Monthly Archives: September 2012

Medicare wrongly refilled painkillers worth $25M: report

The Medicare program routinely refilled powerful painkillers and other restricted medications that are barred by federal law from renewal without a new prescription, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The report found that in 2009, three-quarters of contractors who processed prescriptions for Medicare program wrongly refilled some medications classed as Schedule II controlled substances, and that those refills were worth a total of $25 million.

Federal law prohibits the refilling of Schedule II controlled substances.

The agency added that some long-term-care pharmacies may have incorrectly billed these drugs as refills when they were “partial fills,” which occur when a pharmacist does not dispense all doses of the prescribed medication at one time.

“Paying for such drugs raises public health concerns and may contribute to the diverting of controlled substances and their being resold on the street,” the report noted.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Surveys & Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pill abuse holding steady, heroin addiction on the rise: survey

A new survey has found that while the number of young adults who reported using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the last month decreased slightly from 2 million to 1.7 million, pill abuse among children ages 12 to 17 and among adults 26 and older remained unchanged – and the number of people who reported heroin use in the past year rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 620,000 in 2011.

Government officials say the numbers mean that national efforts to address the problem of prescription drug misuse may be having a positive impact on some populations. But the increase in heroin abuse is indicative of the trend of pill abusers making the switch to the illegal street drug – which is not good news at all.

Posted in Informational, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unraveling Big Pharma’s web of deception

If you want to learn more about the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the “pain management” movement and the powerful marketing scheme behind highly addictive opioids, read this article, which focuses on the evolution of Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin. The article notes that while it’s not news that Purdue defrauded the public concerning the safety of its drug – paying a $634.5 million fine in 2007 – what’s disturbing is how commonplace the practice of deception and data suppression is throughout the industry. And it asks an important big-picture question:

“As a generation of Oxy addicts suffers, as Purdue continues to make billions a year in sales of the drug, and cheaper versions are bound for pharmacies next year, what have the rest of us learned? When the next miracle pill comes along, with all its easy promises and assurances, how low will the highs go?”

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEA bans Walgreens from shipping Oxy in Fla.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has barred Walgreens from shipping oxycodone and other controlled drugs from its Jupiter, Fla., distribution center after finding that the company failed to maintain proper controls to ensure it didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

According to the DEA, the distribution center has been the single largest distributor of oxycodone products in Florida since 2009. In 2011, 16 of the top 25 largest oxycodone purchasers by Walgreens retail pharmacies, including the top six purchasers, were in Florida and supplied by the Jupiter center, the agency said.

The strike against Walgreens comes just after the DEA revoked the controlled substances licenses for two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Fla., after also accusing them of dispensing excessive amounts of oxycodone.

Separately in May, Cardinal Health reached a deal with the DEA that blocked its Lakeland, Fla. facility from distributing controlled substances for two years following similar accusations.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Doctors in the dark about FDA’s opioid safety plan: survey

The majority of doctors remain unaware of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recently-approved opioid safety plan, which is part of a federal initiative to address the prescription drug addiction epidemic, a new survey has found.

The agency’s risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS), approved in July, introduces new safety measures designed to reduce risks and improve the safe use of extended-release and long-acting opioids. The plan includes a “voluntary” training option for physicians to be educated on risks and safe use of such drugs, with the FDA hoping to get at least 60 percent of the estimated 320,000 opioid prescribers to receive training by year three of the program.

Currently, only 35 percent of physicians are aware of the plan, according to a survey by dtw Marketing Research Group.

The finding comes as activist groups are gearing up for a protest in October to protest the FDA’s strategy regarding painkiller regulation. More information about the protest can be found here.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation, Surveys & Statistics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

For Purdue’s ‘poster children,’ Oxy led to addiction, death

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel has produced an investigative report following up with the “poster children” of OxyContin – a group of seven people who were featured in a promotional video for the painkiller that was put out by Oxy maker Purdue Pharma in the late 1990s. Fourteen years later, it’s a mixed bag. Two of the seven patients have died: one man flipped his car after falling asleep at the wheel, high on OxyContin, while a second man was found dead in his apartment of apparent heart failure. Both men were active opioid abusers at the time of their deaths. A third patient became addicted to Oxy but was able to quit after realizing she was headed for an overdose. Three patients still say the drug helped them cope with their pain and improved their quality of life, while the seventh patient declined to answer questions.

The doctor who enlisted his patients for the video – a pain specialist who was also a paid speaker for Purdue at the time – told the Journal that his statements urging physicians to consider prescribing opioids more often went too far, and that success stories may be “quite rare.” In the video, the doctor had claimed that the rate of addiction among pain patients was much less than 1 percent, but he told the Journal that figure did not come from long-term studies of chronic pain patients.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Prescription drug database curbing abuse in B.C.: study

In Canada, where prescription drug addiction is rampant, a real-time prescription drug monitoring database in the province of British Columbia appears to be having a positive impact on abuse there, according to a new study published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association. The implementation of a centralized prescription network was associated with a “dramatic” reduction in inappropriate prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines, the authors of the study said. Inappropriate opioid prescriptions to people on social assistance dropped from 3.2 percent to 2.1 percent after the new system, called PharmaNet, was introduced in 1995. Meanwhile, suspicious prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which exacerbate the side effects of opioids, fell from 1.2 percent to 0.71 percent.

Canadians are the second-largest consumers of prescription narcotics and other controlled substances per capita in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. Yet the country lacks a national prescription drug tracking system, making it difficult to monitor cases of addiction and related deaths.

This recent editorial in the New York Times argues that doctors have contributed to the growing epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction by overprescribing opioids, mostly due to a desire to treat pain more compassionately.

Posted in Informational, Pharmaceutical Industry, Policy & Regulation, Surveys & Statistics, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment