At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment

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Recovery specialist Eric McIntire’s inmate ID card from before his recovery.
QUICK TAKEAWAY
    • Traditionally, hospitals stabilized and discharged overdose victims, leaving patients vulnerable to relapse.
    • Among overdose survivors who shoot heroin, half will eventually die of overdose.
    • NJ hospitals are now hiring ex-addicts, like Eric McIntire, to try to persuade overdose victims to seek treatment.

Continue reading “At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment”

News Roundup, April 27, 2018

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Google devoted coveted search engine space to curbing opioid abuse.

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By Roger Parloff

The opioid crisis reached emblematic apogees this week. First, the New York Times devoted its lead Sunday editorial to the topic—a 1650-word magnum opus that chased other urgent issues off the page. Then, on WednesdayGoogle trumped even that gesture, dedicating the space just below its search box—the most valuable hortatory real estate mankind has ever known—to urging readers to “help curb opioid abuse.” (As an aside, the week ended with a Cabinet nomination collapsing when it was alleged that, among other things, the nominee, a chief White House doctor nicknamed “the Candyman,” had handed out prescription drugs with abandon, including, on at least one occasion, an alarmingly large supply of Percocet.) Continue reading “News Roundup, April 27, 2018”

Prosecutor Dave Aronberg on the ‘Florida Shuffle’: Lethal Fraud in the Opioid Detox Industry

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QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • In a Q&A, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg and his chief assistant describe how bad actors in the drug detox industry use illegal gifts and kickbacks to prey on out-of-state drug addicts.  
  • In the past year and a half, Aronberg’s office has arrested 45 for alleged involvement in such schemes, convicting 16 so far.
  • To improve this situation, Aronberg recommends reforms to the Affordable Care Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Federal Housing Act.

Continue reading “Prosecutor Dave Aronberg on the ‘Florida Shuffle’: Lethal Fraud in the Opioid Detox Industry”

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”

Opioid Overdose Deaths Are A Growing Source of Transplant Organs. Yet Some Are Discarded.

The Opioid Epidemic Is a Growing Source of Transplant Organs
Data source: Organ Procurement Transplant Network (via the United Network of Organ Sharing).
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • The percentage of organ donors who died from drug overdose surged nearly tenfold from 2001 to 2017, from 1.4 percent to 13.3 percent. The number of organs obtained from those donors has surged 24-fold since 2000.
  • Surgeons must warn prospective transplant recipients eligible to receive such “increased-risk” organs, which appears to deter acceptance. Yet evidence suggests there is less risk for patients in receiving the organs than in turning them down.
  • Christine Durand, lead author of a Johns Hopkins study published this week, says “we have a responsibility to honor the gift made by all organ donors” lest “we add to the tragedy of the lives lost.”

Continue reading “Opioid Overdose Deaths Are A Growing Source of Transplant Organs. Yet Some Are Discarded.”

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”

An Algorithmic Breakthrough In the Fight Against Illicit Opioid Trafficking

fentanyl mass spec image

QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • When we speak of deadly illicit fentanyl, we are really referring to both fentanyl proper and dozens of chemical analogs constantly being invented in illicit labs, mainly in China.
  • New analogs have been hard for crime labs to detect and identify, but a new algorithmic breakthrough will speed up the process, it is believed.
  • With new regulations and legislation, DEA and Congress are attempting to prospectively outlaw analogs that have not yet even been invented.

Continue reading “An Algorithmic Breakthrough In the Fight Against Illicit Opioid Trafficking”

Tuesday News Roundup

rawpixel-com-358746-unsplash[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.]  

by Roger Parloff

The public-private partnership that has now been in preparation for almost a year, in which NIH and FDA, on the one hand, will work with the pharmaceutical industry, on the other, to expedite and approve new opioid treatments and nonaddictive painkillers, has spawned a series of questions about ethics, transparency, and logistics. They are one focus of this edition.

Otherwise, recent news has been dominated by a flurry of governmental activity, which continues this week with the twin, upcoming hearings on Thursday, by the key US House and Senate committees involved, on major, multifaceted, opioid-related bills.

We also highlight an HHS study on the impact of the opioid epidemic on foster care; a Kaiser Family Foundation report on the crisis’ cost to employers’ insurance plans; and an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll on Americans’ paradoxical attitude toward drug addiction. (Most consider it a “disease,” yet most also favor a “crackdown” on those who suffer from it.) Finally, we draw attention to a Harpers story on “pain refugees” in Montana. Continue reading “Tuesday News Roundup”

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”