News Roundup: May 18, 2018

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Photo credit: Jacob Creswick, Unsplash

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By Roger Parloff

At one level, the federal government is working with unprecedented dedication to curb the opioid crisis. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has now advanced 57 opioid-related bills (expected to reach the full House in June) while at least two Senate committees are marking up successor legislation to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Yet yesterday, at a House hearing to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Trump Administration declined an invitation (see 35:45) to send the acting director (or any other representative) to participate. A National Drug Control Strategy, due in February, has not yet been submitted. One member of theWhite House Commission on Combating Opioid Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has, in retrospect, denounced its work as a “sham.” Appropriations remains insufficient to meet demands, and the future shape of Medicaid—which undergirds addiction treatment—remains a question mark. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), The Hill reports, is working on another repeal-and-replace bill for the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 18, 2018”

News Roundup: May 11, 2018

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Pregnant Women With Addiction (Photo: Zach Guinta, Unsplash)

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By Roger Parloff

In America, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal symptoms every 15 minutes. The focus of this issue of the newsletter are two complementary articles exploring, from different angles, the subject of pregnant mothers with addiction. The first, in the New York Times Magazine, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, provides a harrowing but sympathetic view from inside the chemically-hijacked minds of these mothers—who would be considered criminals in some states. The second, by KHN, discusses the conflicting results of research on the impact of opioid withdrawal at birth, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), on later child development. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 11, 2018”

News Roundup: May 4, 2018

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Credit: Charlotte (Unsplash)

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By Roger Parloff

This week’s New York Times Magazine story about Insys Therapeutics—whose founder and six top former officials have all been criminally charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—is a rip-roaring yarn, but one that also reveals severe problems with US pharmaceutical marketing practices. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 4, 2018”

News Roundup for April 20, 2018

Opioid News Roundup
Photo: Raphael Ferraz on Unsplash

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By Roger Parloff

As the House Energy & Commerce Committee prepares to mark up about 60 individual, opioid-related bills, and the Senate Health Committee continues to craft and tweak a massive, comprehensive bill, one provision is conspicuous by its absence from all of the above. Neither chamber is contemplating repeal of the 2016 law that weakened the DEA’s powers to stop suspicious opioid sales—the one that became the subject of a blockbuster Washington Post/60 Minutes exposé last October and led to Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) withdrawing his name as a nominee to become President Trump’s drug czar. We’ll discuss. Continue reading “News Roundup for April 20, 2018”

News Roundup: April 17, 2018

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Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

By Roger Parloff

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As of yesterday, 598 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, brought mainly by municipalities, were pending before US District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. That was a 38% increase over the number before him just 30 days earlier: 433.

Continue reading “News Roundup: April 17, 2018”

Study Confirms: Foster Care Is Straining Under the Opioid Crisis and Other Drug Abuse

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States hard-hit by the opioid crisis face severe shortages of foster homes. (Photo: Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash)
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • A new federal study confirms anecdotal accounts linking substance abuse, including but not limited to opioids, to rising foster care caseloads.
  • On average, a 10 percent rise in a county’s overdose death rate correlates with a 4.4 percent increase in the rate at which children enter the foster care system, according to the study.
  • Independent of the study, other evidence has long suggested a link. In West Virginia, for instance, about 80 percent of children in foster care come from homes with substance abuse. In New Hampshire, the number of children in foster care has doubled since 2015, with substance abuse being a factor in two-thirds of new placements.
  • Children have been warehoused in hotels, motels, and state office buildings.
  • The opioid crisis is costing child assistance programs an estimated $6.1 billion annually.

Continue reading “Study Confirms: Foster Care Is Straining Under the Opioid Crisis and Other Drug Abuse”

Thursday News Roundup

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Photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash

By Roger Parloff

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One of the most unsung acts of the Trump Administration could also be one of its most substantive in combatting the opioid epidemic. It’s a novel legal argument advanced in a letter from the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts to state health and public safety officials, which we’ll get to in a moment.

In other key developments in the past few days, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services modified a controversial draft Medicare rule that was frightening chronic pain patients; the National Safety Council has issued a report card on states’ response to the crisis (thirteen are “improving,” 29 are “lagging,” and eight are “failing.”); there were new developments in the litigation (which, by my count, now includes more than 500 lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and/or distributors); journals carry new articles on Hepatitis C, medical cannabis as an opioid substitute, how to treat gastrointestinal pain without opioids, and the growing use of prescription opioids in conjunction with something called “EDM.” Finally, a European Union publication tells a troubling story about “codeine abuse” in Europe. Continue reading “Thursday News Roundup”

Leading Pain Doctors Face Scores of Opioid Lawsuits

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Exhibit filed in October 2017 in Coordinated Opioid Litigation in Supreme Court, Suffolk County, NY.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • Leading physicians in pain management face scores of lawsuits in which municipalities have named them as codefendants along with manufacturers like Purdue Pharma.
  • The most frequently sued are Lynn Webster, Perry Fine, and Scott Fishman, who face at least 80 suits in federal court, and dozens more in state courts.
  • Leading pain authority Russell Portenoy, M.D., faces at least 18 suits in federal court, as well as others in state court.
  • The doctors, who allegedly accepted lucrative payments from manufacturers for research, consulting, and speaking fees, are accused of understating the risks of opioids in public statements without scientific foundation. They or their attorneys declined comment.

Continue reading “Leading Pain Doctors Face Scores of Opioid Lawsuits”

Friday News Roundup

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Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

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In the most alarming story of the week, the New York Times reports that a new Medicare regulation threatens to halt reimbursement of opioid medications for 1.6 million chronic pain patients. Other top developments include a new CDC analysis of fatal drug overdoses for the years 1999-2016; a study concluding that opioids are no better than nonopioids for acute dental pain; an economist’s report finding that nearly a million people were knocked out of the workforce in 2015 due to opioids; and the arrest of a drug kingpin for allegedly trafficking enough fentanyl to kill 10 million people.
Continue reading “Friday News Roundup”

Q&A (Pt 1): Opioid Activist Andrew Kolodny Outlines the Origins of the Epidemic

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Slide Prepared by Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • Kolodny describes hate mail, death threats by angry pain patients.
  • He argues (using charts) that epidemic started in 1996, with Purdue Pharma’s unprecedented marketing campaign for OxyContin.
  • He argues (with charts) that false “unbranded marketing,” minimizing risks of opioid painkillers, boosted sales of all prescription opioids.
  • He describes “ah ha” moment in 2006, when he read a study showing that as opioid prescriptions skyrocketed, so did deaths from prescription opioid overdose.
  • Hundreds of lawsuits by municipalities against Purdue Pharma and others today focus on allegedly false, unbranded marketing. Kolodny helped present an overview of the plaintiffs’ case in January at a settlement conference in federal court in Cleveland.

Continue reading “Q&A (Pt 1): Opioid Activist Andrew Kolodny Outlines the Origins of the Epidemic”