New FDA-approved “trackable” pill transmits information — it will tattle on you if you don’t take your meds

tracking pill

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a digital pill embedded with a sensor designed to inform physicians whether their patients are taking their medications. The federal approval marks a growing trend towards addressing drug non-adherence among patients, according to a New York Times report.

The pill, called Abilify MyCite, is a modified version of Otsuka Pharmaceutical’s drug Abilify that is used in the treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression. It is equipped with a small tracking device developed by Proteus Digital Health. The new tracking pill works by transmitting a message from the sensor to a wearable patch, which then sends data to a mobile app to enable patients to monitor drug ingestion on their smartphone.

Patients who agree to taking the tracking pill can sign consent forms that allow their health care providers and up to four other people including their family members to receive information about the date and time that the drugs are ingested. The technology is currently not approved for patients suffering from dementia-related psychosis.

“The FDA supports the development and use of new technology in prescription drugs and is committed to working with companies to understand how technology might benefit patients and prescribers,” says Mitchell Mathis of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

A 2014 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that as much as 50 percent of patients on prescription medications fail to take their drugs as instructed. In fact, psychiatric medicine practitioners note that taking medications between 70 and 80 percent of the time is already considered ‘good’ adherence. Experts add that noncompliance costs as much as $100 billion annually as patients only get sicker and spend more on additional treatments and hospitalizations.

FDA approval may exacerbate paranoia in patients, experts warn

The latest FDA approval has been met with ethical concerns, especially among the psychiatric circle. The American Psychiatric Association has stressed the importance of balance between psychiatric care and patient privacy. Likewise, an expert has cautioned that the new tracking pill may boost drug adherence but may also be doomed to backfire due in part to trust issues. Dr. Peter Kramer, a psychiatrist and the author of “Listening to Prozac,” also warns that the new technology seems coercive despite being technically ethical. (Related: Talk to the voices: Unconventional yet obvious ways to heal schizophrenia and average mental mayhem.)

“Psychotic disorders are often characterized by some degree of paranoia, often reaching delusional proportions, in which patients may believe that outside forces are trying to monitor and control them, including controlling minds or bodies or harm them in some way. The idea that we’re giving this group of patients a pill that, in fact, transmits info about them from inside their body to the people that are involved in their treatment almost seems like a confirmation of the worst paranoias of the worst patients,”  says Dr. Paul Appelbaum, director of law, ethics and psychiatry at Columbia University’s psychiatry department.

Sources include: 

NaturalNews.com

NYTimes.com

DailyMail.co.uk

What this article isn’t saying is that these tracking devices can change your DNA!!!  You’ve been warned!


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Deaths During Opioid-Related Hospital Stays in U.S. Quadrupled

Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Deaths from heroin increased 328% between 2010 and 2015, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are now seeing a sharp rise as well. More Americans die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by Rx painkillers.

A new study released earlier this week confirms that deaths in opioid-related hospital stays in the U.S. have quadrupled between 1993 and 2014, PBS NewsHour reports.

Zirui Song, an assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School and a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, launched the study in 2016 in an effort to gain a better understanding of the patients he treated.

Dr. Song analyzed nearly 385,000 hospital stays involving patients who were admitted for opioid use with data from the National Inpatient Sample of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a national database compiled by the Agency for Healthcare Research Quality.

His research confirmed that by 2014, four times as many patients died from opioid-related causes while staying in the hospital, rising from 0.43 percent before 2000 to 2.02 percent.

Over the same time period, the study also found that patients admitted to the hospital for opioid use skewed younger — the average age was 39 years old — and were more likely to be Caucasian. The number of black and Hispanic patients admitted to hospitals for opioid or heroin use remained relatively stable.

Dr. Song said his study is intended to raise awareness for the need for better strategies for hospitals when patients are admitted for using opioids, in addition to continuing and improving public health.

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Doctors need to STOP prescribing Opiates and, those who do, need to properly detox their patients so they don’t have to go to Heroin!  Talk to your doctor about this today.


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Statins are gateway drugs for Big Pharma: Take one and you’ll need four or five more prescriptions for the side effects

image_statinsOne out of every three American adults take statins, and if you think that sounds like good news for statin manufacturers, you’re missing the bigger picture. All of Big Pharma benefits when people take statins. In fact, statins can really be thought of as gateway drugs. After all, they have so many side effects that you will likely end up taking several other medications after you start statins just to deal with them.

What can happen to you if you take these dangerous drugs? They suppress your body’s immune system, rendering it less able to fight off infections. They also inhibit production of coenzyme Q10, which helps to regulate your immune and nervous system and maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure. There’s also a higher risk of neurological diseases when you take statins, with many patients reporting forgetfulness, confusion and memory loss. But don’t worry – whatever happens to you, Big Pharma has a solution for that, too!

Statins also increase your risk of diabetes, so much so that the FDA has required that a warning label be placed on the package informing people of the link between statins, higher blood glucose levels and diabetes. The risk is especially heightened if you are an older woman. An Australian study found that elderly women who took high doses of statins had a 50 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. This could mean you’ll end up on diabetes medication for the rest of your life.

