Articles Posted in Addiction

logowalmart-300x117Walmart and Johnson and Johnson, two of America’s corporate titans, each acted in ways that helped to fuel the opioid crisis that federal experts estimate claims 128 Americans’ lives each day, news media investigations show.

Walmart ignored repeated complaints from its own pharmacists and permitted the over-subscribing of logojj-300x57hundreds of thousands of potent prescription painkillers by sketchy doctors across the country, with the company’s refusal to deal with rising problems leading federal prosecutors to ready hefty civil and criminal cases, according to ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site.

The retailing giant, however, pulled powerful political strings, with Trump Administration officials stepping in to stymie potential lawsuits and criminal charges against Walmart — despite a previously secret settlement the company earlier had signed, pledging to step up its oversight of prescription drugs it sold, ProPublica reported. Reporters Jesse Eisinger and James Bandler wrote:

AAMedals-300x156Although federal experts estimate that alcohol abuse leads to 88,000 Americans’ deaths annually and economic costs of almost $250 billion, one of the nation’s oldest and best-known programs to deal with this problematic behavior has long been surrounded by doubts.

Critics have questioned its effectiveness, criticized its “irrationality,” and focused on its stepped regimen, desperate and self-enrolling participants, and core tenets, including its spiritual appeals to higher and external powers.

But after a deep dig into the building and rigorous evidence about it — including scrutiny of 27 studies, (some of them randomized clinical trials) with more than 10,000 participants — researchers from Harvard, Stanford, and Europe have concluded in a published, research review for the respected Cochrane Collaboration that Alcoholics Anonymous, indeed, can be beneficial for many but not all excessive alcohol users.

cdcHepCopioidabuse-300x150The opioid-overdose crisis has not disappeared, not by a long shot, and there’s a new warning about its toll: A blue-ribbon expert panel has urged doctors to expand testing for hepatitis C to all adults, ages 18 to 79, and no longer limiting the screening to those born between 1945 and 1965. That’s because the risky conduct that goes with abusing opioids also bumps up the risk of this potentially deadly but treatable liver infection.

Hepatitis C is growing as a significant health concern, the New York Times reported:

“Despite substantial advances in treatment over the past five years, infections are on the rise. Roughly 44,700 new hepatitis C infections were reported in the United States in 2017, according to federal data. A major challenge for health officials is that a significant number of people have the virus but do not know they are infected … Hepatitis C leads to chronic liver disease in most people who contract it, and some eventually develop cirrhosis and liver cancer. It is spread primarily through the sharing of needles among people who use illicit drugs.”

Mallinckrodtlogo-300x137
The civil justice system has scored a win in curtailing what once was a major maker of much abused and lethal prescription painkillers: Mallinckrodt, a global drug making giant, has agreed to send its opioids-making generics division into bankruptcy as part of a $1.6 billion settlement to settle thousands of opioid damage claims by state and local governments.

As the New York Times reported of the hefty deal:

“The agreement was endorsed by 47 states and U.S. territories along with a committee of lawyers representing thousands of cities and counties … The money, to be paid into a cash trust over eight years, will be used to underwrite the costs of opioid addiction treatments and related efforts across the country … Under the terms of the agreement, the United States division of Mallinckrodt that produces generic opioids would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After a bankruptcy judge approves the restructuring plan, an initial payment of $300 million would be disbursed to plaintiffs to alleviate the opioid crisis, with the remaining $1.3 billion to be paid out over eight years. Other divisions of the company, which has its headquarters abroad and also produces branded drugs, are not filing for bankruptcy. Mallinckrodt is the first opioid company to reach even a tentative national settlement agreement with municipal governments and most of the states.”

adamsmug-150x150Cigarette smokers got yet more chiding from public health officials about why and how they should quit an addictive and destructive habit. To do so isn’t easy, and a “shocking” number of doctors aren’t helping enough, the Surgeon General of the United States conceded. But there are big reasons to give up the nasty vice, especially before elective surgery, the World Health Organization warned.

