Tag Archives: Deaths

CVS to stock R.I. Walgreens stores with Narcan

narcan-with-needle3The opiate overdose antidote Narcan will soon be available in all CVS pharmacies in Rhode Island without a prescription. The move comes as the state is seeing a surge in recent deaths due to opiate drug overdoses, which can be reversed by Narcan, also known as naloxone. Narcan can be administered as a nasal spray or an injection, and CVS says it will offer both, following in the footsteps of a similar move by Walgreens last year.

Rhode Island ranks among the highest in the country in illicit drug use, including the non-medical use of prescription painkillers and per capita overdose deaths.
In the first four months of 2014, 90 Rhode Islanders died from accidental drug overdoses, a 23% increase from the 73 drug overdoses reported during the same period last year.

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

DEA clamps down on hydrocodone

HydrocodoneHydrocodone, the nation’s most widely prescribed painkiller, will now be in the same category as other frequently abused medications such as OxyContin and fentanyl. The agency said Friday it had published a rule to reschedule hydrocodone combination products — which include Vicodin and Norco — from Schedule III to the more restrictive Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act.

Americans consume 99% of the hydrocodone produced worldwide; because of the perception that such products are less risky than other narcotic painkillers, they are widely prescribed by general practitioners and dentists, according to this article.

Combination hydrocodone products are currently classified as Schedule III drugs, meaning that prescriptions can be written with five refills and pharmacies are not required to lock them in a safe.

Since 2007, more U.S. prescriptions were written for the combination of hydrocodone and acetaminophen than any other drug. In 2012, that was over 135 million prescriptions, or one prescription for every 2.3 men, women, and children in the U.S. that year, according to this article.

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

Generation Rx

grxAs you may know, for the past five years I’ve been working on a book about prescription drug and heroin addiction. It’s called Generation Rx: A Story of Dope, Death, and America’s Opiate Crisis, and it was just published by Counterpoint Press.

The book tells the story of losing my brother Pat, who became addicted to painkillers in high school and died of a heroin overdose at age 20 in February 2009. It also tells the stories of others who have been affected by this epidemic, including parents, former and current addicts, law enforcement officials, harm reduction workers, activists, and doctors. My hope is that telling these stories will help break down the shame and stigma that continue to surround addiction, as well as bring more education and awareness about the painkiller and heroin addiction epidemic that kills 16,000 people a year.

Visit my author website for more information about the book, including upcoming appearances and media interviews.

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

U.S. AG calls for cops to carry Narcan

naloxone-hcl-narcanU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is urging federal law enforcement agencies to identify, train and equip personnel who may interact with a victim of a heroin overdose with the drug naloxone. The potentially life-saving drug — which effectively restores breathing to a victim in the midst of a heroin or opioid overdose — is already carried by officers in some state and local law enforcement groups while on patrol.

The U.S. Department of Justice wants federal law enforcement agencies, as well as their state and local partners, to review their policies and procedures to determine whether personnel should be equipped and trained to recognize and respond to opioid overdose by various methods, including the use of naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to naloxone, resulting in over 10,000 overdose reversals since 2001.

According to Holder:

The shocking increase in overdose deaths illustrates that addiction to heroin and other opioids, including some prescription painkillers, represents nothing less than a public health crisis. I am confident that expanding the availability of naloxone has the potential to save the lives, families and futures of countless people across the nation.

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

Pa. sees huge uptick in heroin-related deaths

fentanylIn Pennsylvania — which ranks among the top 10 states in per capita heroin and opioid deaths— more than 3,000 residents have died from heroin and multi-drug overdoses since 2009, according to this article.

Heroin has recently been dramatically rising in popularity in Pennsylvania: four years ago, 20% of those newly admitted for drug treatment cited heroin as their primary substance of abuse, but the rate has since increased to 23.5%, and the state has about 40,000 heroin users.

