July 24, 2017
Mike talks with Alexis Pleus, Director of “Truth Pharm” about Big Pharma’s legal battles for destroying American lives with their opioids.
July 24, 2017
Mike talks with Alexis Pleus, Director of “Truth Pharm” about Big Pharma’s legal battles for destroying American lives with their opioids.
June 10, 2017
The drug epidemic plaguing the United States seems to only get worse as time trudges on. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced recently that drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for American adults under the age of 50.
At the helm of this devastating surge in drug-related deaths are, of course, opioids. Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin, fentanyl and many legal prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. According to the CDC, oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone are the most common prescription drugs used in overdose deaths. The agency reports that at least 1 out of every 4 people prescribed an opioid is estimated to struggle with addiction, and that emergency rooms are treating over 1,000 people who have misused an opioid every day.
During his announcement, Rosenstein stated that fentanyl — a synthetic opioid — is becoming increasingly problematic, in large part due to its extreme potency. “Fentanyl is especially dangerous. It is 40 to 50 times more deadly than heroin. Just two milligrams, a few grains of salt, an amount you could fit on the tip of your finger, can be lethal. Fentanyl exposure can injure or kill innocent law enforcement officers and first responders. Inhaling a few airborne particles can have dramatic effects,” he explained.
NPR reports that approximately 75 percent of people who died from an accidental overdose in 2016 had fentanyl in their systems. One of the biggest threats posed by fentanyl is that other drugs are often cut with it, meaning that users may not be aware of the potential danger.
While loath to admit it, one of the driving factors behind this heartbreaking epidemic is indeed prescription opioid use. Not only are the prescription drugs themselves contributing to the massive death toll, they are indirectly increasing the number of people who use street drugs like heroin. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that an estimated 80 percent of heroin users started out using prescription pain-killers.
In other words, opioid pain-killers are not just responsible for the deaths of people who overdose on a prescription drug, they are also responsible for the deaths of an overwhelming majority of heroin users.
As Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! reports, it’s been estimated that a staggering 52,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2015 — and over half of those deaths were related to opioid pain medications, heroin or fentanyl. Goodman explains further, “To put the death toll in perspective, opioid deaths have surpassed the peak in death by car crash in 1972, AIDS deaths in 1995 and gun deaths in 1993. After 20 years of heavy combat in South Vietnam, U.S. military casualties represented only one-third of the death toll from 10 years of opioid overdoses.”
ASAM.org breaks it down even further, noting that while 12,990 of overdose deaths were related to heroin, a shocking 20,101 overdose deaths were related to prescription opioids.
To put it simply, prescription opioids are, without a doubt, a driving force behind the rising rates of drug addiction and overdose in the US. Several US states, as well as cities and counties, have brought the Big Pharma corporations responsible for these drugs to court for their involvement in creating this outbreak of addiction. For example, the state of Ohio recently launched a lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies for purporting that the drugs had benefits unsupported by science, promoting fraudulent information and misleading patients.
Opioids are extremely dangerous drugs; even Pfizer has admitted that they carry a substantial risk for addiction when used “properly.”
While it’s clear that the opioid epidemic will sadly not be ending anytime soon, hopefully more states will continue to take action against Big Pharma. Keep up with the latest stories about drugs and drug-makers at DangerousMedicine.com.
The state government of Ohio has filed a lawsuit against five drug companies: Teva, Allergen, Johnson & Johnson, Purdue, and Endo.
The suit accuses these companies of unlawful marketing practices that have led to Ohio’s opioid addiction “problem.”
Here’s the big one: the suit states that, in 2012, a staggering 793 million doses of opioid drugs were prescribed to Ohio citizens. That translates to an average of 68 pills for each person in Ohio.
The suit accuses the drug makers of conspiring to influence opinion leaders and various medical groups. This marketing blitz resulted in deceptive treatment guidelines, false information delivered at medical conferences, and misleading “science” articles—all designed to minimize the dire effects of opioids.
