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Friday, May 30, 2014

Some Doctors Favor Zohydro ER

Despite nationwide protests from health experts and lawmakers, doctors have begun prescribing Zohydro ER (pure hydrocodone). About 1,000 doctors have prescribed Zohydro ER and some doctors say the drug has its benefits, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Zohydro ER was made available to doctors in March, after much debate about the need for such a drug while this country is in the grips of a prescription drug epidemic that seemingly has no end in sight. Even the FDA’s own panel of experts advised against approving Zohydro due to the drugs high risk potential for abuse. Nevertheless, the FDA approved the drug going against its panel and the fact that the Zohydro currently has no abuse resistant features and can easily be crushed for snorting or injecting.

Despite the negatives associated with Zohydro, some doctors say that the drug has benefits. Zohydro lacks acetaminophen, a non addictive pain killer that is mixed into other hydrocodone products such as Vicodin. Acetaminophen can do serious damage to the liver when consumed in large quantities or if used over an extended period of time. Patients with chronic round-the-clock pain often consume large quantities of Vicodin which puts their liver at risk.

Removing acetaminophen from the equation while still provided long-acting pain relief is perhaps the only perk to Zohydro ER. Certain doctors believe that Zohydro ER may be the best option for those suffering from chronic pain.

"One of the things that we know about long-acting opioids is that for some people and certain types of chronic pain, they can have a very effective role in helping people manage their pain and increase their function," says Yngvild Olsen, medical director of a substance-abuse treatment program at the Institutes for Behavior Resources in Baltimore.
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Friday, May 23, 2014

California Counties Take On Big Pharma

The time has come for prescription drug companies to account for their actions, at least that is how two California counties look at it after filing suit against five narcotic drug manufacturers, holding them responsible for the prescription drug epidemic plaguing America. Both Orange and Santa Clara counties filed the suit Wednesday alleging that the companies ran a “campaign of deception” with the sole purpose of increasing prescription narcotic sales, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Officials in both counties claim that the companies involved violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance. After years of increasing overdose deaths, emergency room visits and the ever growing medical costs associated with prescription drug abuse, the big drug companies are being taken to task.

While Orange and Santa Clara counties are not the only counties to see, first hand, the effects of prescription drug abuse, they are the first to step up saying no more. There is hardly anywhere in America who has not been touched by the prescription drug epidemic, and while profits soar for certain companies the death toll continues to rise.

Disregarding “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary,” pharmaceutical companies led doctors to believe the benefits of prescription narcotics were greater than the costs. The suit alleges that the companies in question ran a marketing campaign to encourage patients to ask their doctors for painkillers for even moderate pain concerns, which has led to an addiction crisis throughout the two counties which has caused many patients to turn to heroin.

The goal of the suit is “to stop the lies about what these drugs do,” said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

The companies named in the suit are:
  • Actavis
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Cephalon Inc.
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Friday, May 16, 2014

Extended Release Naltrexone Cuts Healthcare Costs

Americans are constantly on the lookout for new ways to cut healthcare costs. With the Affordable Care Act, in conjunction with Medicare expansion programs, many Americans who were once considered uninsurable are receiving the care they need. The fight for more affordable healthcare is far from over and a new report has shown that the extended-release drug Naltrexone (Vivitrol) used to treat alcohol and opioid dependence can lead to savings in healthcare costs.

Every year millions of dollars are spent as the result of people with alcohol and opioid dependence needing emergency healthcare (i.e. emergency rooms, detox, and residential treatment). Finding ways to reduce the number of visits to emergency rooms not only saves lives but also saves individuals from costly medical bills. Naltrexone is injected once a month and costs about $1,100 per injection. While the medication is without question expensive, researchers have found that patients who used the drug had generally lower overall costs.

Patients using Naltrexone were in treatment and detox for a shorter period of time than those who chose other forms of treatment, MedicalXpress reports. Patients using extended-release Naltrexone continued the treatment longer than those using the drug acamprosate or oral Naltrexone.

“Historically, oral medications for substance abuse have not often been prescribed or found to have a high degree of success, mostly because patients stopped taking them,” lead author Dan Hartung of Oregon State University/Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy, said in a news release. “But there are patients who are committed to treating their problems and data showed that they clearly appear to have success with extended-release Naltrexone, which is administered just once a month.”

More patients can now afford the expensive Naltrexone as the result of the Affordable Care Act, the article points out.

“There has always been some reluctance on the part of health care practitioners, as well as the patients they are treating, to use prescription medication to treat a substance abuse problem,” Hartung said. “Medication-assisted therapy is underutilized.”

The study was published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.
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Friday, May 9, 2014

Teen Depression and Substance Use Disorder

Depression affects the lives of millions of people in the United States and is often overlooked or not taken seriously. Sadly, serious depression left untreated is often the cause of suicides and/or substance use disorders. Depression paralyzes not only adults, but teenagers as well and a new report conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has shown that 10 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds had a major depressive episode in the past year.

The SAMHSA report found:
  • 3 percent of older teens had both a major depressive episode and a substance use disorder.
  • 6.4 percent had any mental illness and a substance use disorder.
  • 1.6 percent had a serious mental illness and a substance use disorder.
Emotional and behavioral health problems fuel the fire of discourse in everyday life, making it difficult to function at school or work. The report found that almost 8 percent of older teens suffering from depression that have a substance use disorder lack a stable home, moving on an average of three or more times in the past year. 13.5 percent of older teens with depression and a substance use disorder have a “D” grade point average.

Teens with serious mental illness coupled with a substance use disorder are less likely to graduate, and are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed. However, those who receive treatment for mental illness are more likely to graduate high school than those who do not.

“This new report demonstrates the critical need for treatment and other services that focus on older adolescents and young adults with mental and substance use disorders,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a news release.

Almost 20 percent of young adults, ages 18 to 25, had any mental illness in the past year, and four percent of young adults had a serious mental illness.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Silk Road 2.0 Open for Business

It did not take long for the online illegal drug marketplace, the “Silk Road,” to get back on its feet. Just six months after the FBI shut it down they're back with Silk Road 2.0 and sales resumed, CNET reports. Reports indicate that the marketplace has come back with a vengeance and is more secure. As of April 2, 2014, there were 13,648 drug listings, before the arrests last year there were 13,000 listings, according to a report by the Digital Citizens Alliance.

"What we see on Silk Road today is more drugs, increasing vendors, and an even greater commitment by this community to keeping their 'movement' alive," Digital Citizens' Senior Fellow Garth Bruen said in a press release.

People who use the Silk Road shield their identity by using encryption software called "Tor" that hides the user's IP address. Since 2011, the Silk Road was responsible for $30 million in sales annually, all for illegal items like drugs and phony documents. The only currency exchanged is “Bitcoins,” a digital currency that can be purchased on online currency exchanges.

There is no indication of how long the Silk Road 2.0 will survive, but it is clear that whenever there is a high demand for anything, someone will find a way to make it available - no matter the legality.

Parents should be wary of any suspicious software on their teenagers' computers, especially if it is called “Tor.”
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