Tag Archives: Los Angeles Times

Heroin use has doubled, but OD antidote still scarce

naloxone-hcl-narcanAlthough federal data suggests that heroin use has roughly doubled across the country in recent years, the overdose antidote naloxone remains widely unavailable to many users and emergency responders — despite a success rate that normally exceeds 80% or 90%, according to this report by the Los Angeles Times.

Legislatures in Democrat and Republican states alike are considering proposals that would expand access to naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, and 17 states plus the District of Columbia have already adopted laws expanding access to the drug, the LA Times says. Fourteen states and the District of Columbia also have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer immunity to those who call 911 during an overdose, according to the paper.

Naloxone has few if any side effects, and is virtually 100% effective when used on an overdose victim whose heart is still beating, the paper notes. It has successfully reversed more than 10,000 lives in the last fifteen years, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The widespread painkiller addiction epidemic has fueled the rise of heroin use nationwide, particularly among suburban youth. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of users went from 373,000 to 620,000, according to federal data, and heroin-dependent young adults more than doubled to 109,000 between 2009 and 2011.

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Hoffman’s death illustrates rising heroin epidemic

ijectionOscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday of an apparent heroin overdose amid a growing problem of addiction and deaths due to the powerful street drug, the Los Angeles Times reports. Many prescription painkiller addicts are turning to heroin to get a similar high after they lose access to popular pills such as OxyContin, the LA Times notes. In 2011, at least 178,000 Americans used heroin for the first time, almost doubling from five years earlier, the Times says, citing the latest available estimate from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Hoffman, who was 46, had reportedly been clean for 23 years before falling off the wagon in 2012, according to this article. His death has sparked sympathy from some circles, but as the comments to this article show, there are also many people who remain unsympathetic to drug overdose deaths.

Hoffman’s death follows the opioid-related deaths of other celebrities in recent years, including Heath Ledger and Cory Monteith. It’s not just movie stars who are getting caught up in this trend: poisoning deaths, most of which are due to drugs, have overtaken car accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., and responsible for nearly 40,000 fatalities annually. But as Maia Szalavitz notes on Time.com, those numbers don’t have to be so high:

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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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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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Calif. lawmakers take action on painkiller abuse: LAT

bluepillsA California Senate committee 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 committee also signed off on a bill that would upgrade the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, known as CURES. In addition, the committee 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.

Before moving to the Senate floor, all four bills must clear additional committees, the Times said.

The 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 probing doc tied to 16 OD deaths: LAT

RXThe Los Angeles Times continues its investigative series on prescription drug addiction, this time turning the spotlight on a prominent Orange County physician who has allegedly been tied to 16 fatal overdoses. The paper, which had earlier reported on Dr. Van Vu – a pain management specialist in Huntington Beach – as part of its series, says the state medical board has now opened an investigation of its own concerning the physician.

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 failed to police reckless doctors: LAT

The Los Angeles Times continues its investigative series on prescription drug addiction with this report on two doctors who inappropriately prescribed painkillers, leading multiple patients to overdose and die – raising questions about the adequacy of the state’s medical board.

According to the newspaper, 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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