Well, yes, these painkillers (e.g., OxyContin) do kill pain. In the process, they also creation addiction and turn minds to mush.
Apparently, Ohio is pretty much in a collective trance state. We’re talking Zombification. 793 million opioid doses in one year.
Don’t forget the doctors who prescribe the drugs. As a group, they can’t care about their patients’ state of mind. Just load people up to the eyeballs with chemical pacification.
If you think this over-prescription epidemic corresponds to the actual amount of physical pain Ohio citizens are experiencing, think again. The drugs are obviously being handed out for other reasons: to sustain and feed addiction; to “treat depression”; to “manage dissatisfaction with life.” In other words, drug companies are promoting an ongoing profit bonanza for themselves. The human consequences don’t matter.
Keep in mind that drug companies pour advertising money like water into television programming—including the news.
The effects of the news and the effects of opioid drugs are a marriage made for the ages.
They both deliver hypnosis.
What a marvelous coincidence, right? Contemplate it.
Just so happens that the news, with its outright lies, useless information overload, misdirection, omissions of vital facts, lack of context, refusal to investigate deep scandals, cultivation of Voices of Authority, attention-span shortening, and various other strategies designed for trance-induction and mental passivity…join together with an opioid chemical brain sledgehammer that wipes out the possibility of rational thought.
Both brought to you by your friend, Big Pharma.
Read More At: JonRappoport.wordpress.com
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free NoMoreFakeNews emails here or his free OutsideTheRealityMachine emails here.
June 2, 2017
The state of Ohio is the US capitol for opioid overdoses, with 4,100 deaths by overdose last year alone. The state’s attorney general has filed a lawsuit with five drug companies, alleging deceptive practices and a failure to disclose the drugs’ addictive nature. Mike Papantonio, host of “America’s Lawyer,” joins RT America’s Natasha Sweatte to provide his expert legal perspective.
October 18, 2016
While the federal government and naturopathic healers everywhere try to battle against the widening opioid epidemic that is affecting millions of people, a significant number of physicians, it has been discovered, aren’t really assisting the effort as much as they’re supposed to be.
Fox News Health reports some 12,000 physicians in the state of Ohio alone who are supposed to be checking their patients’ prescription histories – aren’t.
Doctors are expected to consult a state-maintained web site before they recommend any opioid-based painkillers for their patients. But a new audit has found that thousands appear to be violating the policy that is designed to help stem the opioid epidemic.
One-third of all doctors in the state may be violating policy
The audit, completed in August by the state’s Pharmacy Board, pinpointed the doctors who either were not yet registered on the site or failed to properly use it. In recent days the investigating panel handed the list over to the Ohio Medical Board, the licensing agency for physicians. The board has since sent each offending physician a letter warning them of the potential violations.
The 12,000 figure represents some one-third of all doctors in the state.
The audit and resultant warnings to doctors come as Ohio deals with its own opioid crisis, in which eight people a day die from overdoses. Part of that, officials said, is because of ready access to prescription opioid painkillers.
Tessie Pollack, a Medical Board spokesperson, said that her organization’s priority will be some 45 physicians who have reportedly been providing painkillers to more than 200 patients during August without performing the required checks.
Fox News noted that the Pharmacy Board audit discovered that the top 25 doctors on the list did not run the required report on some 7,500 patients. This list included one doctor who handed out prescription painkillers to 705 patients in a single month without doing a single required check.
Pollack noted that the most serious violators may face a suspension or revoked license, along with probation and fines. The board noted that many of the violations may turn out to be mild, so the board wants to enjoin its enforcement crackdown with a program to education physicians, in order to help them understand how to use the site.
Officials with the Ohio State Medical Association, which represents doctors, say they don’t believe that 12,000 doctors are in violation of the law.
“We’re certainly supportive of the Medical and Pharmacy boards taking these periodic looks and making sure people are in compliance, but it’s really a checks-and-balances kind of thing,” Reggie Fields, an association spokesman, told Fox News Health.