And for what benefit are you placing yourself at so much risk? According to research published in BMJ, taking statins over the course of two to five years adds just 3.2 days to a patient’s lifespan on average – if the side effects don’t kill them first. Yes, they’ve been approved by the FDA, but how many times has the FDA had to pull drugs after initially approving them as their dangers became too obvious to ignore?

Statin alternatives

If all this make you want to keep your distance from statins, you will be pleased to know there are some great alternatives. Dr. Jack Wolfson, a Phoenix-area holistic cardiologist, believes that a wellness model needs to be followed rather than a sickness one.

In an interview with Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, he pointed out that cardiologists sometimes fall into the easy routine of blindly prescribing statins as Big Pharma tells them to and collecting a paycheck. After all, they’ve got medical school loans to pay off.

Dr. Wolfson asks why people would want to choose statins, which can reduce the risks associated with high cholesterol slightly yet put them at risk of many other problems, when they could take safe actions that bring their risks down to zero? He said that nobody says they feel better when they take statins and blood pressure medications. In contrast, those who turn to evidence-based supplements often report feeling great, losing weight, and having more energy.

Some of the alternatives he mentioned in the interview include beetroot powder, magnesium, and Omega 3. He says that we can make such a big difference in our health through food., and he also points out how powerful the sun can be in keeping us healthy. He also suggests that people get more physical activity, such as walking or gardening.

When your health is less than optimum, Dr. Wolfson says, your body is deficient in nutrients, not pharmaceuticals. Drugs might be good for emergencies, but when it comes to prevention, you can’t beat a healthy, well-rounded and nutritious diet, physical activity, and good old-fashioned sunshine. What do you have to lose by trying it?

Watch the full, shocking interview with Dr. Wolfson below.

Click to Article Source Here


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Breaking Down the Uptick in Adolescent Overdoses

Reuters

The leading cause of death for Americans under 50 is now accidental death by drug overdose. There’s been a significant climb in overdose deaths among those under 18.

When it comes to acknowledging the opioid epidemic, the U.S. has been faced with some harsh realities over the past several months. Perhaps most notable is a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 is now accidental death by drug overdose. The 2016 count of lives lost exceeds 64,000, a 19 percent increase from the previous year’s 52,000. These figures are heartbreaking.

 

Perhaps a more important statistic is that overdose deaths among adolescents (those ages 12 to 17) are up as well, with a strikingly similar 19 percent increase in the past year. This information is significant, and not just because it’s alarming. It also begs a different approach in how to address the problem.

 

Several governmental actions have been taken to curb the effects of this devastating crisis. Many states have adopted Good Samaritan laws, which encourage bystanders to call law enforcement for help if there’s concern for a potential overdose, without fear of prosecution for being involved in illicit activities themselves. There are also federal regulations with heavy sanctions on misguided prescribers who may be buffering their revenues by pumping out scripts for prescription opioids. Plus, there’s the overdose-reversing drug Narcan and subsequent funding for free community trainings, with ease of access through your physician or local pharmacy.

But where is the haste toward prevention?

 

In my 13 years working in the mental health and addictions counseling field, I can list over a dozen adolescent treatment programs (that I was personally acquainted with) that have closed simply due to lack of census. Services were being offered, but few were using them. Some of these programs, responding to an increase of young adults (18- to 26- year-olds) in need of treatment, converted their juvenile programs to fit the business’s needs.

Alongside the trend for more young adults seeking treatment, service providers continued to see further declines in adolescents accessing services. In essence, what we’re seeing is a decrease of identification in teens, and an increase as they transition into adulthood. There’s something horribly wrong with this picture. As a culture, we’re being reactive to a crisis as opposed to placing efforts to be proactive. This, unfortunately, is a making of the tragedy we see on the news each and every day.

 

Yes, prevention does exist; however, it’s fragmented at best. Most common prevention efforts take place in the school setting. One of the most frequently used school-based prevention programs has been empirically suggested to be ineffective, and yet the program gets renewed year after year in some states. Some states’ education departments require that school boards employ a specialist to handle substance use and other crises in their students; however, these professionals often occupy several roles within the district, and their time is often stretched too thin. Programming targeting parents to provide information on current trends and concerns regarding substance use are lightly attended. I’ve facilitated many of these workshops myself; in a student population of 1,200, if you can get 20 parents to attend, you’re in luck.

 

One thing is blatantly clear: When we’re not appropriately addressing substance use and addiction in adolescence, we are inundated with young adults literally fighting for their lives shortly thereafter.

I’m not saying that the approach we’re taking to the opioid crisis is wrong. Rather, it’s incomplete. We need to start the conversation about drug use and addiction at an early age. And no, “just say no” isn’t an acceptable means of prevention. “Just say no” is something that we feel more comfortable doing. We can just check it off the list, say that we “had the conversation,” and be done with it. In order to create change, we have to be OK with getting uncomfortable. This is how we’re going to save these kids lives.

Talk to your families about substance use. If you have a family history of addiction, there’s all the more reason to do this – your children may have a predisposition. Go to prevention programs offered in your community. Most, if not all, are free. Bring your kids with you. Talk about the program on the drive home. Have family dinners once in a while. Bring up any pop-culture or media references to overdose deaths, and listen to their reactions. Reach out and call the school your child attends to find out how they address prevention. Acquaint yourself with the personnel who coordinate it. Introduce your child, too. Research other agencies in your community, and participate or volunteer in their events from time to time.

