Articles Posted in Addiction

cigsmenthols-300x227The Biden Administration will ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars with new regulations to be issued within the next year — actions that Big Tobacco is expected to battle but which proponents say could have big health benefits for those who have been targeted to buy and use these products.

Smoking is a leading cause of death in this country, and especially among African Americans, with critics saying cigarette makers have exploited communities of color, the poor, and LGBTQ people with flavorings to popularize damaging goods. As the Washington Post reported of the announced plans of the federal Food and Drug Administration:

“[Its] menthol ban would reduce health disparities between white and black smokers. About 85% of African American smokers use menthol cigarettes, three times the rate of white smokers, and their rate of quitting smoking has not declined as quickly as it has for whites. As a result, black smokers suffer disproportionate rates of disease and death. Similarly … the effort to remove menthol and flavorings from small cigars [is] a way to prevent young people from starting the smoking habit and helping them quit. The small cigars are increasingly popular with young smokers; more high school smokers now use small cigars than cigarettes.”

bupe-300x188Health workers with legal prescribing privileges have gotten newly revised federal guidelines — once again — making it easier for them to help those addicted to powerful opioid painkillers by prescribing buprenorphine, another powerful medication.

This action could be beneficial in battling the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis that ebbed in recent times and then worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, overall killing hundreds of thousands of Americans.

As the Washington Post reported of regulators’ latest decisions:

copradar-300x225Motorists nationwide, having acquired a taste for speed during the coronavirus pandemic, need to get that pedal off the metal — or the consequences can be legally dear, shockingly costly, and deadly. And that includes car owners who let  computers navigate their vehicles.

Look out, drivers, because the alarms have grown so much for traffic safety experts that they and road authorities say they will beef up enforcement, including with more camera systems and tickets, lower speed limits in problem areas, and campaigns with the public to please slow down.

As the pandemic seems to be ebbing and warmer weather also is encouraging more of us to get out and about, the great road haste that gripped the country for months isn’t letting up and is a cause for unnecessary carnage, officials told the Wall Street Journal:

dopelady-300x200Although most states, including most recently Virginia, have eased restrictions on the recreational or medical use of marijuana, expectant moms should take note of serious studies that show pot, especially in heavy consumption, isn’t great for the health of unborn babies.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego examined a decade of medical records of 5 million or so women in the Golden State, carefully comparing those who used marijuana heavily versus those who did not. Their results, published in a scientific journal, offered a warning, as NBC News reported:

“Babies born to women who were heavy cannabis users during pregnancy are more likely to have health problems, including premature birth and death within a year of birth, compared to babies born to women who did not use cannabis during pregnancy.”

cig-150x150President Biden, who lost a son to the disease, has a personal commitment to fighting cancer. He has made improving Americans’ health a top priority of his administration, calling for trillions of dollars in government spending in this area. He also has said he wants his officials to be at the fore in slashing at racial inequities in health care.

These are big reasons why the NAACP, along with a leading black doctors’ group and other activists have called on Biden and Xavier Becerra, the head of the federal Health and Human Services agency, to take the steps, finally, to ban menthol flavorings in cigarettes. The Washington Post reported on the latest developments in this long-running campaign:

“Menthol is the only flavor allowed in cigarettes; others were prohibited by a 2009 law. The FDA has said it will respond by April 29 to a lawsuit stemming from a citizen petition filed seven years ago that sought a prohibition on menthol in cigarettes. Within the agency, there is strong support for banning both menthol cigarettes and small cigars, which are popular with young people, according to several administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. The White House is weighing whether to take the first steps to ban menthol. President Biden is almost certain to be involved in the decision …”

cdcoddeathsap21-300x122Even as the nation sees cause for optimism in its battle against the coronavirus, our struggles against substance abuse are falling far short of what’s needed. The opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has worsened significantly during the pandemic and experts are warning that too many of us need to cut back from excess boozing.

The New York Times reported that recent federal figures on the opioid crisis have back worse that officials feared:

“More than 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses over the 12-month period that ended in September, according to preliminary federal data, eclipsing the toll from any year since the opioid epidemic began in the 1990s. The surge represents an increasingly urgent public health crisis, one that has drawn less attention and fewer resources while the nation has battled the coronavirus pandemic. Deaths from overdoses started rising again in the months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic — after dropping slightly in 2018 for the first time in decades … The biggest jump in overdose deaths took place in April and May, when fear and stress were rampant, job losses were multiplying, and the strictest lockdown measures were in effect. Many treatment programs closed during that time, at least temporarily, and ‘drop-in centers’ that provide support, clean syringes and naloxone, the lifesaving medication that reverses overdoses, cut back services that in many cases have yet to be fully restored.

oxylabel-300x180Members of the plutocratic Sackler clan have upped the ante yet again in a bankruptcy court bid to settle thousands of lawsuits targeting Purdue Pharmaceutical, the company long in the family’s grip and  blamed for untold misery in the now-resurgent opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

The latest, and perhaps final plan submitted to the courts for approval would oust the family from Purdue, converting it into a public trust company.

The Sacklers say they will add a billion dollars more from the family’s formidable fortunes to sums that would be extracted from the company itself.

drugoverdosedeathscdc-300x131Although the Biden Administration may be winning Americans’ approval for its battle against the coronavirus pandemic, drug abuse experts have expressed rising worry that federal efforts are lagging in the fight against a rising health menace: the resurgent opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

While overdoses for the first time might claim 100,000 U.S. lives in a single year, the national campaign to quell the opioid crisis, a top priority not that long ago, has become almost an “afterthought” for policy makers in Washington, D.C., the medical news site Stat reported:

“According to interviews with leading doctors, lobbyists, members of Congress, and multiple Biden Administration aides, proposed reforms include billions of new dollars for treatment and recovery services, a deregulation of addiction treatment medications, making many of 2020’s emergency telehealth allowances permanent, and scaling up harm-reduction offerings like needle exchanges, fentanyl test strips, and naloxone [an overdose antidote] distribution. But over a month into Biden’s presidency, it’s not clear when, or even if, a major push on addiction treatment will happen. Even if one does, it’s an open question whether it will lead to modest changes or the more radical approach some advocates say the crisis deserves.”

cardinalhealthlogo-300x110While too many Americans struggle with skyrocketing prescription drug costs, so much so that a $10 insurance co-payment may be lethally dissuasive, Big Pharma firms are seeking billions of dollars in taxpayer-funded benefits on giant settlements they made for their role in the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis.

Johnson & Johnson and the “big three” distributors of prescription drugs — McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health — have disclosed that they will take tax deductions on sums they will fork over to states, local governments, Indian tribes, and others that sued them over damages that they say occurred after they flooded the country with powerful painkillers, the Washington Post reported.

The four companies have agreed to pay between $5 billion and $8 billion each to reimburse communities for the costs they suffered in dealing with millions of deaths, addictions, and debilitations caused by opioids, their synthetic versions, and illicit drugs they opened the door to.

mckinseylogo-300x169The opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has tarred yet another of the nation’s business titans: McKinsey, a globally renowned consulting firm, has discovered that providing corporate clients sketchy advice about addictive, debilitating, and even lethal prescription medications can have consequences.

The firm, which has apologized for its conduct, has agreed to pay $573.9 million in a settlement with 47 states over consulting work it did for multiple Big Pharma companies, notably with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the drug OxyContin.

Critics of Purdue, citing media investigations and in civil lawsuits filed by states and local governments, have argued that Purdue pioneered aggressive and deceptive advertising, marketing, and sales practices that fueled the abuse of powerful prescription painkillers and opened the door to overdoses of those drugs, synthetic versions of them, as well as illicit narcotics.

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