The health experts found much to agree on when it comes to the carnage smoking causes. As the New York Times reported on the surgeon general’s work:

“More than 55 years after the first surgeon general’s report warned that smoking causes cancer, it remains the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of smoking in the United States has declined to an all-time low of 14%. More than 3 of every 5 adult Americans who have smoked have quit, the report said. Still, 34 million Americans currently smoke, and an estimated 480,000 die from smoking-related illnesses each year, the agency said. About 16 million people in the United States now suffer from cancer, heart disease and smoking-related disorders, according to the CDC. The financial toll is enormous too, with annual health care spending attributed to smoking exceeding $170 billion, the agency said.”

califgovnewsomBig Pharma, with its relentless price gouging, may finally have poked in the eye the wrong people. But even as patients wait to see if hospitals, and now states and insurers, can beat down skyrocketing drug prices, isn’t it past time for more public shaming for doctors who persist in writing excessive, dubious, and downright risky prescriptions?

Although the Trump Administration and Republicans in Congress have failed to deliver on repeated promises to attack excessive costs for prescription drugs, the state of California and now leading insurers are following some hospitals in tackling the problem.

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (shown, above right), in unveiling his state budget, told lawmakers that he wants the Golden State to consider contracting with generic drug makers to produce products that would cost less and be sold under a California label. As the Los Angeles Times described the still-to-be fleshed out gubernatorial plan:

boozengals-300x180Tipple much, much less in 2020. That might be a life-saving bit of advice for too many Americans to follow, especially because of new data on a worrisome spike in alcohol-related deaths.

As NBC News reported, based on published research by federal researchers:

“The yearly total of alcohol-related deaths for people ages 16 and over more than doubled, from 35,914 in 1999 to 72,558 in 2017. There were almost 1 million such deaths overall in that time. While middle-age men accounted for the majority of those deaths, women — especially white women — are catching up, the study found. That’s concerning in part because women’s bodies tend to be more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.”

flavorvape-300x225The Trump Administration kicked off the new year with a whimper not a bang with yet another of its attempts to corral the health nightmare of e-cigarettes and vaping by the nation’s young, while not upsetting the industry too much.

Starting Feb. 1, the federal government announced it will forbid the sale of most flavored cartridges for e-cigarette use, notably those with popular tastes like candy, fruits, and mint.

At the same time, though, vendors still can sell menthol and tobacco flavorings. And they can peddle flavored vaping liquids if they are used in the open tank systems that most often are so big, they are limited to shops or stores.

drugslockedup-300x264Hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings — and those who staff them — aren’t immune to the ravages of the opioid crisis and its related abuse of prescription and illicit drugs. For patients, their caregivers’ addictions can have serious consequences, including a less-discussed nightmare: diversions of their drugs.

Lauren Lollini, a psychotherapist and a patient-safety advocate, has penned a powerful and scary Op-Ed for Stat, a health and medical news site. She describes how, while undergoing a relatively routine kidney stone removal at a respected Denver hospital, she was infected with hepatitis C — a draining and chronic liver disease that is blood-borne and is often associated with drug abusers. Lollini, however, had been healthy and did not use drugs. So, how did she get so sick? As she explained:

“[An investigation by the] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that I and at least 18 others had been infected with hepatitis C by Kristen Parker, a technician at Rose Medical Center who had tested positive for the disease before she was hired. She stole patients’ fentanyl-filled syringes off medication trays, injected herself with the painkiller, then refilled the syringes with saline. In the summer of 2009 — about three months after I learned I had hepatitis C — Parker was arrested in one of the biggest hospital drug diversion incidents to date. In 2010, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

21md-261x300Consumers soon may need to be 21 or older to buy burning tobacco cigarettes or e-cigarettes, the key component of the national health nightmare of “vaping.”

Both the House and Senate have passed the higher age requirement and President Trump is expected to sign it, joining hundreds of states (including Maryland, as illustration shows) and cities that have sought to make it tougher for Americans to damage their health with the popular products.

The damage caused by smoking have been well proven for decades now, with the American Cancer Society reporting the nasty habit’s persistent toll:

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