Tag Archives: Crime

FedEx faces drug-trafficking charges

pharmacyFedEx Corp. is facing charges that it delivered prescription painkillers and other controlled substances for illegal Internet pharmacies.

The charges include 15 counts of conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and misbranded drugs and drug trafficking. Prosecutors claim FedEx delivered drugs to Internet pharmacies that supplied pills to customers who filled out online questionnaires without undergoing doctors’ examinations, in violation of federal and state drug laws.

According to the indictment, FedEx knew as early as 2004 that it was delivering drugs to dealers and addicts:

FedEx’s couriers in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia expressed safety concerns that were circulated to FedEx Senior management, including that FedEx trucks were stopped on the road by online pharmacy customers demanding packages of pills, that the delivery address was a parking lot, school, or vacant home where several car loads of people were waiting for the FedEx driver to arrive with their drugs, that customers were jumping on the FedEx trucks and demanding online pharmacy packages, and that FedEx drivers were threatened if they insisted on delivering packages to the addresses instead of giving the packages to customers who demanded them. In response to these concerns, FedEx adopted a procedure whereby Internet pharmacy packages from problematic shippers were held for pick up at specific stations, rather than delivered to the recipient’s address.

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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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Tenn. mulls criminal charges for prenatal drug use

CSL2028Tennessee lawmakers have given the green light to a bill that would allow criminal assault charges to be filed against women whose infants suffer harm from their mothers’ prenatal drug abuse. The measure, which would allow prosecutors to press assault charges on women if an infant’s “addiction or harm is a result of her illegal use of a narcotic drug taken while pregnant,” has been sent to Gov. Bill Haslam for approval, according to this article.

Driven by the prescription drug addiction epidemic, Tennessee is seeing a dramatic rise in the number of newborns born with neonatal abstinence syndrome. In just slightly more than nine months last year, more babies in the state were born dependent on drugs their mothers took during pregnancy than in all of 2011, according to this article. By the first week of October 2013, 643 babies were born dependent, compared with 629 for all of 2011. The majority of these births involved a mother taking medicine prescribed by a health care provider.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs while in the mother’s womb. Symptoms include excessive crying, seizures, vomiting, fever, and slow weight gain. Some NAS babies may need to receive fluids intravenously; others with more severe symptoms may require medicine to treat withdrawal.

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Ga. pharmacy robberies rise after pill mill crackdown

gunPharmacy officials in Georgia are reporting that robberies are occurring with greater frequency in light of the state’s recent crackdown on pill mills. According to this article, Georgia became a pill mill magnet after neighboring states, including Florida, passed tougher laws regulating pain clinics.

Georgia lawmakers passed similar legislation last year requiring pain clinics to be licensed by the state medical board and owned by physicians, and the state also launched a prescription drug monitoring program, the article says. As the pill mills have dwindled, pharmacy officials say people who have addictions are being forced to seek drugs elsewhere, leading to the spike in robberies, the article says.

In 2010 alone, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office reported there were 560 prescription drug-related deaths in the 152 of 159 counties for which it performs autopsies — at least a 10 percent increase since 2009.

Florida’s efforts to combat painkiller abuse resulted in the number of pill mills in that state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article. In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.

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Fentanyl-laced heroin may be behind rise in ODs

fentanylAuthorities are investigating whether heroin laced with the powerful painkiller fentanyl may have contributed to up to 50 recent fatal overdoses in three states. Fentanyl, an opiate that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, is sometimes added to the street drug to create a stronger high.

According to this article, at least 17 fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania in January were suspected to have been caused by the dangerous blend; while 37 deaths in Maryland since last September and four recent deaths in Flint, Mich. have also been linked to the drug.

A heroin overdose can cause your body to forget to breathe, your blood pressure to dip significantly, and your heart to fail. (Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. For every 20% of heroin addicts in a population treated with the drug, about 6.5% of overdose deaths could be prevented, resulting in 2,000 lives saved in a population of 200,000 heroin users, a recent study found.)

The investigation into the rise of fentanyl-laced heroin comes as authorities are looking into the apparent overdose death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman earlier this week.

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Pharmacy employees contributing to Maine painkiller thefts

pharmacyMore than one-third of the prescription drugs stolen from Maine pharmacies are taken by employees, a new report has found.

According to this article, an investigation by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting of state disciplinary records has revealed that from 2003 to 2013, 16 pharmacists and 41 pharmacy technicians lost their licenses for stealing drugs from pharmacy shelves or from the patients whose prescriptions they filled.

