Category Archives: Litigation

Fla. drug abuse measures rests on legislative compromise

Long plagued by prescription drug abuse and an endless debate on how best to get a handle on the situation, Florida’s legislature is reviewing a bill today that would make strides toward curbing abuse. In addition to finally legitimizing the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, the bill would prohibit doctors and small pharmacies from distributing addictive pain medication like OxyContin. However, it would also lift a cap on the amount of medication a person could receive. According to this article from the Sun Sentinel, if the bill is not approved by both the House and Senate by the end of the day tomorrow, a drastically scaled-back version could take its place.

Meanwhile, this article from Local12 WKRC reports that a massive “pill pipeline” running from Florida to Ohio has been uncovered. If the bill passes tomorrow, it wouldn’t be a moment too soon.

Read about Florida’s prescription drug abuse problem here.

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Scheming Oxy dealer fights prison sentence

One of the main reasons OxyContin addicts turn to heroin: price. Oxy dealers rake in lots of cash by capitalizing on this fact. Nathaniel Newhouse, however, took this to a new level, recruiting HIV-positive patients to fill prescriptions for Oxy and other lucrative painkillers. Now, he’s appealing his 8-year prison sentence, according to court documents.

A federal jury found Newhouse guilty in May 2010 of using the patients, who were Medicare beneficiaries, to obtain bottles of Oxy and other narcotics for a few dollars each. He paid the patients $300 per trip to the pharmacy, but the insurers were billed nearly $1,000 and Newhouse then resold the drugs for many times that amount.

But let’s not forget the biggest profit-reaper of all: Oxy’s maker, Purdue Pharma. Oxy sales totaled more than $3 billion in 2009 in the U.S., making it the nation’s eighth most popular drug, according to this article. The drug comprises about 70% of Purdue’s annual profits.

Oxy Watchdog will be following Newhouse’s appeal as it progresses.

Read more about Newhouse’s conviction here.

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Fla. legislature struggles to control prescription abuse, overdose

As Florida’s prescription pill monitoring program is delayed yet again, illegal pill mills and overdoses still plague the state. According to this editorial in TCPalm.com, the database that was suppose to go online Dec. 1 was delayed due to legal disputes, not unlike legislation intended to impose further regulations on pain clinics, which was also delayed last week. Reasons for the delays include lawsuits filed by pain clinics and inadequate funding set aside by the state for the database. Meanwhile, this article from the Orlando Sentinel reports that oxycodone was linked to 77 fatal overdoses in Broward and 68 in Palm Beach County during the first six months of this year. TCPlam reports that there are currently more than 300 pill mills in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Find more information on Florida’s struggle to implement a prescriptions monitoring system here.

Read about lenient laws toward fraudulent prescribing practices in Florida here.

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Fla. drug monitoring program faces delay, criticism

Florida’s new prescription drug monitoring program may be put on hold due to a bid dispute despite the increasing rate of drug abuse in the state, reports this article in the St. Petersburg Times. One of the companies that lost out on the bid to create the program is now claiming the state health department’s selection process was unfair. What’s more, the program has already faced criticism over loopholes that could allow for doctor shopping. Florida is one of about 12 states in the U.S. without a prescription drug monitoring program, yet prescription drugs are now the number one cause of overdose in the state.

To read more about prescription drug monitoring programs in the U.S. from the Drug Enforcement Administration, go 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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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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Canada cracks down on highest narcotic usage in the world

Facing the highest per capita usage of narcotics in the world, and double the rate of abuse than the rest of the country, the province of Ontario, Canada is implementing a prescription drug monitoring program similar to those already in place in the U.S. Ontario has seen the use of prescription oxycodone increase 900 percent since 1991, claiming more deaths than HIV each year, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. According to a study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal late last year, the death toll has increased dramatically since the new slow-release version of OxyContin hit the market—supposedly a version less prone to abuse.

To read more about the new version of slow-release OxyContin, go here.

Find out more about prescription drug monitoring programs in the U.S. here.

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Strengthened Mass. law targets Oxy abuse

Through an updated electronic monitoring system, Mass. doctors will keep closer tabs on potential prescription drug abuse, including OxyContin–the abuse of which is a particular problem in the state. According to DOTmed News, the law will limit doctors prescribing unnecessary drugs, increases the number of drugs that are monitored, and report when patients are receiving the same prescription from multiple sources, among other changes. At least 9,000 Mass. residents are suspected of engaging in “doctor shopping” annually, reports the GovMonitor. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the state joins 34 others in the U.S. with existing prescription monitoring programs.

Decisions leading up to Mass. prescription monitoring program can be found here.

Reports on opiate abuse in Mass can be read here.

Read about Oregon’s implementation of the program here.

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