He added that the medical community understands the size and scope of the opiate addiction epidemic in Ohio, and he says he supports the rule requiring tracking of prescription painkillers.
‘We need all hands on deck’
The Food and Drug Administration, on its web site, acknowledged the opioid epidemic and said it has developed “a comprehensive action plan” to reduce opioid over-prescribing and abuse. Part of that plan includes gathering data on painkiller prescriptions.
“As part of this plan, the agency is committing to work more closely with its advisory committees before making critical product and labeling decisions; enhancing safety labeling; requiring new data; and seeking to improve treatment of both addiction and pain,” the agency said.
Dr. Mark Hurst, the medical director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addition Services, said the problem of opioid abuse won’t be solved “unilaterally” by a single entity or agency.
“It requires communities, it requires families, it requires individuals, it requires schools,” he said, Fox News Health reported in a separate story. “If we’re really going to make good progress and sustain progress on this, we need all hands on deck.”
September 9, 2016
Well, it only took two decades for Pfizer to admit that opioids are indeed addictive, even when they are used as prescribed. There is also no evidence that opioids are effective for long-term treatment of chronic pain, in spite of the clever and misleading marketing campaigns led by manufacturers.
Opioids cause up to 60 deaths per day in the United States. This shocking figure is part of what finally led to Pfizer’s concessions about their product’s lack of safety. The corporation has recently agreed to disclose that opioids “carry serious risk of addiction—even when used properly,” according to the Washington Post. The company has also agreed not to promote opioid use for off-label purposes that aren’t approved, such as for long-term back pain. Pfizer will also acknowledge that there is no good research on the effectiveness of opioids beyond 12 weeks of use.
Pfizer makes and markets only one opioid product, which is an extended-release product known as Embeda. When it comes to the opioid epidemic, Embeda has not played nearly as large a role as Purdue’s infamous OxyContin. Following a lawsuit by the city of Chicago against Purdue and several other Big Pharma corporations, Pfizer has chosen to willingly draft an opioid marketing policy. They weren’t named in the lawsuit, and there’s no admission of wrongdoing, so it’s very clear that the company is merely trying to “cover all the bases” if you will, and protect themselves from being sued too.
According to the Waking Times, “Chicago’s lawsuit and similar suits brought by Santa Clara and Orange County charge the companies with a two-decade conspiracy to profiteer on opiate sales.” The municipalities have charged a number of pharmaceutical corporations with spreading misleading information that minimized the risk of addiction and flat-out lied about the actual long-term efficacy of their products. Opioid manufacturers have also been charged with “buying the opinions of respected doctors.”
In spite of Big Pharma propaganda, most medical literature indicates that opioid painkillers do not in fact help workers return to work sooner. In fact, research shows that opioids seem to actually delay returns to work. For example, one study found that people who took opioids for at least seven days during their first six weeks of an injury were more than twice as likely to still be disabled and out of work one year later. Another study found that use of an early opioid in morphine-equivalent amounts equaling 450mg or more were disabled for approximately 69 days longer than those who didn’t take early opioids. A California study found that using high-dose opioids tripled time out of work, and led to delayed injury recovery.
For the last decade, Big Pharma has also perpetuated the myth that opioids are great for treating chronic pain, but research has revealed that this is simply not true. Pfizer has even come forward and admitted that there is no good research to indicate the drugs have any value after 12 weeks of use. Research has revealed that over time, opioids can actually make pain worse. The condition is called “opioid-induced hyperalgesia.”
Years ago, the idea of treating pain with narcotics was unheard of, but now it is commonplace. Despite their legal status, prescription opioids are really no different than their illicit counterpart, heroin. They are addictive, and they do kill people. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2014 there were 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in the US. Of those deaths, 18,893 deaths were related to prescription pain relievers. Those statistics show that opioids are attributed to roughly 40 percent of all overdose deaths.
The organization also reported that according to 2014 statistics, 1.9 million Americans had a prescription painkiller substance abuse problem. Comparatively, 586,000 people had a substance abuse disorder involving heroin.