There are 1,866 pharmacists and 2,461 pharmacy technicians in Maine, so the percentage of pharmacy employees caught stealing drugs is small – although much of pharmacy drug theft likely goes undiscovered and unreported, the article notes.

The American Pharmacists Association has said that pharmacists’ easy access to powerful painkillers often encourages them to take the drugs.

While Maine is seeing some progress in terms of curbing prescription drug abuse, substance abuse specialists in the state say there has been a sharp uptick in heroin addiction as pill addicts make the switch to the illegal street drug.

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Nv. medical board eyes over-prescribing doctors

RXNearly two dozen doctors in Nevada are under investigation by the state’s medical board for allegedly over-prescribing the powerful painkiller OxyContin. The crackdown comes after Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) asked OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to reveal the names of physicians contained in a database that includes some 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing.

The Nevada medical board of examiners then met with Purdue and was provided with a list of doctors throughout the state who are suspected of criminal activity, according to this article.

Purdue claims it no longer promotes its product to the doctors at issue, the article says.

The company has taken the stance that the painkiller addiction epidemic was fueled largely by pharmacy robberies, doctor-shopping patients and teens raiding home medicine cabinets, but has admitted that a small number of physicians might account for a “substantial portion” of the nation’s black-market supply of prescription painkillers,

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Lawmakers seek reckless prescribing info from Purdue

DRUG BANNEDIn the wake of a Los Angeles Times report describing a decade-long effort by Purdue Pharma to identify potentially problematic prescribers of OxyContin, two state lawmakers are requesting that the company turn over the names of doctors it suspects recklessly prescribed the pills to drug dealers and addicts.

Sen. Richard “Tick” Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) and California state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) want Purdue to reveal the names of physicians contained in a database that includes some 1,800 doctors who showed signs of dangerous prescribing, according to the LA Times.

Purdue has taken the stance that the painkiller addiction epidemic was fueled largely by pharmacy robberies, doctor-shopping patients and teens raiding home medicine cabinets, but has admitted that a small number of physicians might account for a “substantial portion” of the nation’s black-market supply of prescription painkillers, the article says.

According to the article:

Beginning in 2002, Purdue trained its sales representatives to report “red flags” in doctors’ offices, such as young patients, long lines, people nodding off in waiting rooms and frequent cash transactions. Purdue attorneys review their reports, and if a doctor’s practice is deemed too risky, the company bars sales representatives from marketing to the physicians. The suspect doctors are removed from the company’s numbered sales territories and assigned to the database, known as “Region Zero.”

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Prosecutors turn eye on dealers for pill OD deaths

gavelAs more painkiller addicts are turning to heroin due to the crackdown on prescription drugs, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are turning to rarely used drug laws to prosecute drug dealers for their role in causing overdose deaths, according to this article in the Associated Press.

Prosecutors in New Jersey, for example, are using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute, a first-degree crime that holds dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death and has a 20-year maximum sentence, the article says. They are also changing the way they investigate overdoses, which were once looked upon as accidents, immediately sending detectives to the scene of an overdose, and instructing paramedics to treat overdoses like crimes. In addition, coroners are being asked to order autopsies and preserve forensic evidence because proving that a death was caused solely by heroin can be difficult when other substances are present in a person’s system, the article says.

The number of people nationwide who have used heroin in the past year rose by 66% between 2007 and 2011, while the number of people who died of overdoses and had heroin present in their system jumped 55% from 2000 to 2010, the article notes, citing federal data.

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N.J. opiate epidemic driven by network of corruption: report

gunAn investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey has revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.

The report by the state’s Commission of Investigation found that the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic has taken an unprecedented hold in the suburbs that is far more serious than the heroin crisis of the 1960s and ’70s. According to the commission, a network of corrupt doctors — some feeding Russian organized crime by bilking Medicaid and Medicare — has created a proliferation of painkillers and heroin, with open-air drug markets in cities and at malls in affluent communities. For example, in the span of 19 months in 2010 and 2011, one local pharmacy had 3,100 prescriptions for pills, nearly all with various quantities of oxycodone, the report found.

In 2011, there were 1,008 drug deaths in New Jersey — a 20% increase over 2010, and nearly half were people 25 or younger, according to this article. Of those, 337 involved oxycodone, and 368 involved heroin mixed with other illicit drugs, the article says.

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