Tag Archives: Crime

Del. becomes 14th state to pass ‘Good Samaritan’ law

911 dial phone callThe governor of Delaware signed so-called “Good Samaritan” legislation on Tuesday offering protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose, making Delaware the 14th state to pass such a measure. The law gives immunity from prosecution to people reporting an overdose, even if he or she has been involved in drug-related activity.

The bill also grants immunity from prosecution for offenses related to underage drinking.

Lawmakers approved the bill only after exempting higher level drug felonies from its immunity protections, a change that worried some critics who claimed the exemptions weakened the bill and would discourage people from reporting overdoses.

In Delaware, overdose deaths nearly tripled from 50 in 1999 to 137 in 2009, with a majority in recent years involving at least one prescription drug, according to this article.

New Mexico was the first state to pass a Good Samaritan law in 2007, followed by California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, and the District of Columbia. According to TheFix.com, this year, nearly a dozen more states introduced bills: legislation in North Carolina and New Jersey succeeded, while other bills failed due to partisan bickering (Missouri, Mississippi and North Dakota), were killed in committee (New Hampshire and West Virginia), or ran out of time (Hawaii and Texas); Maine still has a live bill, but it isn’t likely to pass this year.

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FDA shutters rogue Internet pharmacies in massive crackdown

computerpillsFederal regulators have launched a massive crackdown on Internet pharmacies that are selling unapproved and potentially dangerous prescription medicines that could pose significant public health risks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has shut down 1,677 websites for selling counterfeit or substandard medication, or for selling drugs without appropriate safeguards. Regulators have also seized more than $41 million worth of illegal medicines and arrested 58 people, while a number of additional websites have received regulatory warnings, according to the FDA.

Several sites had interfaces and names that could easily be confused with legitimate pharmacy retailers, such as Walgreens-Store.com, which imitated the well-known drugstore chain’s website, which is actually Walgreens.com, the agency said.

The crackdown marks the largest Internet-based action of its kind, the agency said, adding that prescription medicines, including those purchased online, should only be used with a valid prescription and under the supervision of a licensed health care provider.

Although regulators have long had their eye on the online market for prescription pills, it is still disturbingly easy to find a rogue Internet pharmacy that will sell painkillers like codeine and hydrocodone without a prescription, according to this article. Research shows that 97% of Internet pharmacies are not operating legitimately and most of those do not require a prescription at all, the article says. Many of these pharmacies are based overseas, and will provide the medication even if customers are underage, the article says.

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Rogue online pharmacies still fueling pill sales

computerpillsAlthough federal regulators have long had their eye on the online market for prescription pills, it is still disturbingly easy to find a rogue Internet pharmacy that will sell painkillers like codeine and hydrocodone without a prescription, according to this article. Research shows that 97% of Internet pharmacies are not operating legitimately and most of those do not require a prescription at all, the article says. Many of these pharmacies are based overseas, and will provide the medication even if customers are underage, the article says.

It is illegal to buy or sell prescription drugs without a prescription.

According to the article:

With an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 rogue Internet pharmacies in operation, law enforcement agencies face an uphill battle shutting down online pharmacies dispensing drugs without a prescription, especially when their operations cross many international jurisdictions.

Buying prescription medicine from fraudulent online pharmacies can be dangerous, or even deadly, according to the FDA. Such pharmacies are likely to be selling counterfeit medicines, which may be less effective or have unexpected side effects; in addition, online pharmacies may intentionally misuse the personal and financial information provided by customers, and sell this information to other illegal websites and Internet scams, the agency says.

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Walgreens to pay $80M over black-market Oxy sales

bunchofpillsThe U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency announced Tuesday that Walgreens has agreed to shell out $80 million to settle allegations that it allowed oxycodone and other controlled drugs to be diverted for black market sales from its Jupiter, Fla., distribution center.

The settlement, which is the largest in the DEA’s history, comes after the agency accused Walgreens last year of failing to maintain proper controls to ensure it didn’t dispense drugs to addicts and drug dealers.

According to the DEA, the Jupiter 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.

Walgreens “committed an unprecedented number of record-keeping and dispensing violations” under the Controlled Substances Act, which is designed to prevent prescription painkillers from ending up on the streets, the DEA said.

In addition to the payout, Walgreens’ Jupiter center is banned from distributing and dispensing similar controlled substances until 2014. The deal also resolves similar investigations nationwide, including in Colorado, Michigan, and New York.

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As Fla. pill supply dwindles, heroin sweeps East Coast

heroinfoilFlorida’s crackdown on pill mills has dried up the supply of pills to much of the East Coast, with the unintended consequence of fueling heroin abuse. As this article notes, the rise in heroin use on Cape Cod “follows a predictable course seen nationwide: when the pills disappear, heroin sweeps in.”

Between Feb. 26 and March 30, the Cape saw at least eight drug-related deaths; in the same period, police responded to another four suspected heroin overdoses in which the person was revived, the article says.

A few years ago, most cases handled by the Cape Cod Drug Task Force involved pills, but now the police estimate that as much as 95% of their caseload is heroin-related, according to the article.

The trend highlights the fallout from Florida’s efforts to turn around its reputation as the nation’s epicenter of prescription drug abuse. On the bright side, the tougher regulations resulted in the number of pill mills in the 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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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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Iowa’s ‘lock-in’ program aims to curb doctor shoppers

computerpillsIowa has taken an interesting approach towards stopping the practice of seeking out multiple doctors for painkiller prescriptions with a program that “locks” Medicaid recipients into using one doctor, one pharmacy and one hospital. And according to this article, the program appears to be having some positive results: by locking in more patients, the state saved $14.8 million from July 2010 through September 2012 in the cost of drugs and doctors’ visits.

The number of “locked-in” Iowa Medicaid recipients has increased sevenfold from 200 in 2010 to 1,430 in January, the article says, a jump that came after Iowa Medicaid started screening patients not for just doctor-filled prescriptions, but for non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms.

The state’s prescription drug monitoring program was launched in March 2009, but only one-quarter of Iowa doctors and prescribers are registered to use the database, which includes more than 4.2 million prescriptions annually, the article says.

Prescription painkillers caused 62 deaths in Iowa in 2011, up from just four deaths in 2000, while prescription abuse treatment admissions more than quadrupled from 187 in 1999 to 878 in 2009, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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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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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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CVS pays $650K to fund painkiller abuse education

pharmacyCVS-Caremark will shell out $650,000 to help New Jersey authorities establish an education and enforcement campaign on prescription drug safety and abuse, a payment that settles charges that the drug store chain co-mingled prescription pills in several of its pharmacies in the state.

The payment will help fund a public education campaign that will remind consumers to check their medication, learn about it through available resources and, whenever they have questions about the medication, to ask their pharmacist or physician. It will also address the dangers of prescription drug abuse, according to this report.

This isn’t the first tangle CVS has had with officials over prescription drugs. Last year, the DEA revoked the controlled substances licenses for two CVS pharmacies in Sanford, Fla. after accusing them of dispensing excessive amounts of oxycodone.

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