There are nearly four times as many people in this country abusing prescription pain medication than there are people using heroin, and yet for some reason, these drugs continue to remain perfectly legal. Can you believe that?
A great book that covers the disturbing trend of America’s increase in drug use [while nothing gets cured, mind you] is the book below written by Dr. Abramson:
August 17, 2016
The number of babies who are born addicted to opioids has tripled in just 15 years in our country. It’s a shocking statistic that underscores just how far opioid addiction reaches. In 1999, 1.5 babies in every 1,000 births were born addicted to opioids and placed into a withdrawal program immediately. A new CDC report shows that the number had risen dramatically to 6 babies per 1,000 births by 2013.
Some areas of the country have been particularly hard hit. In West Virginia, for example, just 0.5 cases of opiate addiction were noted per 1,000 births in 1999. In 2013, however, the number had skyrocketed to 33.4. Maine and Vermont have also recorded similarly disturbing rises.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that 78 Americans die each day from an opioid overdose, and this is being largely attributed to the rising numbers of people who take prescription painkillers.
A law passed in 2003 requiring hospitals and social services to report and help drug-dependent newborns and their families has been largely ignored, with just nine states routinely following it. This means that the majority of the children who were born to addicted mothers were not being reported, and it is believed that medical workers were reluctant to involve child protective services.
Sadly, more than 110 babies have died under preventable circumstances since the year 2010, after being sent home with families who were not prepared to take care of them. This estimate is believed to be on the low end.
A new law put in place last month, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, assures a non-punitive approach that will allow newborns to remain with their parents while they receive extra help.
Last year, a team of researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center discovered that some pregnant women who took opioid painkillers were prescribed the medication for no clear reason, placing their babies at unnecessary risk. Withdrawal symptoms experienced by these drug-dependent babies include fever, low weight, sweating, vomiting and excessive crying.
Their study of more than 112,000 pregnant women on Medicaid found that 28 percent had been prescribed at least one opioid painkiller at some point in their pregnancy.
They also found that the infant’s risk was influenced by factors such as the type of prescription opioid, the length of use, the number of cigarettes the mother smoked, and if they took SSRI antidepressants at the same time.
The lead researcher, Dr. Stephen W. Patrick, said that the low birth weight noted in opioid-addicted babies posed even more long-term health risks than being born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
Americans consume around 81 percent of the world’s supply of oxycodone, and it’s estimated that as many as four out of every five heroin users started out by taking opioid painkillers. The CDC recently stepped in and released 12 guidelines to advise doctors on responsible opioid prescription practices. CDC Director Thomas Frieden said at the time: “We know of no other medication routinely used for a nonfatal condition that kills patients so frequently.”
Drug manufacturers worked hard to try to prevent the CDC from releasing the new guidelines, but they only managed to delay them. There is a lot of money at stake here, with a Stanford University report showing that the sales of prescription opioids have climbed by more than 300 percent since 1999 – the same rise as that noted in the number of babies born addicted to these drugs.
Pregnant women who are dealing with pain should do everything in their power to avoid taking opioid painkillers. If your doctor prescribes this drug to you and tries to minimize the risks, be firm and ask if there are any non-opioid alternatives you can take. You can also try to manage some types of pain using natural methods such as meditation and yoga. Besides avoiding dangerous medications, pregnant women should also eat a healthy diet and ensure that their home has clean air to help give their baby a healthy start to life.
It is no secret that opioids are addictive even when used as prescribed. That is why they were highly restricted until fairly recently. It is also no secret that there is no evidence of the long-term usefulness of opioids in chronic pain despite unethical Pharma marketing.
Now Pfizer, the second biggest drug company in the world, has agreed to add warnings to the dangerous drugs that cause as many as 60 deaths a day in the U.S. Pfizer will disclose that opioids “carry serious risk of addiction—even when used properly,” says the Washington Post, and promises “not to promote opioids for unapproved, ‘off-label’ uses such as long-term back pain. The company also will acknowledge there is no good research on opioids’ effectiveness beyond 12 weeks.”
