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Friday, June 27, 2014

Prescription Opioid Addiction Fuels Heroin Epidemic

English: Pre-war Bayer heroin bottle, original...
As states crack down on prescription drug abuse the demand for heroin has gone up exponentially. The heroin crisis in New York is not an isolated problem; health officials and law enforcement in Massachusetts are seeing that drug abuse is not an inner-city problem as overdose rates in Boston suburbs skyrocket, according to CBS News.

Gov. Deval Patrick has labeled the problem an epidemic, “between 1999 and 2012 overdoses from prescription opiates quadrupled,” Patrick said.

While prescription opioid addiction can start with legitimate use and quickly lead to a serious problem, “They say about 23 percent of people that use an opiate will go on to have an opiate addiction,” State Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett said. Prescription drug abuse is a slippery slope that can lead to heroin and other illicit drug use.

“This is striking at the heart of suburbs and it’s tearing families apart and it's destroying young people’s lives,” says Ashland, Mass. Police Chief Craig Davis.

“They may first start along the road of addiction to a legitimate prescription that they may have got from a knee injury, a sports injury, stemming from a sports injury but in very short time they find themselves addicted to these powerful painkillers,” Davis explained. “And now with the opiates being harder and harder to find, heroin has sort of filled that void because heroin is so cheap and plentiful.”

The 2014 World Drug Report indicates that opium production continues to rise and with that the availability of heroin. The drug is being smuggled to New York City like never before and is trafficked across the North East where the demand is unprecedented.

Friday, June 20, 2014

FDA Warning About Suicidal Thoughts Leads To More Suicides

English: Logo of the .
Depression is one of the hardest forms of mental illness to treat despite the slew of medications available. While the medications available today may work great for some people, for others they can be potentially dangerous and even lead to patients taking their own life.

A number of health officials issued a warning that antidepressants could lead to an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among young people and, as a result, many doctors stopped prescribing to that age group. However, a new study has found that doctors avoiding prescribing antidepressants actually increased the rate of youth suicide attempts, according to Reuters.

The findings indicate that many young people suffering from depression were left untreated due to the warnings issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the report in BMJ.

“This study is a one of the first to directly measure a health outcome driven by the interaction of public policy and mass media,” lead author Christine Lu of Harvard Medical School said in a news release. “The FDA, the media and physicians need to find better ways to work together to ensure that patients get the medication that they need, while still being protected from potential risks.”

Researchers reviewed data from healthcare organizations that treat 10 million people. The data showed that after the FDA issued the warning, use of antidepressants fell 31 percent among teens, 24 percent among young adults and 15 percent among adults. There was a 22 percent increase in the number of teens and young adults who overdosed on psychiatric medications over the same time period.

Friday, June 13, 2014

New York Gov. Announces Heroin Plan

The citizens of New York are no strangers to the illegal drug crisis, but the heroin epidemic that has swept across the city has many officials concerned. This week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in a speech that a hundred State Police investigators are being added to drug units around the state in order to help curb the rise in heroin abuse, according to the New York Times. “I’ll be the first to say to you: New York State has a problem with heroin addiction, and it is a growing problem,” said Cuomo in his speech.

Many remember the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s that brought New York to its knees. However, many do not remember that New Yorkers dealt with a heroin epidemic in the 1970’s, but this new crisis towers over the old. “In the ’70s we had a heroin epidemic. This is worse than what we went through before,” Cuomo said.

The prescription drug epidemic has left many Americans dependent on opioid narcotics. The federal government's attempts to stop the prescription drug problem has made it more difficult to acquire prescription opioids and much more expensive. The crackdown on prescription drug abuse has caused thousands of addicts to turn to heroin as a much stronger and cheaper alternative.

As a result, New York City has become the largest hub for heroin distribution on the East Coast. Most of the heroin originates from traffickers in New York City and spreads north through the state, said Joseph D’Amico, the superintendent of the State Police. The drug has found a home in New York suburbs and the problem cannot be ignored.

“When it gets into our suburbs, into our rural areas, into our high schools, into our colleges, it is so much more obvious because it wasn’t there before,” said D’Amico. “But it’s not just a suburban problem. It’s everywhere.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Chicago Takes On Big Pharma

Just weeks after two California counties filed suit against big pharma, the city of Chicago has followed their example. The city filed a lawsuit against five prescription narcotics companies, claiming that the companies, through deceptive promoting, contributed to the country’s prescription drug epidemic, according to Reuters.

The drug makers have been accused of violating Chicago municipal laws against consumer fraud through misleading advertising and submitting false claims to the health insurance plan for city employees. The pharmaceutical companies downplayed the risks of addiction and exaggerated the benefits of opioid painkillers. The city hopes to be awarded the drug companies’ profits from the alleged illegal marketing as well as civil penalties and punitive damages.

“For years, big pharma has deceived the public about the true risks and benefits of highly potent and highly addictive painkillers in order to expand their customer base and increase their bottom line,” said Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday.

The CDC reports that the sales of opioid painkillers quadrupled between 1999 and 2010, leading to 16,651 overdose deaths in 2010 alone. The city of Chicago makes clear that they are not attempting to ban prescription opioids, but rather stop deceptive marketing campaigns which would allow physicians and patients to have all the facts

The companies under fire are:
  • Purdue Pharma
  • Cephalon Inc.
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc
  • Endo Health Solutions Inc.
  • Actavis
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