Articles Posted in Pain

adams-241x300Our nation’s lethal opioid epidemic is reaching its tentacles right into our paychecks, as employers face rising health insurance costs that crimp their ability to give pay raises to the rest of us.  This is happening even as we are being urged to carry overdose antidotes, just in case.

The independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation reported that its new analysis of large employer insurance claims shows that American businesses paid $2.6 billion in 2016 to treat opioid addiction and overdoses by their covered workers and dependents. That compares to $273 million in 2004, so it’s up ten-fold in a decade.

The costs of caring for opioid abuse skyrocketed, even as employer health insurance saw sharp declines in the number and expense for prescriptions and use of powerful painkillers.

redfieldPresident Trump’s latest rant  that drug dealers should face capital punishment fell flat in the face of new revelations on what’s going on with the fight against opioid drug overdoses and abuse that have become the leading killer of Americans younger than 50.

It turns out that states have failed to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in funding appropriated by Congress to battle the abuse of prescription painkillers, potent synthetic versions like fentanyl, and illicit drugs like heroin.

Politico reported that the Obama Administration, in the 21st Century Cures Act, passed by the Congress and signed into law by the president as 2016 ended, provided more than $1 billion over two years in grants to help states attack the opioid crisis.

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 CareDash.com — 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.

frail-300x150Although patient advocates long have pressed Big Medicine to eliminate unnecessary care — waste in the health care system that some experts estimate adds as much as $765 billion annually in needless costs — it may be past due for a public condemnation of a notably extreme example of this practice: The all too frequent, unhelpful surgeries for the old, many of whom are at the end of life.

Liz Szabo of the independent, nonprofit Kaiser Health News Service, and National Public Radio deserve credit for their report, detailing how 1 in 3 Medicare patients undergoes a serious procedure, “even though the evidence shows that many are more likely to be harmed than to benefit from it.”

As the story explains:

jetsons-300x231Although big, rich hospitals and their sprawling campuses jammed with shiny new buildings may be reaching a point where they’re unsustainable for competitive cost, safety, and efficiency reasons, a rising health care alternative already may be hitting its own major woes that can’t be ignored.

The Wall Street Journal and New York Times have put up pieces with intriguing projections about the future of hospitals, including how economics may force them, as is occurring now, to spin off major functions, including many kinds of surgery, which will be handled, instead, in smaller, free-standing surgical centers.

At the same time, USA Today and the independent and nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service have presented their investigation into dangers and deaths that patients encounter at the such centers, which already are burgeoning nationwide.

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.’

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.

cough-194x300The flu season’s roaring across the country. It’s a bad one, with the H3N2 strain afflicting millions with a severe form of illness — which also has been deadly, notably for the old and young.

If you haven’t done so, consider getting a flu shot, asap. The flu shot this year may be less than optimal in the protections it may offer. Still, as Aaron Carroll — a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist — argues in a New York Times “Upshot” column, the benefits of inoculation are still clear and pronounced.

As he writes:

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