 

There are limitless ways that we can make small impacts in our families and our communities. Stigma usually hold us back. Stigma also adds to this crisis. However, if we’re more active in our prevention efforts, not only will we see a reduction in adolescent overdoses, but over time we will not have an opioid epidemic on our hands.

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Are You an Addict? Signs of a Prescription Drug Addiction

You just may not know you’re addicted when your drug dealer is your doctor.

Woman is suddenly stricken with sadness

When you’re sick or have suffered from a serious injury, the first few days after a visit to the doctor you rely heavily on the prescribed drug to ease the pain and get you through the day. However, you may reach a point where you feel compelled to continue taking the prescription long after you need it. If you think you or a loved one might have a problem with prescription drugs, there are some red flags you should watch out for.

The Cheat Sheet spoke with some of the country’s top addiction experts to learn more about prescription drug abuse.

There is sudden behavior change

One of the first signs of a prescription drug addiction is an abrupt change in behavior. If you suspect the abuse of prescription medication, take note of unusual behavior you hadn’t observed before.

Psychologist Matthew Polacheck, director of outpatient services at the Betty Ford Center in West Los Angeles, said behavioral changes may also be accompanied by cognitive and physical changes. “The first thing we look for is a change in behavior of any kind. [Someone] who never naps comes home and goes to sleep. [Someone] who is passive suddenly becomes more euphoric. More specific behavior includes nodding off, drowsiness, slurred speech, confused thinking, and pupils can also be constricted.”

The drug becomes part of a daily routine

Medications on shelves of medicine cabinet

If you or someone you know can’t seem to go a day without a prescription drug that was meant for short-term use, this is another red flag. Over time, short-term medication should be slowly tapered down until there is no longer a need for it.

Audrey Hope, an addictions specialist at Seasons in Malibu World Class Addiction Treatment, said if there is difficulty in stopping a drug, this should be a cause for concern. “The main sign that you are a prescription drug addict is that you use the drugs every day. You can’t function without them. You rely on them. You need them. You lie to yourself that it is for the ‘pain’ and because ‘the doctor prescribed it.’ You say it is OK to use them,” said Hope.

More of the drug is used than prescribed

Doctor handing pills to a patient

Another sign of trouble is using too much of the prescription and running out of the drug much earlier than expected considering the prescribed amount. Someone desperate for a refill may resort to manipulative behavior to obtain the drug, said Plattor. “Other signs of prescription addiction can include manipulative behaviors such as lying, stealing, using more of the drug than is prescribed, poor decision-making, ‘losing’ prescriptions often, and obtaining a number of prescriptions for the same drug(s) from more than one doctor,” Plattor said.

Misconceptions about prescription drug addiction

man pouring pills into his hand

There are many misunderstandings when it comes to an addiction to prescription drugs. Here are some of the most common ones.

Myth: Pain pills are the only addictive prescription drugs

Pink pills

While pain medications are commonly abused, there are many others that can become addictive. “In addiction treatment, what we see most is opioid abuse. We also see abuse of ADHD medications, such as Adderall or Ritalin. Medications like benzodiazepines can also be substances of abuse. Drugs given for anxiety or depression, especially when given without concurrent psychotherapy, can lead to substance abuse problems,” said Dr. Constance Scharff, the research director of addiction treatment center Cliffside Malibu and author of Ending Addiction for Good.

Myth: I trust my doctor so I don’t need to ask questions

Doctor looking at tablet

Ask questions about your prescription, and don’t just blindly trust your doctor. It’s important to check with your doctor and make sure you understand side effects as well as how much medicine you should take and when to stop. You should also let your physician know if you’re having a hard time stopping your medicine.

Where to get help

Psychologist making notes

If you’re looking for assistance for yourself or a loved one, know there is quality help out there. You can reach out to a support group or consider seeking the services of an inpatient or outpatient detox program. You can start your search online on websites such as VictoryRetreatMontana.com. 

 

For Article Source with edits: Click Here.

President’s Commission on Opioid Crisis Calls for Nationwide System of Drug Courts

 

drug-court-graduation-1170x660

President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report on Wednesday, calling for expanding drug courts into all 94 federal court jurisdictions. The commission also recommended easier access to alternatives to opioids to treat pain, The Washington Post reports.

Drug courts are specialized court programs that target criminal defendants and offenders, juvenile offenders, and parents with pending child welfare cases who have alcohol and other drug dependency problems.

The commission made more than 50 recommendations, including requiring doctors and others who prescribe opioids to demonstrate they have received training in safely providing the drugs before they can renew their licenses to handle controlled substances with the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Providers should be required to check prescription drug monitoring databases to ensure patients aren’t “doctor shopping” for prescription drugs, the commission said. In some states, use of the databases is voluntary, the article notes.

News Source


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The tide is FINALLY turning: Big Pharma billionaire ARRESTED, charged with CONSPIRACY & BRIBERY OF DOCTORS!

3365115 - high cost of prescription medicine

I almost never thought I’d see the day when a Big Pharma founder and owner was finally arrested for running a criminal drug cartel, but that day has arrived.

“Federal authorities arrested the billionaire founder and owner of Insys Therapeutics Thursday on charges of bribing doctors and pain clinics into prescribing the company’s fentanyl product to their patients,” reports the Daily Caller News Foundation, one of the best sources of real journalism in America today.