The disclosures and warnings Pfizer has pledged are not a mea culpa. The city of Chicago sued five opioid makers in 2013—Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Endo Health, and Actavis—but Pfizer was not one of them. Pfizer, which sells one opioid painkiller, was not named in the lawsuit, and there’s no admission of wrongdoing.
Instead, Pfizer is voluntarily drafting an opioid marketing code, a spokesperson told FiercePharma, because Pfizer considers opioid misuse a “public health issue” and is “happy to stand alongside them [Chicago] to ensure that painkillers are marketed responsibly. We want to make sure that the right people who need it have it.” The code reflects Pfizer’s current marketing policies, said the spokesperson, and follows FDA risk-management programs for extended-release and long-acting opioids.
Pfizer makes and markets the extended-release opioid painkiller, Embeda, which is not as central to the opioid addiction epidemic as Purdue’s long-acting opioid OxyContin.
Chicago’s lawsuit and similar suits brought by Santa Clara and Orange County charge the companies with a two-decade conspiracy to profiteer on opiate sales. In addition to disseminating misleading medical information that downplayed addiction and lied about the long-term effectiveness of opioids, the municipalities charge the opioid makers with creating faux “patient” groups that scream “more opioids” and buying the opinions of respected doctors. Chicago health plans spent millions of dollars on opioids, reported Crain’s Chicago, which the city says were inappropriately prescribed to city employees.
Few if any studies show that workers kept on opioids return to work more quickly, and much of the medical literature points to the opposite. Workers who remained on opioids for more than seven days during the first six weeks after an injury were more than twice as likely to be disabled and out of work a year later, according to a study in the journal Spine. In another study in Spine, workers who received early opioid drugs in morphine equivalent amounts of more than 450 mg “were, on average, disabled 69 days longer than those who received no early opioids” and their “risk for surgery was three times greater.” The study concludes that “Given the negative association between receipt of early opioids for acute LBP [lower back pain] and outcomes, it is suggested that the use of opioids for the management of acute LBP may be counterproductive to recovery.”
Workers who received high opioid doses actually stayed out of work three times longer in a California study and experienced “delayed recovery from work-place injuries,” say other data.
As AlterNet recently reported, Pharma churned the chronic pain market to sell opioids despite their ineffectiveness. “Despite more than a decade of booming use of narcotic painkillers for chronic pain conditions, solid evidence of the long-term safety and effectiveness of the drugs is scant to nonexistent,” reported John Fauber of the Journal Sentinel.
After a decade of Pharma promising doctors and patients that opioids are good and necessary for chronic pain, two government-sponsored research papers published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2015 revealed that there have been only short-term studies of opioid pain relief and almost no data support their long-term use.
As Pfizer will now concede, there is “no good research on opioids’ effectiveness beyond 12 weeks.” And that is not all. Opioids can actually make pain worse, says Richard W. Rosenquist, of the Cleveland Clinic; a phenomenon called opioid-induced hyperalgesia or OIA.
“I have personally treated patients who were terrified to titrate off opioids because they were afraid of returning pain, only to find they were in less pain once off the opioids,” writes Sridhar Vasudevan, in Multidisciplinary Management of Chronic Pain, which offers many non-surgical, non-opioid treatments for chronic pain.
Many chronic pain patients without terminal or malignant pain have drunk the Kool-Aid. The real problem is the media’s “misunderstanding” of opioids and chronic pain, much to the pleasure of Big Pharma. They do not remember that 20 years ago, before Pharma marketing, it would have been unheard of to treat chronic pain with narcotics.
Opioid casualties are not just young people who turned to heroin after they could not get opioids. Elderly patients have especially been hurt by the opioid craze. “Older brains and bodies are prone to drug complications, from falls and respiratory failure to cognitive problems and dementia,” and “because older bodies metabolize drugs less quickly, those medications tend to build up in their ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼bodies” said a 2014 expose in USA Today.
