Tag Archives: politics

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.

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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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Mass. Gov. bans Zohydro amid opioid epidemic

pills and pill bottlesMassachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has declared a public health emergency in response to the state’s growing opioid addiction epidemic, issuing an order banning the controversial new form of hydrocodone, Zohydro, and taking a number of other steps to curb overdoses and help the addicted. In a press release, the governor said the use of oxycodone and other narcotic painkillers, often as a route to heroin addiction, has been on the rise for the last few years in Massachusetts; at least 140 people have died from suspected heroin overdoses in communities across the state in the last several months, levels previously unseen. From 2000 to 2012, the number of unintentional opiate overdoses increased by 90 percent, he added. The prescribing and dispensing of Zohydro, which was recently approved for sale by the FDA despite widespread protests, will be prohibited “until it is determined that adequate measures are in place to safeguard against the potential for diversion, overdose and misuse,” he said. The governor added:

The introduction of this new painkiller into the market poses a significant risk to individuals already addicted to opiates and to the public at large.

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ENOUGH! Rally to be held March 24 in Calif.

logo_enoughIf you live on the West Coast, take note that the second annual ENOUGH! Rally is set to be held on March 24, 2014 on the south steps of the California State Capitol building in Sacramento from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. According to the rally’s website, the goal of the event is to educate the public and to advocate for legislation and other action that can make a difference in curbing the prescription drug epidemic.

More details, according to the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, which is organizing the event:

Pick up free educational materials at information tables and learn about the prevention and substance abuse treatment efforts organizations and treatment centers from around the state are engaged in. Stop by our legislation table to learn about prescription drug-related legislation being introduced during this legislative session and how to voice your support for it.

Multiple organizations will be on hand to provide free prescription drug related educational materials and information about the work they’re doing to make a difference in the area of prevention. Guest speakers include state legislators and advocacy groups who are sponsoring key legislation, representatives from several prevention and substance abuse treatment facilities and parents and others who have been personally impacted by this epidemic. A special dedication ceremony will be held for those lost to or otherwise impacted by prescription drug abuse/misuse.

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Wisc. legislators tackle heroin abuse

gavelIn Wisconsin, where heroin killed nearly 200 people in 2012, legislators are considering legislation that would provide immunity to anyone who helps a person who has overdosed on drugs, and would also provide immunity for possessing and administering the overdose antidote Narcan, according to this article.

They are also considering a separate bill that would target the abuse of opiate painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin by allowing more medicine collection sites to accept them for disposal. A third measure would create regional treatment centers, the article says.

Heroin overdose deaths surpassed cocaine deaths in Milwaukee County for the first time in 2012, and heroin was present in 32% of fatal overdoses from mixed drug cocktails, according to this article. Narcan is increasingly being used to address the problem: statewide, emergency medical services have seen an increase in naloxone in the last three years, from 2,915 uses in 2010 to 3,247 in 2011 and 3,730 in 2012, the article says.

Overdose hospitalizations accounted for approximately two of every 10,000 hospital visits in 2012, and opiate-related deaths have grown from 2.19 per 100,000 deaths in 2000 to 8.08 in 2011, a report by the State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse found.

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Vt. heroin ODs doubled in past year

needle ODWhat started as an OxyContin and prescription drug addiction problem in Vermont has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis, with heroin overdose deaths doubling last year from the year before, according to Gov. Peter Shumlin. There has been more than a 250% increase in people receiving heroin treatment in Vermont since 2000, with the greatest percentage increase, nearly 40%, in just the past year, the governor said in his state of the state address. Since 2000, treatment for all opiates increased by more than 770% increase; in 2013, there were twice as many federal indictments against heroin dealers than in the prior two years, and over five times as many as had been obtained in 2010, Shumlin added.

In addition, more than $2 million of heroin and other opiates are being trafficked into Vermont every week, the governor said. Due to the state’s proximity to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and other cities where heroin is cheap, dealers can make a lot of money from addicts in Vermont: a $6 bag of heroin in New York City can go for up to $30, Shumlin said.

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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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FDA OKs controversial form of Vicodin

pills and pill bottlesThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Zogenix Inc.’s Zohydro painkiller, a new version of pure, extended-release hydrocodone that is said to be 10 times more powerful than Vicodin. The move comes amid criticism from those who say the FDA should not be approving any additional opioids given the current prescription drug addiction epidemic. An advisory panel last year voted against approving Zohydro, citing concerns about the danger of addiction posed by the opioid drug class.

Unlike other hydrocodone-containing drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, Zohydro is not buffered with acetaminophen or some other over-the-counter medication. The drug also lacks an abuse-deterrent feature such as the ones used in new formulations of drugs like OxyContin.

Hydrocodone is currently the second most-abused medicine in the U.S. behind oxycodone.

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VA over-prescribing narcotics to vets: report

soldier drugsEasy 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.

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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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