Addictive drugs that include opioids, we now know, are claiming over 64,000 lives a year in the United States alone.

From the DCNF:

The Department of Justice (DOJ) charged John Kapoor, 74, and seven other current and former executives at the pharmaceutical company with racketeering for a leading a national conspiracy through bribery and fraud to coerce the illegal distribution of the company’s fentanyl spray, which is intended for use as a pain killer by cancer patients. The company’s stock prices fell more than 20 percent following the arrests, according to the New York Post.

Kapoor stepped down as the company’s CEO in January amid ongoing federal probes into their Subsys product, a pain-relieving spray that contains fentanyl, a highly-addictive synthetic opioid. Fentanyl is more than 50 times stronger than morphine, and ingesting just two milligrams is enough to cause an adult to fatally overdose.

The series of arrests came just hours after President Donald Trump officially declared the country’s opioid epidemic a national emergency. Drug overdoses led to 64,070 deaths in 2016, which is more than the amount of American lives lost in the entire Vietnam War.

As the opioid crisis has developed, more and more states have begun holding doctors and opioid manufacturers accountable for over-prescribing and over-producing the highly-addictive painkillers.

“We will be bringing some major lawsuits against people and companies that are hurting our people,” Trump said Thursday. He also spoke about a program similar to Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” initiative.

“More than 20,000 Americans died of synthetic opioid overdoses last year, and millions are addicted to opioids. And yet some medical professionals would rather take advantage of the addicts than try to help them,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “This Justice Department will not tolerate this.  We will hold accountable anyone – from street dealers to corporate executives — who illegally contributes to this nationwide epidemic.  And under the leadership of President Trump, we are fully committed to defeating this threat to the American people.

President Trump is bringing the war to Big Pharma’s doorstep

Under President Trump, who continues to fight to end the drug cartels and health care monopolies that are destroying this nation, we may see more and more drug companies finally facing the legal scrutiny they deserve for engaging in the mass medical murder of Americans with dangerous, deadly drugs.

And then there’s the question of vaccines, the autism cover-up and the criminal racket run by the CDC, Big Pharma and the lying mainstream media. When that medical fraud and corruption scandal blows sky-high, we may see dozens of pharmaceutical officials going to prison.

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PROFIT at any cost: Big Pharma’s bribery and kickback schemes led to deaths of U.S. soldiers

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The families of U.S. troops who have been killed or injured while fighting overseas in Iraq have filed a lawsuit against multiple U.S. and European pharmaceutical and medical supply companies after accusing the corporations of knowingly financing the Mahdi Army, an anti-American militia, through a series of bribes and kickbacks.

The lawsuit, which was filed against some of the biggest and most well-known names in the industry – including GE Healthcare, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Roche Holdings – claims that the corporations sent financial aid to Iraq’s Ministry of Health through their local agents. Allegedly, these funds were then used by officials at the ministry to assist the militia as they carried out attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.

Needless to say, if the accusations made in the lawsuit really are true, then it would be one of the most egregious acts ever committed by pharmaceutical companies to date, and would even border on treason.

The money was sent in the form of “commissions” or “free goods,” and at times amounted to as much as 20 percent of the total value of a contract with ministry officials. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the defendants included specific language in their contracts that promised Iraq’s Ministry of Health after-sales support and other services related to the product that was sold to them.

“In reality, such services were illusory and functioned merely to create a slush fund the local agents could use to pass on ‘commissions to corrupt (ministry) officials,’” the lawsuit states.

While the lawsuit claims that the money that was sent from these pharmaceutical companies to Iraq’s Ministry of Health violated the U.S. anti-terrorism act, Pfizer released a statement explaining that the company “categorically denies any wrongdoing.” In addition, GE said that they were “thoroughly reviewing the allegations,” and a spokeswoman for Roche declined to comment because the company had yet to be officially served with the lawsuit. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson also refused to comment on the matter.

“Defendants did not intend for the ‘free goods’ provided to Kadima (health ministry’s pharmaceutical importing agency) to serve any legitimate charitable or medicinal purpose,” the lawsuit alleges. “It was widely understood in Iraq that MOH (Ministry of Health) operated more like a terrorist organization than a legitimate health entity, and no rational company would have viewed MOH as a suitable object for charity.”

Back in 2007, the global intelligence company Stratfor reported that U.S. led forces in Iraq had arrested the deputy health minister after he was accused of “selling health services and equipment in return for millions of dollars that he later funneled to Shiite militias.”

Unfortunately, this is hardly the first time that global brands have engaged in backdoor deals and shady transactions in exchange for special privileges from and relationships with politicians and lawmakers. In August, for example, Lee Jae-yong of Samsung was sentenced to five years in prison after it was revealed that he had paid almost $8 million in bribes to win over the support of South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the midst of ongoing corporate negotiations. In 2012, Walmart was accused of sending millions of dollars to the Mexican government in hopes of speeding up construction of their stores there, an issue that the company is still dealing with to this day.

Indeed, while these allegations against these pharmaceutical companies are certainly serious and warrant further investigation, it would be inaccurate to say that this sort of thing is rare and uncommon.

