Articles Posted in Addiction

lotsapills-300x200Consumers have gotten eyebrow-raising views of Big Pharma’s ugly business practices and the tough and sometimes sketchy efforts to rein in the industry’s ravenous pursuit of profits — in settling claims over distributors inundating the country with lethal painkillers, or with a maker’s behind-the-scenes campaign to win U.S. approval of an Alzheimer’s medication based on dubious data.

Patients are unlikely to come out ahead, or even satisfied with the outcomes of the cases involving how Johnson & Johnson (J&J), Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, and McKesson handled opioids, and how Biogen and the Food and Drug Administration have dealt with Aduhelm.

A major opioids settlement

cdcnytopioidcrisisjuly2021-183x300“It’s huge, it’s historic, it’s unheard of, unprecedented, and a real shame. It’s a complete shame”

That quote, reported by the New York Times and made by Daniel Ciccarone, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, tragically summarizes the latest  federal data on the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis. As the newspaper and others reported:

“Drug overdose deaths rose nearly 30% in 2020 to a record 93,000, according to preliminary statistics released … by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s the largest single-year increase recorded.”

fentanylillustration-300x99Just as attorneys generals for more than a dozen states inch toward a multibillion-dollar settlement with a drug maker faulted for its big role in the start of the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis, that health menace is taking a new, deadly turn in the region around the nation’s capital.

In Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, officials report they are grappling with spiking overdose deaths, numbering in the hundreds, and blamed on the rise of fentanyl. It is a synthetic, prescription painkiller developed to assist late-stage cancer patients. It packs a wallop. And Big Pharma companies pushed for its wider use with aggressive marketing and sales campaign that landed some drug executives in jail.

The excessive promotion of fentanyl also led to its illegal manufacture, notably in chemical factories in China. Its increasing abuse, along with other opioids, also opened the door to big problems with illicit drugs.

debbiedingell-150x150Just because myriad drugs and supplements are sold over the counter does not mean these pills are safe. They can pose serious health risks and cause major damage, a prominent Midwestern congressman has reminded by sharing her own near-disaster with a well-known OTC drug.

Debbie Dingell, a Michigan Democrat, told the Washington Post that she recently awoke with great pain and a feeling of bloating. Her symptoms were so severe and unrelenting that she called her doctor and was rushed into emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer. She was hospitalized for a week to recuperate.

The likely cause for her serious problems, her doctors told her: Her extended taking of high doses of an over-the-counter pain reliever found in many people’s medicine cabinets — Motrin, or ibuprofen. As she told the newspaper, she took it to ease her pain after dental implants and jaw surgery:

When accomplished folks who have racked up awards like Oscars, Emmys, and Pulitzers provide their frank appraisal of the roles of Big Pharma, federal regulators, and law enforcement in the opioid abuse and drug overdose epidemic, they don’t mince words. Just consider the title of their new, four-hour, two-part documentary running on HBO: “The Crime of the Century.”

That headline just starts to capture the gist of the broadcast indictment of the lethal mire that we’ve all gotten sunk into after drug makers — while officials snored — barraged the country with billions of super potent painkiller pills.

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 …”

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