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Tag Archives: opioid
Easy access to powerful prescription opiates has led to a rise in overdose deaths among war veterans, a new report has found. According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Department of Veterans Affairs has issued more than one opiate prescription per patient, on average, for the past two years. Prescriptions for four opiates – hydrocodone, oxycodone, methadone and morphine – have surged by 270% in the past 12 years, CIR found in an analysis of data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
According to CIR:
The agency charged with helping veterans recover from war instead masks their pain with potent drugs, feeding addictions and contributing to a fatal overdose rate among VA patients that is nearly double the national average.
CIR notes that this spike in opiate prescriptions has occurred despite new VA regulations laid out in 2009 requiring clinicians to follow an “integrated approach” to helping veterans in pain, including a stronger focus on treating the root causes of pain rather than using powerful narcotics to reduce symptoms.
Many areas of the nation with military bases and large VA hospitals have seen prescription drug abuse skyrocket among American soldiers in recent years.
Under pressure from activists and other critics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced new safety labeling changes for extended-release and long-acting opioid analgesics such as OxyContin.
According to the agency, the changes are aimed at combatting “the crisis of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, and death from these potent drugs that have harmed too many patients and devastated too many families and communities.”
The updated labels must state that such medications are indicated for the management of pain severe enough to require daily, around-the-clock, long-term opioid treatment.
In addition, because of the risk of addiction and abuse “even at recommended doses,” as well as the greater risks of overdose and death, the drugs must be labeled as “reserved for use in patients for whom alternative treatment options (e.g., non-opioid analgesics or immediate-release opioids) are ineffective, not tolerated, or would be otherwise inadequate to provide sufficient management of pain,” the agency said.
The FDA’s move was met with skepticism by some activists who were concerned the changes do not go far enough. Pete Jackson, the president of Advocates for the Reform of Prescription Opioids, said the development could be viewed as either a step in the right direction or as “another smokescreen put out by the FDA to make it look like they are doing something.”
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.
The number of first-time heroin users in the U.S. is on the rise, as painkiller addicts turn to the street drug because it’s cheaper and more potent. This trend is particularly affecting suburban areas: in one Ohio county, 93 residents died during the first half of 2013 away after shooting, snorting or smoking heroin; another four fatally overdosed inside county limits, but resided elsewhere. In Tennessee, statewide data show that the number of heroin-incidents has more than doubled since 2010. And in West Virginia, data reported earlier this year showed a 44% increase in fatal heroin overdoses, a trend also noticed in increasing heroin seizures, ambulance runs and hospital admissions tied to the drug.
A study recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that people who used pain pills non-medically were 19 times more likely to start using heroin.
Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.
The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
Nearly 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,
A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. In addition, people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use within the past 12 months than others in that age group, the report found.
The report came as part of SAMHSA’s larger efforts to identify some of the factors behind the rise in the rates of heroin use, dependence and initiation that have occurred in the past few years across the nation.
According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period, SAMHSA said.
As of 2009, around 2.3 million Americans suffered from addiction to opioids such as heroin or the prescription drug oxycodone, and new research shows that many of these people aren’t getting the treatment they need, according to this article. The massive uptick in opiate addiction has resulted in a major gap between current treatment options and evidence-based practices, the article says, citing an article published in the journal Health Affairs.
Excessive regulation presents the biggest barrier for treatment in the U.S., the article says. In addition, although maintenance treatment with methadone is the dominant form of treatment for opioid dependence throughout most of the developed world, detox is still a popular option, particularly in the U.S. – even though it is ineffective in getting and keeping people off of opioids, the article says.
Overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers have been on the rise among all segments of the population, but a new analysis of federal data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that such deaths have quintupled among women since 1999.
Although more men are still dying of prescription drug overdoses, women are catching up: in the last 14 years, the percentage increase in deaths has been greater for women, spiking by 400% as opposed to 265% for men, the CDC says.
According to the agency, 6,631 women died of opioid overdoses in 2010 — more than twice the number who die from cervical cancer — compared with 10,020 men; in addition, while younger women in their 20s and 30s tend to have the highest rates of opioid abuse, the overdose death rate was highest among women ages 45 to 54.
In 2010, there were more than 200,000 emergency room department visits for misuse of opioids among women, one every three minutes, the CDC says.
The 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.