Tag Archives: California

Ca. counties sue Big Pharma over opioid marketing

pill money signTwo California counties have launched a lawsuit accusing five major pharmaceutical companies of obscuring the addictive effects of OxyContin, Percocet and other powerful opioid painkillers while reaping billions of dollars in profits from the drugs. The companies deceived tens of millions of doctors and patients about the “significant dangers and questionable benefits of prescription opioids” for the treatment of long-term non-cancer pain, according to a complaint filed today in California state court. The five opioid manufacturers — Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, and Actavis — concealed the dangerously addictive nature of the medicines while touting benefits that had no scientific support, in order to expand the market for the drugs and boost profits, the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint charges that the pharmaceutical companies marketed opioids as “rarely” addictive, misrepresented the evidence of their efficacy for treating chronic non-cancer pain, trivialized their serious side effects and falsely assured doctors and consumers that opioids were safer than over-the-counter drugs.

According to the suit:

These pharmaceutical companies have a long history of aggressively marketing these dangerous drugs through sophisticated campaigns. These campaigns employ industry-funded professional associations, patient advocacy groups, and physicians to deceive consumers and their doctors about the harms and purported benefits of opioids for treating chronic pain.

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Calif. lawmakers OK painkiller legislation

pills and pill bottlesThe California Senate has given the green light to two bills aimed at combatting prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths by helping authorities track painkiller prescriptions and enabling enhanced scrutiny of deaths involving such drugs.

The proposed legislation would require coroners to report prescription overdose deaths to the state’s medical board for review, according to the Los Angeles Times, which earlier reported on the nearly 4,000 accidental deaths involving prescription drugs in Southern California and found that in half the cases, drugs that caused or contributed to a death had been prescribed by that person’s physician.

The legislation would also enhance and provide sustained funding for California’s prescription drug monitoring system, known as CURES, which contains detailed data on prescriptions for painkillers, the LA Times said.

The two bills now head to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for approval.

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Calif. Senate OKs prescription drug abuse measures

gavelThe California Senate has given the stamp of approval to a package of bills aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, including a measure that would require coroners to report deaths involving prescription drugs to the Medical Board of California. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Senate also signed off on a bill that would upgrade the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, known as CURES. In addition, lawmakers approved a measure that would make it easier for the medical board to investigate physicians suspected of overprescribing and suspend their prescribing privileges, and a bill that would prohibit pharmacies from advertising commonly abused narcotic medications, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to the LA Times.

The package of legislation will now move on to the California Assembly for approval.

The CURES bill faced the strongest opposition from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, the Times says, even though it had the support of a coalition of law enforcement groups, health insurance companies, and business, labor and consumer organizations. That opposition was dropped after the bill’s sponsors removed a provision that called for a tax on drug makers to pay for teams of investigators to crack down on drug-seeking patients and doctors who recklessly prescribe to them, according to the Times.

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Calif. doctor pleads guilty to illegal pill sales

pills and pill bottlesA Southern California doctor will plead guilty to charges of illegally prescribing powerful prescription painkillers to patients at nightly meetings in Starbucks coffee shops, ABC News reports.

The patients paid up to $600 to see Dr. Alvin Mingczech Yee at Starbucks locations across suburban Orange County in exchange for drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin, according to ABC.

His plea agreement recommends a prison sentence between eight and 10 years, ABC says.

One of Yee’s patients, a 21-year-old woman, died of a drug overdose in 2011 after he prescribed drugs for her, and Yee may be associated with several other overdose deaths as well, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The LA Times recently issued a report finding that the California Medical Board has repeatedly failed to protect patients from reckless prescribing by doctors: it rarely tries to suspend the prescribing privileges of doctors under investigation, and even when it imposes sanctions, in most cases it allows doctors to continue practicing and prescribing. The Times’ examination of board records and county coroners’ files from 2005 through 2011 found that eight doctors disciplined for excessive prescribing later had patients die of overdoses or related causes; prescriptions those doctors wrote caused or contributed to 19 deaths.

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Calif. medical board under fire amid rising OD deaths

computerpillsParents whose children died of drug overdoses urged California’s medical board on Monday to utilize a tracking database of prescriptions to help identify doctors who over-prescribe powerful narcotics amid the state’s growing addiction epidemic. The testimony came from members of advocacy organizations, including the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and other individuals and experts who said the board’s failure to investigate complaints of physician misconduct in a timely manner has often had deadly results.

By the time parents were allowed to start their testimony, several of the board’s members had wandered out of the hearing, leaving only five active listeners (the board currently has 15 members.) When one of the parent speakers – a registered nurse whose son was addicted to pills and died of a heroin overdose last year – asked when the full board would be available, one of the members replied “soon” and added that everyone’s testimony would be transcribed.

Not very reassuring.

Among the powerful speakers were Bradley DeHaven, whose son was previously addicted to OxyContin; April Rovero, the founder of NCAPDA after her son died of a prescription drug overdose; and Jodi Barber, producer of the short film Overtaken who lost her son to an Opana overdose.

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Prescription drug abuse rally in Sacramento, Calif.

angry fistIf you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, please consider attending a rally being held this Monday, March 11 in Sacramento by the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse and other organizations and individuals throughout California. The rally will aim to educate the public about the dangers of abusing and misusing prescription drugs and to raise awareness about what actions need to be taken in California to manage the state’s prescription drug abuse crisis.

More information about the rally can be found here.

In addition, NCAPDA is sponsoring an event on Sunday, March 10 in Concord, Calif. that includes a showing of “Behind the Orange Curtain” and a panel presentation of experts in the area of prescription drug abuse. More info about that event can be found here.

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Calif. AG calls for boost to prescription database: LAT

computerpillsCalifornia’s attorney general is pushing lawmakers to fund an effort to identify physicians who recklessly prescribe addictive medications.

Kamala Harris told the Los Angeles Times she wants to use a state database of prescriptions, known as CURES, to identify doctors who abuse their prescribing powers.

Harris has called for upgrading the cash-strapped database – which is now used mostly to identify “doctor-shopping” addicts – and establishing two criminal enforcement teams to investigate suspicious patterns of prescribing, the Times said. CURES would automatically alert authorities to prescribing that appears “questionable or excessive,” helping to identify doctors who write large numbers of prescriptions for narcotic painkillers or drug combinations popular among addicts.

The struggling CURES system currently has a budget of just $400,000 a year and is overseen by a single employee in the attorney general’s office, according to the Times.

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Calif. county requires drug cos. to pay for painkiller disposal

On July 24, government officials in Alameda County, Calif. passed an ordinance requiring pharmaceutical companies to pay for prescription drug take-back programs in the county, marking the first legislation of its kind in the nation.

Alameda County currently has 28 medication collection sites which dispose of discarded drugs at a cost of $40,000 per year. Of the annual $186 million in profits generated by drug companies in Alameda County, officials say the projected cost of a comprehensive program producer-funded program would be about 1 cent for every $33 of pharmaceuticals sold in the county.

The legislation was opposed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA, which says there is no evidence that take-back programs help the environment and that the ordinance unfairly places the costs of drug disposal only on out-of-county manufacturers.

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The Oxy King of Marin County: Profile of a Prolific Dealer

In California, prescription drug addiction is especially rampant among teens and young adults in middle- and upper-class areas like Marin County. In the latest issue of SF Weekly, Oxy Watchdog founder Erin Marie Daly profiles one major OxyContin dealer who is now behind bars but claims he did nothing wrong.

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