Pfizer is right and could be commended for admitting that opioids are addictive as prescribed and that they do not work after a few weeks. However, this was known about opioids during the entire 20-year opioid addiction epidemic.
Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter and the author of “Born With a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health (Random House).”
March 16, 2016
We are in the middle of an opioid and heroin epidemic, which is killing ever increasing numbers of Americans at an astonishing rate.
In 2014, almost 30,000 people died from heroin and opioids (also called narcotic prescription painkillers), exceeding those who died from car accidents during the same year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1
Prescriptions for opioids have risen by 300 percent over the past 10 years and fed the heroin epidemic as the tolerance of opioid addicts surpasses their allotted prescription dosage and/or they are no longer allowed to refill their prescription.
In April of 2015, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also noted that “Controlled prescription drug abusers who begin using heroin do so chiefly because of price differences.”2
Most people know there is a prescription painkiller epidemic underway but few realize how much the government is enabling it, how much taxpayers are subsidizing it, and how this is the root cause of the current heroin epidemic.
Conflicts of Interest Color Pain Treatment
In February, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote a letter to Sylvia Burwell, the head of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about the glaring conflicts of interest at the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, convened as part of the Affordable Health Care Act3 to improve pain-related treatment strategies.4
Questions began to arise when members of the panel objected to federal suggestions that doctors reduce opioid prescriptions for chronic pain.5 According to the Associated Press, conflicts at the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee include:
“[T]wo panelists work[ing] for the Center for Practical Bioethics, a Kansas City group which receives funding from multiple drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, which donated $100,000 in 2013.
One panelist holds a chair at the center created by a $1.5-million donation from Purdue Pharma. The other has received more than $8,660 in speaking fees, meals, travel accommodations and other payments from pain drugmakers …
A third member of the panel is a director with the U.S. Pain Foundation, a nonprofit that receives most of its funding from drugmakers, including a $104,800 donation from Purdue Pharma in 2014, according to IRS Records cited by Wyden.
Two other panelists are connected to the American Chronic Pain Association, another nonprofit that receives substantial funding from drugmakers, including Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd. and AbbVie Inc.”
Big Pharma Money Responsible for Loosening US Drug Policies
The panelists, who appear to be foxes guarding the hen house, are not the only experts developing drug policies while taking opioid makers’ money.
In 2009, the American Geriatrics Society changed its guidelines to recommend “that over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, be used rarely and that doctors instead consider prescribing opioids for all patients with moderate to severe pain.”6
Half the panel’s experts “had financial ties to opioid companies, as paid speakers, consultants or advisers at the time the guidelines were issued,” reporter John Fauber writes.
The University of Wisconsin’s Pain & Policy Studies Group also took $2.5 million from opioid makers even as it pushed for looser use of narcotic painkillers.7
Federal officials have also been intensely lobbied by a drug company-funded group called IMMPACT whose stated goal is “improving the design, execution, and interpretation of clinical trials of treatments for pain.”8,9
For a fee that could be as high as $35,000, IMMPACT promises to get drug company representatives into invitation-only meetings of government officials and academic leaders, often at elegant places, where they can lobby NIH researchers and FDA officials one-on-one.
The public and press are not included in the meetings, which date back to 2002. Both Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, and Janssen, which makes the opioids Duragesic and Nucynta, have acknowledged the value of IMMPACT.10
Many Opioids Makers Rely on Taxpayer Funded Programs for Profits
According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the HHS, spending on opioids in the Medicare system, which of course is funded by our tax dollars, grew at a faster rate than spending for all drugs. It writes:11
“Between 2006 and 2014, spending for commonly abused opioids grew from $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion, an increase of 156 percent …
Growth in spending for these opioids outpaced both the growth in spending for all Part D drugs (which grew 136 percent) and the growth in the number of beneficiaries receiving Part D drugs (which grew 68 percent).12 …
The total number of beneficiaries receiving these opioids grew by 92 percent, compared to 68 percent for all drugs, while the average number of prescriptions for commonly abused opioids per beneficiary grew by 20 percent, compared to 3 percent for all drugs.”