Attorneys working for law firms of Sparacino & Andreson and Kellogg, Hansen, Todd, Figel & Frederick stated that they have spent thousands of hours so far reviewing transactions that were made between the pharmaceutical companies in question and the Iraqi Ministry of Health between the years 2004 and 2013.

Ami Neiberger-Miller, whose 22-year-old brother was killed in a roadside bomb allegedly planted by the Mahdi Army in Baghdad back in 2007, explained that she wants the companies to be held accountable for providing them with financial aid. “I had always pictured my brother’s killers as faceless,” she said. “I wouldn’t have thought U.S. companies would have anything to do with his death. Those funds went directly from those companies to terrorists who had a mission to kill U.S. troops like my brother. They should be held accountable. Companies should know what is done in their name.” (Related: The US government admits that Agent Orange that was sprayed on GMO farms poisoned troops.)

Whether its U.S. corporations sending money to terrorists in Iraq, or even the disastrous and poorly run Department of Veterans Affairs, something needs to be done to improve the way veterans and military individuals are treated in this country. It’s sad, but far too often these brave men and women don’t receive the amount of respect and care that they deserve, and if U.S.-based pharmaceutical companies really did put our troops in danger for money, then it really is a sad day in America.

Sources include:
NaturalNews.com
USAToday.com
NYTimes.com


 

Big Pharma Plays Every Dirty Trick in the Book to Transform Teens and Adults Into Opioid-Zombified Addicts

Prescription Drug AddictionOver a 40-year career, Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger has obtained millions in settlements for investors and consumers hurt by a rogues’ gallery of corporate wrongdoers from Exxon to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. But when it comes to what America’s prescription drug makers have done to drive one of the ghastliest addiction crises in the country’s history, he confesses amazement.

“I used to think that there was nothing more reprehensible than what the tobacco industry did in suppressing what it knew about the adverse effects of an addictive and dangerous product,” says Berger. “But I was wrong. The drug makers are worse than Big Tobacco.”

The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, manipulating markets and deceptively marketing opioid drugs that are known to addict and even kill. It’s a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day. Berger lays much of the blame at the feet of companies that have played every dirty trick imaginable to convince doctors to overprescribe medication that can transform both teens and adults into zombified junkies.

So how have they gotten away with it?

A Market for Lies

The prescription drug industry is a strange beast, born of perverse thinking about markets and economics, explains Berger. In a normal market, you shop around to find the best price and quality on something you want or need—a toaster, a new car. Businesses then compete to supply what you’re looking for. You’ve got choices: If the price is too high, you refuse to buy, or you wait until the market offers something better. It’s the supposed beauty of supply and demand.

But the prescription drug “market” operates nothing like that. Drug makers game the patent and regulatory systems to create monopolies over every single one of their products. Berger explains that when drug makers get patent approval for brand-name drugs, the patents create market exclusivity for those drugs, which protects them from competition from other brand drugs that treat the same condition as well as from generics. The manufacturers can now exploit their monopoly positions created by the patents by marketing their drugs for conditions for which they never got regulatory approval —and this dramatically increases sales. They can also charge very high prices because when you’re in pain or dying, you’ll pay virtually anything.

Using all these tricks, opioid manufacturers have been able to exploit the public and have created a whole new generation of desperate addicts. They monopolize their products and then, as Berger puts it, “market the hell out of them for unapproved and dangerous uses.”

Opioids are a drug class that includes opium derivatives like heroin (introduced by German drug maker Bayer in 1898), synthetics like fentanyl, and prescription painkillers like oxycodone (brand name: OxyContin). A number of factors are aggravating the addiction crisis: There has been a movement in medicine to treat pain more aggressively, while at the same time wide-ranging economic distress has generated a desire to escape a dismal reality. But a key driving force is doctors who have been wooed by Pharma marketing reps overprescribing for chronic pain.

“For the first time since the years after heroin was invented,” writes investigative journalist Sam Quinones in Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic, “the root of the scourge was not some street gang or drug mafia but doctors and drug companies.”

Doctors were once reluctant to write prescriptions for opioids. The U.S. drug regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, would only approve such drugs for severe cases like cancer patients in chronic agony or certain people in short-term pain after, say, an operation. But representatives of Connecticut-based drug maker Purdue, which released OxyContin in 1996, along with other companies, began to flood doctors’ offices with reports asserting that using the drug for off-label purposes was harmless. Often the targets were primary care physicians with little training in addiction. Have a chronic arthritis case? Give your patient OxyContin. Tell folks to take it every day, for weeks, even years, to treat just about any kind of chronic pain. The upshot was dependence, typically not because people were getting high for fun, but because they were using a legal drug in precisely the way the doctor ordered.

Purdue and others whisked doctors to stylish retreats to push them to prescribe drugs for uses not approved by U.S. regulators—a marketing strategy banned by federal law. They even created fake grassroots organizations to make it seem as though patients were demanding more prescriptions. Pharmaceutical companies like to dodge responsibility for the opioid crisis by blaming dishonest distributors and pointing out that they’re not the ones prescribing or handing out drugs to patients. True enough: They don’t need to, because they’ve done their work hooking you long before the drug is in your hands.

“The marketing is not only fraudulent; it’s incredibly elaborate,” says Berger. “Fake scientific studies promote the lie that opioids are better than other medications for pain. They’ve gone to just about any length. Bribery, you name it. It’s outrageous.”

