Monthly Archives: September 2010

Doctor fraudulently prescribes painkillers to homeless

Zhiwei Lin, a California neurologist, was arrested earlier this month for writing prescriptions for Vicodin to those who did not need it. Like OxyContin, Vicodin is a powerful, Schedule II opiate prone to abuse. According to this article in the Los Angeles Times, the homeless “patients” were paid by drug dealers to obtain prescriptions from Lin. The dealers would then sell the painkillers at an increased price. Lin’s ability to prescribe drugs prone to abuse, and even his license, may now be in jeopardy.  The arrest follows the case of another California doctor, Lisa Tseng, who has been linked to six overdose deaths from prescriptions she wrote.

Read about the arrest of Lisa Tseng here.

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Wash. restricts addictive painkillers, pain advocates worry

In reaction to new statistics on prescription drug abuse, Washington pushed through unique legislation that limits the amount of opiates patients can be prescribed before consulting with a pain specialist, but now the medical community and pain advocates are voicing their concerns. According to this article in the Seattle Times, state guidelines adopted in 2007 attempting to curb prescription abuse haven’t worked, necessitating more stringent regulations. Though the state has the seventh-highest death rate involving prescription opiates, some doctors and advocates argue that doctors leery of losing their license will withhold drugs from those in need.

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Va. holds conference on opiate drug abuse

Virginia officials agree – reigning in the state’s growing drug abuse problem will be a massive undertaking, reports this article in the Burlington Free Press. A day-long conference, attended by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and local police, doctors, parents and treatment facilities, was held to dicuss and better understand the problem on a local level. According to Holder, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs and in 2009, one in 17 used those prescriptions to get high. He encouraged a “a multifaceted strategy” including better education, outreach and policy.

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Pharmacy robberies increase, painkillers main target

Though the state of California fills an estimated 34 million prescriptions annually, in the U.S. nearly 25 million doses are stolen each year, primarily painkillers such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to this report from NBC Los Angeles. In reaction to the increase in robberies, some pharmacies across the nation no longer carry OxyContin and other addictive drugs, reports WMBF News.

For a weekly report on Oxy-related crime, check Oxy Crime Watch.

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Purdue to pay $16 million for suppressing generic brands of OxyContin

Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of prescription pain pill OxyContin, will pay $16 million to direct purchasers of the drug who claim Purdue obtained patents through misleading information, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal. Since the patents were filed in the 1990s, purchasers of the drug accused the pharmaceutical company of using invalid patents to sue companies making generic versions of OxyContin, thereby delaying the FDA approval process for those generics, reports Law 360. Purdue has already settled the majority of 57 similar cases.

Read about other cases against Purdue from makers of generic OxyContin here.

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N.C. police push for open prescription records

An association of sheriffs in North Carolina wants to allow law enforcement officials full access to the state’s prescription monitoring program in a bid to curb doctor shopping and abuse of narcotics, reports an article in the Charlotte Observer. Patient advocates in the state argue that such a move would violate privacy and cause a chilling effect on necessary use of pain medication such as OxyContin. Though North Carolina’s Controlled Substance Reporting System mirrors that of other states and is open to doctors, pharmacists, and certain government agents, police cannot apply for access. A similar bill was challenged by the ACLU in 2007 due to privacy concerns, and as it stands, only 30 percent of the state’s doctors and pharmacies have registered to use the existing system.

In the first six months of this year, nearly 2.5 million people filled prescriptions for more than 375 million doses of controlled substances such as OxyContin – nearly a third of the state’s residents, the article says.

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Watchdog Editorial: Don’t forget the ‘dorm rats’

The latest issue of Time Magazine has an alarming article on the “national epidemic of pill popping and accidental overdosing.” The article details how the medical community’s increased focus on acute and chronic pain, combined with Big Pharma’s bounty of powerful painkillers like OxyContin, has led to a tenfold increase in prescriptions for opioids in the U.S. since 1990. And “most experts agree that nothing but the exploding availability of opioids could be behind the exploding rate of death,” the article says.

According to the article, the people most affected by opiate abuse are mostly baby boomers – “so-called naive users in the 35-to-64 age group” who are often given 30-day prescriptions for OxyContin, “and it’s like a little opioid starter kit.” The article states that “contrary to stereotype, the people most at risk in this epidemic are not the usual pill-popping suspects – the dorm rats and users of street drugs.”

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Oxy prescription forgeries increase in California

As Oxy abuse in Redding, Calif. mirrors the national trend and increases, so do the number of fake prescriptions, reports KRCTV. According to Redding Police Sgt. Bruce Bonner, though he once only encountered one or two forged prescriptions a month, he now comes across two or three per week. However, local pharmacists say since doctors now take extra precautions with narcotic painkillers, dealers are more likely to obtain real prescriptions rather than forgeries.

Read about a California doctor over-prescribing painkillers here.

To read more about the national trend in Oxy abuse, go here.

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Seattle hospitals ban use of OxyContin

Two emergency rooms in Seattle, Wash. will no longer prescribe Schedule II narcotics – including OxyContin – to treat pain. Swedish Hospital Cherry Hill’s ER Director Russell Carlisle, Ph.d., told KUOW News that the ban is a form of “tough love” to prevent patients from becoming hooked on the highly addictive pain medications, and also a way to curb existing abuse. Instead, doctors will be prescribing non–narcotic, non-addictive pain medication like acetaminophen or less addictive Schedule III drugs such as codeine. Though Schedule II drugs still have their place in pain treatment, Carlisle says the need for OxyContin and hydrocodone are debatable in an emergency room.

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