Articles Posted in Medications

walmartlogo-300x117The stain of the nation’s opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis has spread now to Bentonville, Ark., as federal prosecutors have sued Walmart, accusing the nation’s largest retailer of improperly allowing its pharmacists to fill millions of suspicious prescriptions for potent painkillers.

The pharmacists themselves complained to their corporate bosses that they were delivering opioids in far too great quantities to too few customers in out-of-the-way places, prosecutors contend. The warnings were ignored.

Instead, Walmart operated too lax a system both to monitor its outlets’ dispensing of drugs and to provide legally required warning information to federal watchdogs about potentially problematic sales, the New York Times reported, quoting Jeffrey Bossert Clark, acting assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s civil division:

A key component of the American legal system, in the criminal and civil systems, is the opportunity afforded to those most harmed to see those implicated in awful situations take responsibility for their conduct. It can be a key moment for the aggrieved to find closure and a measure of justice.

mckinseylogo-300x169Heaps of ignominy are not in short order for parties that played sketchy roles in fostering the nation’s deadly opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis. The stain has spread now to one of corporate America’s most-favored advisors — the giant McKinsey consulting group.

The firm has issued a rare public mea culpa for its work with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a family-run drug maker that has gained notoriety, even among Big Pharma companies, for how it hyped its powerful painkiller OxyContin. The relentless push to sell that drug, officials have asserted, provided a ghastly template for peddling opioids, triggering abuse, addiction, debilitation, and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent times.

Purdue was a McKinsey client, and the consultants now are re-examining their advice to the drug maker on how to fire up OxyContin sales and whether these suggestions fell short of the firm’s own standards. The New York Times, to its credit, dug into records to detail the consultants’ unacceptable conduct, reporting:

dopeweighing-300x200Drug policy and treatment in this country is shifting in notable ways, even as the nation wrangles with a resurgent crisis in opioid abuse and overdose deaths and awaits a political transition that will determine a new response to drug harms.

As an indicator of the changing views on illicit substances, consider that the U.S. House has just approved “sweeping legislation that would decriminalize marijuana and expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions,” the New York Times reported. The newspaper said this of the bill, which for now also faces certain failure:

“The 228-164 vote to approve the measure was bipartisan, and it was the first time either chamber of Congress had ever endorsed the legalization of cannabis. The bill would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act and authorize a 5% tax on marijuana that would fund community and small business grant programs to help those most impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. The legislation is, for now, almost certainly doomed in the Republican-led Senate, where that party’s leaders have derided it as a superficial distraction from the work of passing coronavirus relief, as lawmakers inched toward bipartisan compromise after spending months locked in an impasse.

oighhslogo-150x150Buh-bye? Arrivederci? Sayonara? Can it be that the coronavirus pandemic puts an end to one of the disgraceful ways that Big Pharma and medical device makers push their wares on all-too malleable doctors — with big-money speaker programs?

The inspector general’s office of the giant federal Health and Human Services (HHS) agency has warned drug- and medical device-makers that these pandemic-paused marketing shams should not resume. The $2 billion that industry players have forked out for the in-person gab fests in the last three years looks sketchy at best to federal watchdogs and prosecutors, the HHS inspector general warned in a rarely issued “special fraud alert.” It reported this:

“The Office of Inspector General (OIG) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have investigated and resolved numerous fraud cases involving allegations that remuneration offered and paid in connection with speaker programs violated the anti-kickback statute. The Federal government has pursued civil and criminal cases against companies and individual [health care providers] involving speaker programs … Our enforcement experience demonstrates that some companies expend significant resources on speaker programs and that some [health care providers] receive substantial remuneration from companies. This Special Fraud Alert highlights some of the inherent fraud and abuse risks associated with the offer, payment, solicitation, or receipt of remuneration related to company-sponsored speaker programs.”

magicshrooms-150x150Voters in the nation’s capital joined with peers across the country to nudge forward a further reconsideration of mind-affecting substances popularized in the Sixties but made illicit thereafter.

Support ran strong for a District of Columbia ballot initiative directing local law enforcement to make among its lowest priorities the prosecution of those who use or sell certain hallucinogenic plants and fungi — aka magic mushrooms and psilocybin, the Washington Post reported.

Those substances also appeared to be headed to legalization in an Oregon vote, which also would “decriminalize the possession of all illegal drugs,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

buildingpurdue-300x200Christmas arrived before Halloween for a notorious Big Pharma firm. Federal prosecutors effectively gave its family founders and its executives gilded skates, so they can slide away for now from major criminal charges and severe financial penalties for their part in fostering the opioid abuse and drug overdose crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and cost the nation more than $1 trillion.

The devil is in the details in the announced settlement by the U.S. Justice Department with Purdue Pharmaceutical, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.

Federal prosecutors painted a picture of their planned deal with Purdue as an historic, $8.3 billion knock-out for a company that critics say played a major role in the opioid crisis, with the firm creating a template for hyping falsehoods about the safety and effectiveness of prescription painkillers. As the Washington Post reported, the first glance at the multibillion-dollar Purdue settlement seems tough:

oxylabel-300x180So, who doesn’t daydream a little about money? Maybe even big money. Just imagine a scenario where, if you could put up $3,000, you could keep $13,000, or if you forked over $30,000, and walked away with $130,000? So how great would it be if you paid $3 billion but could stuff $13 billion into your pockets?

What a deal! Of course, it depends on whose perspective you look at it from.

Federal prosecutors and a bankruptcy court may give a plutocratic family that deal, along with a hard-to-imagine get-out-of-jail free card, news organizations report.

antibodiesregeneron-300x157Well, there he goes again (as President Reagan used to say): President Trump, whose White House has become a coronavirus hot spot and who has clearly played a role in a super spreader event, is hyping yet another medical treatment for Covid-19.

He has referred to his own viral infection as “a blessing from God,” used the C word (as in “cure”) and has called an incipient therapy used on him as a “miracle.” So, now Americans may be racing to reference works to learn more about coronavirus care with monoclonal antibodies, specifically those developed by the Big Pharma firm Regeneron. It is headed by Dr. Leonard Schleifer, and as CNN reported:

[Schleifer] and President Trump are acquainted: The CEO has been a member at Trump’s golf club in Westchester, New York, and his company also received $450 million in government funding in July as part of the president’s Operation Warp Speed plan to quickly develop a vaccine and other treatments for Covid-19 … Trump also recently owned shares of Regeneron (REGN) [as] listed as assets on Trump’s 2017 filing with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, though [not] on the president’s most recent filing for 2020.”

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee are pounding Big Pharma executives for price gouging, publishing an 18-month investigation of the soaring costs of select prescription medications and grilling  high-paid corporate leaders on whether those meds’ spiking prices were all too prevalent in the profit-ravenous drug industry.

The prescription medications targeted by the lawmakers included “Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007,” reported the independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News service. “Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the [congressional] probe.”

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