Articles Posted in Addiction

cnnopioids-300x130Doctors already taking heat for selling out  their prescription pads for financial gain may want to brace themselves for new anger from patients, regulators, and lawmakers over two sets of data detailing unsavory links between MDs’ payments from Big Pharma and their opioid drug prescribing.

CNN, Harvard University, and — a site that says it seeks to serve low- to middle-income patients with reliable health care information — have examined national prescribing data, finding links between Big Pharma pay and doctors’ ordering of prescription painkillers central to a nationwide epidemic of abuse.

CNN, with Harvard, reported its findings:

cdc-opoid-overdose-300x136America’s drug overdose crisis keeps  worsening, with federal officials reporting that emergency room treatment of opioid overdoses spiked by 30 percent across the nation in 2017.

Abuse of opioids, including the synthetic painkiller fentanyl and heroin, also is triggering significant outbreaks of diseases, including hepatitis C, which is costly to treat, and deadly major bacterial infections.

And the prescription painkiller crisis — which studies increasingly show was been launched, in part, based on wrong information about drugs’ purported benefits — may be masking the worrisome rise, yet again, of cocaine abuse.

fuelingepidemic-235x300A U.S. Senate Committee has ripped Big Pharma for making millions of dollars in pernicious payments to patient advocacy groups, so they could legitimize and assist in promoting powerful prescription painkillers, a practice that investigators say helped fuel the opioid drug abuse epidemic.

The committee report says:

Patient advocacy organizations and professional societies play a significant role in shaping health policy debates, setting national guidelines for patient treatment, raising disease awareness, and educating the public. Even small organizations— with ‘their large numbers and credibility with policy makers and the public’—have ‘extensive influence in specific disease areas.’ Larger organizations with extensive funding and outreach capabilities ‘likely have a substantial effect on policies relevant to their industry sponsors.’

Even as the nation struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, it’s clear that more public health effort needs to be directed at helping expectant mothers understand how much substances they ingest can harm their kids.

The New York Times reported that a new study published in the JAMA medical journal has conservatively estimated that “fetal alcohol spectrum disorders affect 1.1 to 5 percent of children in the country, up to five times previous estimates.”

oxy-300x179Purdue Pharma, which built a multi-billion-dollar family empire, in part, by overcoming doctors’ resistance to prescribing powerful painkillers like its own powerhouse  OxyContin, has decided to curb its quarter-century of aggressive and controversial drug marketing — efforts that critics and lawsuits say helped fuel the nation’s opioid drug abuse epidemic.

The company has said that it will cut its sales staff by half and the 200 or so salespeople who stay no longer will haunt doctor’s offices to push OxyContin. Instead, the company said it will direct prescribers to materials on that drug, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the office of the U.S. surgeon general.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” the company, based in Stamford, Conn., said in a statement quoted by Reuters.

immodium-300x169The opioid epidemic has become so pernicious that it can be exhausting to even try to see its expansive harms. But it’s crucial to keep confronting the many ways this lethal scourge affects Americans and their lives, if only to hope that politicians, policy-makers, doctors, hospitals, and many others get off their duffs and do something about it.

This crisis — which includes more than 64,000 overdose deaths in 2017 alone — has reached in a surprising new way into many households’ medicine cabinets. It’s not due to potential abuses of potent pain-killers that many may have stashed there. Nope, now federal officials are fretting about the current dosages of the key ingredient in common, over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medications like Imodium.

It turns out that the substance known generically as loperamide, useful in stopping the runs, happens to be part of the opioid family, an addictive drug class that includes morphine and oxycodone. Drug users have turned now to abusing anti-diarrhea meds, which are sold in high-count packages and at dosages that authorities want reduced.

belts-300x163Preventive measures, even small ones, can be life changing and lifesaving. They can safeguard drivers and passengers in car wrecks, protect young folks during a bad flu season, and ensure that fewer Americans still take up one of the proven, major health harms — smoking.

Let’s start with a simple, often overlooked vehicular precaution: Buckle up that seat belt, please. As New York Times columnist David Leonhardt noted in a recent Opinion section roundup, the number of Americans killed on the roads who fail to wear vehicle restraints, notably seat belts, has hovered “between 48 percent and 51 percent in each of the past five years.”

Yes, that’s a correct figure: Roughly half of those killed didn’t use one of the most publicized, almost reflexive safety steps around.

dui-300x150Politicians and policy-makers can’t ignore the rising number of vehicular deaths, and they must crack down fast and hard on the increasing road toll associated with alcohol abuse.

At the request of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a blue-ribbon expert group has examined not only the overall increase in road deaths — to 37,461 in 2016, a 5.6 percent rise over the year previous. The panel from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine also focused on the 10,000 deaths per year attributed to alcohol impairment. The experts called these road fatalities, which are increasing in number, “entirely preventable,” and recommended tough ways to reduce booze-related deaths.

They have recommended that a new national sobriety standard should be put in place, the Associated Press reported, reducing motorists’ allowable blood-alcohol concentration “from 0.08 to 0.05. All states have 0.08 thresholds. A Utah law passed last year that lowers the state’s threshold to 0.05 doesn’t go into effect until Dec. 30.”

smoker-300x181If money really talks, could financial data persuade smokers, finally, to see the light and give up the habit, knowing that it racks up seven-figure lifetime costs per user in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia?

WalletHub, a West Coast personal finance site, has posted its crunching of data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Insurance Information Institute, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,, Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), Kaiser Family Foundation and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

Information from these sources was used to calculate the “per-person cost of smoking in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia [including] potential monetary losses — including both the lifetime and annual cost of a cigarette pack per day, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.”

oprah1-go-225x300Oprah Winfrey’s recent rousing broadcast speech — both in accepting an entertainment industry group’s lifetime achievement award and denouncing sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood — also opened the door to a reconsideration of how this talented, smart, accomplished, powerful, and wealthy celebrity icon long has helped to foster a barrage of health and medical humbug, spreading it far and wide in popular culture.

As Stat, a health and information site, recapped about Winfrey:

She connected a cancer patient to ‘junk science,’ a Washington Post analysis says. She promoted charlatans on her show, according to Slate. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee put out a statement … attacking Winfrey for ‘giving a platform to anti-vaccination campaigners and other dangerous health quackery.’

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