OxyContin is so addictive it can create physical dependency in a matter of weeks. As drug makers and doctors who began to dole out pills by the handful in pain clinics learned, addicts do not behave like ordinary consumers: They don’t “choose” to buy or to wait until next week. They need their drug right away and will do anything to get it because if they don’t they will suffer excruciating symptoms.

Los Angeles Times report shows that among the lies Purdue spread about OxyContin was that one pill subdued pain for 12 hours. Except that for many patients it wears off much sooner, exposing them to unbearable pain and withdrawal. Purdue knew this, but feared lower sales if it admitted the truth. So sales reps advised doctors to just give stronger doses, which increased the addiction risk. As the money from hooked patients piled up, so did the bodies.

In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to misleading doctors and patients about OxyContin’s safety and paid a $600 million fine. But that sum was hardly an annoyance. From 1995 to 2015, Purdue made $35 billion from OxyContin sales alone. The Sacklers, who own the company, is now one of the richest families in America, as revealed by this triumphant Forbes spread. They know that lax regulation keeps the heat off, and that even litigation and criminal prosecutions can do little to stop them. Berger says that until such legal programs are massive in scale and scope, companies will go on with business as usual.

“We have to have injunctive relief [a court order to stop a behavior] that bans the marketing to doctors of opioids completely for unapproved uses, as well as an expansion of the FDA and DEA to specifically target the drugs,” says Berger. His law firm, Berger & Montague, is involved in the effort to seek relief for the city of Philadelphia, which has seen above-average opioid prescribing and suffered the highest rates of fatal drug overdoses in the state last year.

Even though prescriptions have been slightly reduced across the country since 2012, Philadelphia is finding out what happens to many people hooked on opioids when they can’t get a prescription or find the price too high: They turn to heroin. Fatal overdoses of heroin, oxycodone’s close cousin, have been skyrocketing since 2007 across the country.

‘Landscapes of Despair’

The opium poppy has been part of human history since at least 3,400 BCE, when it was cultivated in Mesopotamia as the “joy plant.” Derivatives such as laudanum and morphine offered more convenient, and people wrongly believed, safer ways to get the plant’s benefits. Bayer originally touted heroin as a non-addictive substitute for morphine (even for children) until it was outlawed in the U.S. in 1925. Rendering it illegal did not stop it from destroying the lives of many of America’s most celebrated artists, from Billie Holiday to Philip Seymour Hoffman. Drug overdoses now kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In 2015, nearly two-thirds of all overdoses had one thing in common: opioids.

Syracuse University’s Shannon Monnat, a sociologist focused on rural issues and an INET grantee, has been studying the epidemic and how it impacts various populations. Her research reveals that the rise in drug-induced deaths has been especially sharp among middle-aged people (45-55), with prescription opioid overdoses increasingly impacting both middle-aged and older populations. Heroin, whose sedating and euphoric effects are very similar to prescription narcotics, looks to be the culprit in more young adult overdoses.

Monnat considers how the opioid crisis points to bigger societal problems impacting the economy, educational institutions, the health care system, political systems, and communities. Her work centers on investigating the characteristics of what she calls “landscapes of despair”—places where people are hurting economically and socially, like Appalachia, the industrial Midwest and parts of New England. She points out that persistent disadvantage and long-term poverty are clearly connected to the opioid crisis, noting that many of the areas most impacted were once robust centers of manufacturing before jobs moved to other countries.

Opioid addiction seems to thrive in downwardly mobile small cities in rural areas—but not all of them. “What’s fascinating is that some of these areas have very high mortality rates from drug overdose, like Appalachia,” say Monnat. “But others, like the Southern ‘Black Belt’ [a region that stretches across Alabama and Mississippi], have not seen such rises.”

Originally named for its rich, dark, soil, which attracted cotton planters in the 19th century, the Black Belt has a high population of African Americans. The area has a history of unremitting poverty, low incomes, high unemployment, and high mortality. Yet despite many hardships, which are linked to the legacy of slavery, Monnat says that the region is also distinct for its “very tight-knit communities, strong kinship networks, and other networks where people can find emotional support.” It seems that when people have somewhere to turn in hard times, they may build up immunity to an epidemic like the opioid scourge.

Ironically, another factor that may have protected these communities, discussed by Quinones in Dreamland, is prejudice: The low-profile heroin dealers originating from Mexico’s west coast who are associated with the current opioid scourge prefer to target white communities. They also avoid big cities where large cartels are already established. So small, predominately white towns are their sweet spot.

Appalachia is known for kinship networks, but it also has a legacy of isolation and an outlaw tradition associated with the history of moonshining and bootlegging which can feed into today’s underground selling and distribution of opioid drugs. In this region, much of the struggling white working-class has seen economic distress with little hope of relief from America’s political system. Democrats often openly disdain the people they call rednecks and hillbillies, while concentrating on identity politics rather than economic distress. Republicans promote policies of free trade and deregulation that cast the region further into destitution.

Monnat has found that counties with large numbers of people employed in physical labor—especially physical occupations with higher disability rates—have higher drug fatalities. These are places where coal miners work in backbreaking positions and military veterans suffer the pain of injuries. Drug companies have besieged these areas with aggressive marketing of pain pills. “In Appalachia, you’d see mining companies with physicians on staff prescribing opioids to keep people in pain working,” she says. “That was happening before OxyContin, but companies like Purdue targeted these communities to push OxyContin as a safer alternative to other pain medications.”

