Tag Archives: doctor shopping

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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N.J. docs must boost painkiller vigilance: Christie

RXNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is urging physicians to be more careful about their prescribing habits when it comes to potentially addictive painkillers, and is encouraging their participation in the state’s voluntary drug monitoring program. The comments came at a doctors’ conference where the governor described how deeply affected he has been by the recent death of a close friend due to pain medication, according to this article.

Only about 20 to 25 percent of doctors in the state voluntarily use the program, the article says. Meanwhile, treatment centers in the state reported 7,238 admissions for painkiller addictions in 2010, 12 times more than in 2000, the article adds, citing data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Christie had previously come under fire for rejecting an early version of the state’s Good Samaritan bill, which he claimed was too narrowly focused on encouraging more reporting of drug overdoses, rather than other aspects such as drug abuse deterrence, violence prevention and public safety. In May 2013, he signed an updated version of the bill into law, but partially vetoed a separate bill that would make the overdose antidote naloxone available to spouses, parents and guardians of people addicted to opioids. This March, the Christie administration issued a waiver allowing emergency medical technicians to administer naloxone after completing a training course.

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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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Doctors’ group backs stricter painkiller controls

Doctor with RX padA major doctors’ organization is urging its members to practice greater caution and restraint when prescribing prescription painkillers in light of the abuse epidemic. The American College of Physicians said in a policy letter published in the Annals of Internal Medicine that prescription drug abuse is a “serious public health problem” and that physicians and other health professionals with prescribing privileges play an important role in helping to ensure safe and effective use of drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin.

According to the group, evidence-based, nonbinding guidelines should be established regarding recommended maximum dosage and duration of therapy that a patient taking controlled substance medications may receive.

In addition, the ACP called for the establishment of a national prescription drug monitoring program to help doctors detect and prevent prescription drug abuse by identifying individuals who seek to obtain prescriptions for addictive medications from multiple physicians for themselves or to sell. Former President George W. Bush launched an initiative in 2005 authorizing federal grants for states to establish or enhance PDMPs, the group said, but funding was initially delayed and has been inconsistent.

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Missouri lags behind nation on pill monitoring database

computerpillsForty-nine states have taken measures to implement prescription drug monitoring databases in light of the pill addiction epidemic, but Missouri lacks such a program — despite the fact that it has the seventh highest drug overdose death rate in the country, a majority of which are from prescription drugs, according to this article.

Approximately 3,200 people in Missouri seek treatment for a prescription drug abuse problem each year, and the most commonly used drugs were controlled substances such as Xanax, OxyContin, and Vicodin, the article says, pointing to data from the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Yet efforts to establish a prescription drug monitoring program were stymied when a Missouri senator filibustered the legislation that would have brought the database to the state, citing concerns over patient privacy, the article says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently found that drug overdose deaths increased for the eleventh consecutive year in 2010. According to the agency, 38,329 people died from a drug overdose in the U.S. that year, up from 37,004 deaths in 2009.

Overdose deaths involving opioid analgesics have shown a similar increase, the CDC found: starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999, the number of deaths increased to 15,597 in 2009 and 16,651 in 2010.

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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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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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Painkiller abuse taking lives of N.C. soldiers

soldier drugsPrescription drug abuse has skyrocketed among American soldiers in recent years, and this article out of North Carolina discusses some of the many casualties associated with the huge spike in opiate painkillers in the Fayetteville area since the country went to war more than a decade ago.

A Fayetteville Observer analysis of state and county records found that opiate painkillers contributed to 95 deaths in Cumberland County between 2008 and 2011, more than the previous eight years combined, according to the article. In the counties surrounding Fort Bragg — Hoke, Harnett, Lee, Moore and Cumberland — prescription opiates have been a contributing factor in at least 395 deaths since 2000, the article says.

Moreover, more oxycodone — the main ingredient in Percocet and other addictive painkillers — was sold at pharmacies in the Fayetteville area than anywhere else in North Carolina in 2011, according to the article, while the sale of hydrocodone ranked third-highest in the state.

And painkiller sales during the past decade — when the VA saw an influx of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans — spiked at higher than average rates around towns with military bases and large Veterans Affairs hospitals, the article says: in 2001, the Fayetteville VA prescribed hydrocodone to 1,130 patients; last year, that number soared to 47,586 patients — an increase of 4,100% in 11 years. Nationally, hydrocodone prescriptions rose by 56% from 2001 to 2011.

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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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