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
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
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 of 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 woman 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 (naloxegol) 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 commonly 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 the 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