The National Institutes of Health report that the opioid epidemic, which started as a regional crisis, is now a national crisis, decimating communities and even helping to reshape the American political landscape. Monnat finds a relationship between the landscapes of despair and the 2016 presidential election. Voting patterns show that areas in which President Trump did better than expected, like Pennsylvania and Ohio, were also places where opioid overdoses and deaths from alcohol and suicide occurred at high rates over the past decade.

During his campaign, Trump expressed concern for people in regions like Appalachia and flung stinging barbs at the politicians who had failed them. These voters supported him in high numbers, yet his policies will likely give more power to the pharmaceutical companies that have turned their suffering into stock windfalls.

Profit Trumps People

Trump the campaigner shook his fist at Big Pharma for “getting away with murder”—one of those statements that occasionally drops from his lips with atomic accuracy. But Trump the president has done an about-face. As journalist David Dayen pointed out, a draft of an executive order on drug prices (which never materialized) called for deregulation of the FDA and favors to industry. It was written by a pharmaceutical lobbyist.

In March, President Trump issued an executive order creating a commission to study drug addiction and the opioid epidemic. The commission, headed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has so far released recommendations that locate the overprescribing problem “in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” while making nary a mention of pharmaceutical marketing departments. The panel suggests insufficient remedies like new treatment facilities and educating schoolchildren on the dangers of opioids, along with ineffective ideas like more funds to Homeland Security. Regulation of Big Pharma? Nope.

The federal government did announce it would team up with drug makers to research and generate non-opioid pain medications and additional medication-assisted treatment options. Among the participants? Purdue.

Economist William Lazonick of the University of Massachusetts Lowell and an INET grantee, agrees with Berger that the way the pharmaceutical industry operates amounts to a catastrophe for the public. “It’s crazy that each and every drug is not treated like a regulated monopoly,” he says. “Taxpayers fund much of the research that goes into creating these drugs through the NIH and other public research facilities. Moreover, the companies are gifted with a monopoly through patents which last two decades.”

Lazonick notes that Big Pharma claims it needs high profits to keep inventing new drugs, but the industry spends more of its profits buying back its own stock than increasing investment in R&D on new drugs. Executives running drug companies are incentivized to make profits any way they can because they are rewarded by high stock prices. Lazonick explains that they stoke those stock prices by gouging patients or lying about the safety of products—whatever it takes.

He observes that for the past several decades America has undergone a devastating experiment based on the philosophy of economist Milton Friedman, who claimed that the only social responsibility of a company is to make a profit. Untimely deaths from tobacco-related illnesses, auto safety failures, and now, harmful opioid drugs, prove that the experiment is a tragic failure.

Lazonick sees the need for nothing less than a new structure of corporate governance that ensures the ethical responsibly of drug makers to do what they are supposed to do: create high-quality, low-cost products that are safe. The current structure, based on the misguided idea that companies should be run for the sole purpose of enriching shareholders, is particularly perverse when it comes to products that are potentially fatal. The problem with this model is that when shareholders are the only people who matter, the rest of us suffer.

Since taxpayers support pharmaceutical companies by funding public research and many other things they require to do business, Lazonick says it is only fair and logical that someone representing the public sits on their boards. Berger adds that companies should be required to make drugs widely available at affordable prices in return for their use of publicly funded basic research at no cost whatsoever.

America, for the time being, stands out among nations in letting pharmaceutical companies run amok to inflate drug prices, advertise and market drugs without proper regulation, and use taxpayer resources while exposing them to egregious harm. “The only thing America’s drug companies are competitive about,” says Lazonick, “is getting people addicted.”

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Sidestepping the Serious Dangers of Polypharmacy

polypharmacy

I’m posting an article that I read from the Whitaker Wellness Blog because it has to do with polypharmacy – a preventable problem that could lead to much suffering, unnecessary medications and treatments, and an early death.  Please read Dr Whitaker’s important observations and how  he treated one of his patients.

Allison is a classic case of the dangers of polypharmacy. She came to Whitaker Wellness because her knee pain, urinary incontinence, heartburn, constipation, weight gain, insomnia, weakness in her legs, fatigue, and forgetfulness were getting worse, and all her doctors in Phoenix did was prescribe more and more drugs.

We ordered blood tests, did a physical exam, reviewed her medical records, and determined that she was quite healthy for a 75 year old. Her most significant problem, which was causing most of her symptoms, was not a disease but her medication load. Allison was taking eight prescription and four over-the-counter drugs daily, plus five more meds on an as-needed basis. Allison was a true victim of polypharmacy: “multiple, excessive, unnecessary, or unindicated drug consumption.”

Polypharmacy = Inappropriate, Excessive Medications 

Polypharmacy is a serious and increasingly common problem that makes patients sitting ducks for adverse side effects and dangerous drug interactions, raises risk of hospitalization and death, and drives up healthcare costs.