Nationwide, the number of people using heroin nearly doubled from 2007 to 2012 to some 669,000 people. Painkiller addicts across the U.S. are turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce, according to a letter published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine. Three researchers examined the effect of the abuse-deterrent formulation on the abuse of OxyContin and other opioids, surveying 2,566 people seeking treatment for abuse of or dependence on opioid drugs. Although 24% found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant properties of the abuse-deterrent formulation, 66% indicated a switch to another opioid, with heroin the most common response.

Posted in Informational, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Non-tamper-proof Oxy hitting U.S. from Canada

DRUG BANNEDAn older form of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin that has been banned in the United States is still showing up in some areas of the country, possibly making the journey from Canada, where it is still legal, according to this article. In 2013, the FDA banned generic versions of OxyContin, which could easily be crushed, in favor of a tamper-resistant version produced exclusively by Oxy maker Purdue Pharma under a new patent. The Canadian government has so far continued to approve generic, crushable forms of oxycodone that are highly prone to abuse — though it has recently indicated it may soon force all opioid manufacturers to render their products tamper-resistant.

The news came as a study into skyrocketing opioid deaths in Canada found that painkillers are responsible for one in eight deaths among young adults in Ontario, according to this article. Opioid overdoses killed nearly 6,000 people in Ontario between 1991 and 2010, half of them under the age of 42, the study found.

Canada is the world’s second largest per capita consumer of prescription opioids after the United States.

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

Heroin use up 80% since 2007

heroinHeroin use skyrocketed by more than 80% nationwide from 2007 to 2012, with the number of heroin users rising from about 373,000 to 669,000 in 2012, according to this article, which cites data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration presented at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas.

Physicians in the U.S. prescribe enough painkillers to medicate everyone in the country 24 hours a day for a month, and most heroin users start with prescription drugs, the article says.

Meanwhile, new data from the CDC the number of drug poisoning deaths related to heroin jumped by 45% from 2010 to 2011. But the number of people who are dying from overdosing on prescription drugs hasn’t dropped — about half of the 41,340 people who died of drug poisoning in 2011 took prescription opiates, according to this article.

Posted in Informational, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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

Ga. sees uptick in heroin abuse

heroinspoonGeorgia is the latest state to see an spike in heroin abuse following the rise of prescription painkiller addiction, with heroin submissions to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s crime lab increasing by more than 300% since 2011. The current fiscal year has seen a 20% increase in heroin submissions, while all other drugs during that period have decreased by 22%, according to this article. Many users claim they started off taking prescription painkillers like OxyContin; when the drug started to have less effect, they began melting and shooting up the painkillers before eventually moving on to heroin, the article says.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in 2012 prescription drugs played a role in 592 deaths in the 152 of 159 counties in Georgia for which it performs autopsies. Meanwhile, several major metro Atlanta counties recently reported a spike in heroin-related deaths: in DeKalb County, heroin deaths doubled, increasing from 5 to 10 between 2012 and 2013; in Gwinnett County, deaths rose from 2 in 2012 to 7 in 2013; and Cobb County saw heroin-related deaths surge from 9 in 2011 to 16 in 2012, according to this article.

Posted in Informational, Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Zohydro backlash intensifies despite FDA’s defense

No-pills-4-1-14Opposition to Zohydro, the powerful new opiate some critics are calling “heroin in a pill,” continues to build, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is strongly defending the agency’s approval of the drug, saying its benefits to pain patients outweigh the potential negative consequences.

Since its approval by the FDA last October, Zohydro has come under fire from members of Congress, state attorneys general, doctors and addiction specialists who have worked to block the pill from being sold in the U.S., according to this article. Critics want the agency to rescind its approval of Zohydro, citing the alleged danger of the drug as well as the growing abuse of prescription drugs nationwide, but the FDA says that instead of blocking the sale of Zohydro based on a fear of abuse and addiction, providers should screen patients before they prescribe the drug and while they are on it, the article says.

The green light for Zohydro, a new version of pure, extended-release hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin, came after an FDA advisory panel last year voted against approving the drug, citing concerns about the danger of addiction posed by the opioid drug class.

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