that fight begins at home and making the change in our own lives. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
Big Pharma is getting a progressively sketchier and more unsavory reputation as the world opens its eyes to the desperation and deterioration created by the abuse of several powerful medications marketed to the masses in exponential amounts. The heaving heroin epidemic and its relationship with the over prescription of opiate painkillers and anti-depressants has caused a great deal of enormity and outrage, and more and more people are looking to politicians and lawmakers to hold the flame to the feet of Big Pharma for any and all misconduct.
Now according to a recent report, 2 California counties have filed suit against 5 of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the business of pushing pills, and officials are referring to the misconduct as a “campaign of deception,” alleging the makers of various opiate based painkillers purposely lied about the effects and risks related to their drugs in order to increase profits, at great expense to human life and quality of their communities.
Orange County Attacks Opiate Makers
Tony Rackauckus is the Orange County District Attorney (DA), and he recently described his intention in pursuing legal action against this handful of pharmaceutical pushers as “a matter of public protection” and explained his efforts in following through with the suit is to act as an attempt “to stop the lies about what these drugs do.” In a recent story Rackauckus did not hold back his opinions of how these giants of the medication industry has been manipulating the population for profit, and told the Times,
“In order to put money in their pockets, they’ve done serious harm to many thousands of people,”
Orange County, along with Santa Clara County in California, has been battered and bewildered by sincreased overdose death and drastically increased medical costs credited to the escalation of abuse of prescription narcotics in the past few years, and Rackauckus is not the first to think the big names in Big Pharma should start being held accountable. Rackauckus stated:
“California is suffering disproportionately from this problem, so it is appropriate for this state to take up this hammer,”
That hammer is being swiftly taken up and swung at a number of drug companies, including those behind the production and marketing of OxyContin, which was recently approved by the FDA for children as young as 11 years old.
So while Big Pharma adjusts its strategies, states are gearing up to take the fight to their front door.
Landmark Marketing Suit
This entire mission to stand up for these counties and sue these companies could be a landmark marketing case, perhaps one only paralleled by the tobacco industry settlement back in the 1990’s. The lawsuit contends that five well-known drug companies knowingly violated California laws in numerous ways, including:
- Falsely advertising their products
- Engaging in unfair business practices
- Creating a public nuisance
In labors to make a sweeping statement and target the big name offenders, which are:
- Endo Health Solutions
- Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Purdue Pharma
- Cephalon Inc
The case being put together by the DA also claims these drug companies manipulated doctors into thinking that the benefits of an assortment of prescription drugs outweighed the risks, such as abuse leading to physical addiction. Those fighting for the county suggest these tactics lead many physicians across Southern California to prescribe drugs that led to fatal overdoses, which goes without even mentioning the contribution these drugs made to more serious illicit drug habits, as statistics have shown most heroin users today started with opiate painkillers at one point.
The case presented by Rackauckus stated:
“marketing – and not any medical breakthrough – that rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the floodgates of opioid use and abuse,” the suit said, they “deprived California patients and their doctors of the ability to make informed medical decisions and, instead, caused important, sometimes life-or-death decisions to be made based not on science, but on hype.”
Purdue Pharma has already been held up to scrutiny in the past few years by other states including Kentucky and Chicago in civil lawsuits aimed at the drug maker for the devastation caused by OxyContin and their questionable marketing strategies, and with cases like this coming up, one has to wonder if these pharmaceutical companies will ever truly have to face the music.
Sure they give up millions of dollars when they lose in court, but you can’t begin to put a price on the millions of lives lost over the years. They will just keep making money, maybe they should be dealt a different kind of justice for the damage they have created.
Soon we will see how this whole deal plays out, and if these 5 companies end up having to make some kind of retribution for medication marketing that have hurt a lot of people in the long run. Meanwhile people all over the country recover from addiction to opiates and other drugs with the help of strong support, and a great place to get the kind of support to take this kind of journey is 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
This is the era of social media. Good or bad it is here to stay it seems, and while sometimes it can be abused, social media has opened new avenues for marketing, research, gathering and sharing information, and raising awareness. The constant connectivity of WiFi signals and the World Wide Web has given us the ability to reach out to people worlds away, giving each other images, experience and hope.
While I have admittedly written before talking about the dangers of social media and excessive and obsessive usage, I have also written about the positive side and the tools that it offers up to changing our understanding of mental health and stigma. Now one of the most popular social media tools of its time is being used to spread experience, strength and hope in a way that may make a world of difference for addiction.
The CDC Campaign
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is trying to get that conversation going, and so they have taken advantage of the miracle of social media with Twitter, hashtag (#) in hand to raise awareness about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. In an attempt to shed new light on the issue the CDC hopes to recognize prescription opioid abusers who have been working to change their lives for the better. This week the new campaign was launched with the initiative asking for the stories of those who have been affected by prescription painkiller addiction.
“When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” is that name of the new CDC campaign that was announced at the fourth annual National RX Drug Abuse Summit. The CDC hopes to establish a safe sanctuary so those who are or have been addicted to prescription painkillers by giving them an opportunity to step forward and tell their story. The idea is one not unfamiliar to those who are used to the rooms of recovery, and the thought of sharing experience and personal stories in regards to prescription painkiller addiction will get people talking about it, and help more people to relate and understand. The associate director for Communication at the CDC’s Injury Center, Erin Connelly, stated:
“Prescription drug overdose devastates individuals, families and communities. We’d like to get everyone talking and thinking about the risks involved with opioid painkillers.”
As with a lot of issues that come with a degree of stigma, raising awareness in the public eye is a vital part of creating change and inspiring innovation in treatment.
Approaching the Issues
Addiction is one of those conditions that’s origins are often debated, and there are various differing viewpoints on what motivates prescription painkiller addiction in particular, and how to prevent it. Some are firm in the belief that addictive behavior can be in some ways genetic, many also believe it is a perfect storm of both nature and nurture, but regardless the CDC believes it all starts in the doctor’s office.
According to the CDC, there were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in 2013, an increase of 1% from 2012. With the escalating concerns with the overdose epidemic, especially in relation to opioid drugs, Connelly went on to explain this focus on the doctors and health care professionals:
“[The] CDC’s approach to prescription drug overdose remains on primary prevention of opioid addiction and overdose—that is, addressing the problematic opioid prescribing that created and continues to fuel the epidemic… States drive prevention—they regulate the health professions, run prescription drug monitoring programs, administer large public insurance programs like Medicaid, and have the public health surveillance capacity to track the behavior of the epidemic.”
The Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus appropriations bill accumulated $20 million for the CDC to cultivate its Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention for States program, and that money will allow 17 states to improve their prescription drug monitoring programs as well as implement new, evidence-based prevention programs. Keeping doctor shopping and pill mills from supplying the prescription drug problem will make a huge difference.
The usage of a hashtag (#) is an easy way to keep sources compiled and connected, and for a campaign designed to share as much experience, inspiration and solutions as possible it is an easily way to gain traction as a simple networking and marketing tool. If you want to get involved in the CDC’s “When the Prescription Becomes the Problem” campaign, or simply just to show your support, all you have to do is tweet a six-word message with the hashtag #RxProblem. Also through that hashtag you are given access to other information and stories.
Working together with the treatment industry and individuals from the recovery community the CDC is making the best of social media marketing in an attempt to get more of that message out there. The campaign is to run until May 15th, 2015.
We learn through early sobriety that a huge part of our recovery and the recovery of others is helping others. We should all do our part to helping the addict and alcoholic who still suffers from know there is a way out, and there are trained professionals ready and willing to welcome you to a new way of life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135