People of all ages get stuck on the drug merry-go-round, but polypharmacy is especially common in older people, who are likely to have numerous medical issues, see several physicians, and receive multiple prescriptions. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for patients to arrive at Whitaker Wellness on 10 or more medications! A recent study revealed that 36 percent of Americans ages 62-85 are on five or more prescription drugs—many of them inappropriate for their age group—and 15 percent take drug combos that place them at risk of major drug-drug interactions.

Allison is a case in point. One of her meds was Ambien, a “hyponotic sedative” sleeping pill. Because Ambien’s side effects include next-day drowsiness, impaired alertness and cognitive function, and increased risk of falls and accidents, it is listed on the American Geriatrics Society’s list of potentially inappropriate medications for seniors. Yet it accounts for 21 percent of ER visits for adverse psychiatric drug reactions in people over age 65.

She also occasionally took Sominex to help her sleep. Diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Sominex, Benadryl, and dozens of other over-the-counter antihistamines and sleep aids, belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics that are also inappropriate for older people. Side effects include constipation, sleepiness, confusion, and increased risk of dementia with longtime use. No wonder Allison was tired and forgetful!

Polypharmacy Leads to Prescribing Cascades

Another danger of polypharmacy is that is also increases the likelihood of prescribing cascades, which result when adverse drug side effects are mistaken for new medical problems and more drugs are prescribed for these additional “conditions.” Again, Allison fits the bill.

For her knee pain, she was taking a prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). NSAIDs are notorious for their gastrointestinal (GI) toxicity, especially in older people. Sure enough, Allison ended up with serious heartburn, so her doctor had her take Prilosec, a proton pump inhibitor that protects the GI tract but increases risk of bone loss and C. difficile infection.

She had also been prescribed Aricept, a drug that may help slow memory loss but has numerous side effects, including urinary incontinence. Not surprisingly, her incontinence worsened, so she was started on Enablex, another anticholinergic drug that is associated with constipation and cognitive impairment.

In other words, this patient was prescribed drugs to treat drug-induced problems  (heartburn and urinary incontinence) that worsened her original problems (incontinence and forgetfulness)!

“Deprescribing” to Cure Polypharmacy 

The first thing I did for Allison was get busy “deprescribing”—tapering or stopping her unnecessary drugs. I discontinued her sleeping pills, diagnosed her with sleep apnea, and ordered APAP (automatic positive airway pressure) to keep her airways open during sleep.

We treated her arthritic knees with platelet-rich plasma and laser therapy and started her on glucosamine, fish oil, and curcumin to help rebuild cartilage and relieve inflammation. She went through our Back to Health Program, cleaned up her diet, and began exercising.

Guess what? Now that she was getting deep, restful sleep, she felt so much more energetic and clearheaded that she discontinued her “memory pills.” Over the next month, her urinary incontinence and constipation improved and she stopped the meds she had been taking for those conditions as well. As her knee pain improved and she weaned herself off NSAIDs, her heartburn cleared up and she discontinued Prilosec.

We also stopped the statin drug Allison had been prescribed, even though her total cholesterol had never been above 186 and she had no history of heart problems. (Current guidelines recommend statins for 77 percent people over age 60, even though these drugs are linked with memory loss, muscle pain, risk of diabetes, and more.) Finally, we changed her Synthroid to natural thyroid. Her leg pain improved, and she began losing weight.

Bottom line, we cured Allison’s primary problem—polypharmacy—by discontinuing the bulk of her medications. As a result, most of her symptoms subsided and her quality of life dramatically improved.

Polypharmacy: Serious Problem, Simple Solution 

Medication side effects are far more common than you might suspect, and as bad as Allison’s were, they can be much more serious. Adverse reactions to properly prescribed drugs result in 1.9 million hospitalizations every year, and another 840,000 patients experience life-threatening adverse medication events while in the hospital. All told, prescription drugs are responsible for 128,000 deaths per year, making this America’s fourth leading cause of death.

Polypharmacy obviously plays a central role in this colossal failure of conventional medicine. But there is a solution.

We need to start thinking beyond medications. As Allison’s story demonstrates, there are many helpful, even curative non-drug interventions. Other examples include EECP, which dramatically reduces angina and medication requirements in patients with heart disease. Weight loss and lifestyle changes lower blood sugar and allow patients to get off insulin and oral diabetes drugs. PRP, prolotherapy, laser, acupuncture, and other pain-relieving treatments reduce or eliminate reliance on painkillers. And targeted nutritional supplements can replace a whole slew of medications.

Patients need to step up and take charge of their health—even if means second guessing doctors’ recommendations. As Allison said, “One thing I learned at Whitaker Wellness was that I am in charge. I used to be afraid to question my doctors’ orders because I assumed they knew what they were doing. Now I know that isn’t always true. My healthcare is my responsibility and mine alone.”

Sidestepping the Dangers of Polypharmacy

Here’s a cheat sheet that can help you avoid the dangers of polypharmacy.

  • Keep a current list of all your medications, doses, potential side effects, and reasons for taking them and review it periodically with your primary care physician.
  • Question the necessity and safety of any new drug order and ask about non-drug alternatives. Assume any symptoms that begin after adding a new drug are side effects of those meds and discuss with your doctor.
  • If you need help getting a handle on polypharmacy, consider coming to Whitaker Wellness. Call 866-944-8253 or fill out this form to be contacted by one of our friendly and knowledgeable Patient Services Representatives.



    Article Source: Click to Dr Whitaker