Clearly, not only are many Medicare recipients receiving opioids (no doubt thanks to groups like the American Geriatrics Society) they are receiving multiple prescriptions for them.
Even more concerning is the fact that many Medicare patients are being prescribed opioids for reasons other than cancer pain or terminal illness, the traditional uses of these strong medications according to published source.13 In some states over 40 percent of Medicare patients receive opioids.14
Government Paid-For Over-Dispensing of Opioids Is Widespread
According to the OIG, thousands of pharmacies are believed to be over-dispensing opioids within the Medicare system and likely involved in fraud.15
At least 1,432 retail pharmacies showed questionable activity, including 468 that had triple the average percentage of prescriptions for commonly abused opioids.16 In the case of one pharmacy, reports the Detroit News:17
“58 percent of the prescriptions it billed to Medicare’s program were for commonly abused opioids, compared with the nationwide average of 6 percent. The pharmacy billed opiate prescriptions for 93 percent of the Medicare patients it served last year …
Pharmacies with high percentages of prescriptions for narcotics raise flags about potential billing for extra drugs that are never dispensed and diverted for resale, or otherwise used inappropriately, according to the report.”
Medicaid programs, also supported by taxpayers but administered by states, also reveal excessive opioid use and probable fraud.18 In 2010, 359,368 Medicaid enrollees received an opioid prescription amounting to over 2 million prescriptions and again suggesting many prescriptions per patient.19
In 2009, 41.4 percent of Medicaid-enrolled women filled an opioid prescription compared with 29.1 percent of privately insured women, offering further proof that opioid makers are relying on public funds for their sales and profits.20
Millions of Tax Payer Dollars Used for Opioid Prescriptions
While Medicaid programs likely provide generic combinations of the active ingredient in OxyContin, hydrocodone, to patients, which cost about $28 for a 120-day supply (compared with $632 brand name OxyContin),21 taxpayers are still paying at least $56 million for Medicaid opioid prescriptions.
The cost of the opioid prescriptions does not take into consideration state-run drug treatment programs and services that are required if and when enrollees become addicted.
In December 2015, Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, settled an ongoing lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky for $24 million over presenting OxyContin as “nonaddictive.”22 Purdue contended that the pill slowly releases the drug over 12 hours when swallowed, omitting the fact that, when crushed, OxyContin lost its time release protections and created an instant high.
“State officials said that led to a wave of addiction and increased medical costs across the state, particularly in eastern Kentucky where many injured coal miners were prescribed the drug,” reported the Associated Press. (Purdue substituted an abuse-deterrent version in 2010.)23
The 2015 settlement is similar to one Purdue Pharma agreed to in 2007 with the state of West Virginia, when it agreed to pay out $634 million for “fraudulent conduct caused a greater amount of OxyContin to be available for illegal use than otherwise would have been available.”24
March 14, 2016
If Americans are so happy, then why do we consume 80 percent of the entire global supply of prescription painkillers? Less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in this country, and yet we buy four-fifths of these highly addictive drugs. In the United States today, approximately 4.7 million Americans are addicted to prescription pain relievers, and that represents about a 300 percent increase since 1999. If you personally know someone that is suffering from this addiction, then you probably already know how immensely destructive these drugs can be. Someone that was formally living a very healthy and normal life can be reduced to a total basket case within a matter of weeks.
And of course many don’t make it back at all. According to the CDC, more than 28,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2014. Incredibly, those deaths represented 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths in the United States for that year…
A report released by the US Centers for Disesase Control and Prevention (CDC) in January revealed that drug-overdose deaths reached a new high in 2014, totaling 47,055 people. Opioids, a type of powerful painkiller that requires a prescription, were involved in 60% of those deaths.
Many Americans that start out on legal opioids quickly find themselves moving over to heroin because it is often cheaper and easier to obtain, and the U.S. is now facing a tremendous epidemic of heroin abuse as well. In fact, the number of Americans that die of a heroin overdose nearly quadrupled between 2000 to 2013.