Doctors Seeing Increased Scrutiny and Punishment for Reckless Opiate Prescribing

We always are paying attention to the critical juncture of the opiate epidemic that occurs when a patient is given a prescription to "legally" obtain the addictive and potentially deadly drugs. Increasingly, physicians assistants are getting ensnared in the corrupt prescribing of narcotic drugs, and this is somewhat expected considering their access to granting the drugs combined with the incredible sums that illicit prescribing can generate. The doctors themselves are the ones that we feel particular disdain for, because they have so much more training and have taken the hippocratic oath not to harm their patiens. We’ve written about Lisa Tseng getting arrested right at her office located in a Rowland Heights strip mall in Los Angeles and felt that it was a significant "shot fired" against one of the most guilty perpetrators of the opiate addiction and overdose crisis: the greedy MDs who prescribe addicted men and women unbelievable quantities of opiate drugs. Just a few days ago, in the middle class Long Island neighborhood of Baldwin, Dr. Anand Persaud…

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Massachusetts Bill Takes Aim At Opiate Abuse Prevention In Teens

The Massachusetts State Senate passed a bill last week aimed at combating opiate-related substance abuse problems before they even begin, especially for at-risk teens. "The Senate unanimously passed the second bill to address the opioid epidemic," state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, told The Daily News of Newburyport. "The prior bill focused on expanding treatment options and went into effect this week. This bill is focused on prevention and intervention in an effort to curb the serious health crisis." According to recent statistics from the state, unintentional deaths from opiate overdoses have increased 90% in the state of Massachusetts within the past 12 years. In Massachusetts, like many states in the US, a growing heroin overdoes have been claiming lives in epidemic proportions. The bill takes aim at the origins of opiate addiction, which is increasingly a result of addiction o powerful prescription drugs such as oxycontin. Senate Bill 2020 focuses on alternatives to the powerful narcotic, and includes an emphasis on responsible pain management, expanded manufacturer drug take-back…

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Hillary Clinton “Very Concerned” About FDA’s Approval of Oxy For Kids

While at a substance abuse forum in Boston, Massachusetts last week, Hillary Clinton explained her $10 billion plan to provide resources for confronting drug and alcohol addiction in the United States, but she also had some harsh words for the Food and Drug Administration regarding a recent decision to approve the use of hardcore opioids such as oxycodone for children as young as eleven years of age.  "I am very concerned that the FDA has approved a form of opioids for children, and I find that absolutely incomprehensible," Clinton told an audience of addiction advocates at the event.  She said the root of the problem is apparent on its surface. “The heroin epidemic is a prescription drug created epidemic,” she told the audience, explaining that many patients become addicted to prescription pain relievers, only to switch to street drugs such as heroin after their prescription for the opiate-based Oxycontin runs out. Clinton says the federal government must do a better job of regulating opiate painkillers, and as president, she would…

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Is OxyContin Still King?

There are growing signs around the country that the abuse of OxyContin is diminishing. The drug is being bypassed during pharmacy robberies in favor of Opana, methadone and other narcotic drugs, and some hospital emergency rooms are reporting a decrease in OxyContin overdoses. According to Forbes, the Journal of Pain and other publications, the introduction of a new tamper-resistant form of OxyContin in 2010 seems to be responsible for a decrease in abuse of the drug. Drug addicts previously crushed OxyContin pills to circumvent the drugs time-release mechanism and experience the full impact of the drug in one rush. Instead of allowing drug abusers to crush the pill for snorting or injection, the new OxyContin turns into a gummy mush when tampered with. Unfortunately, the reformulation of OxyContin does not appear to be leading to an overall drop in drug abuse. In the past decade, OxyContin became so popular as a drug of abuse in rural communities that it was nicknamed "hillbilly heroin." This nickname has unfortunately proved to…

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Mayor Bloomberg Limits Painkiller Use in NY Hospitals

In response to a citywide and national epidemic of prescription drug abuse, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has instituted a policy in New York City that will restrict the use of prescription painkillers in the city's public hospitals. The policy, which will affect the distribution of prescription drugs from hospital emergency rooms, could set a model for hospitals across the nation. Under Bloomberg's new policy, emergency room patients will only be given three days worth of narcotic drugs like Percocet and Vicodin. Oxycontin, which has been shown to be one of the most addictive painkillers, will not be distributed at all from 11 public emergency rooms. This is also true of methadone and Fentanyl patches. Emergency rooms also will not fill painkiller prescriptions that are reported to have been stolen, lost or destroyed. One of the goals of the new policy is to reduce the amount of drugs that end up in medicine cabinets and diverted for sale on the street. When he announced the new policy, Mayor Bloomberg said that…

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Older Americans and Prescription Drug Abuse

New research is sounding the alarm about prescription painkiller abuse among older Americans. The research, which was presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP), reports that roughly 20% of Americans over age 65 take analgesic medication for chronic pain several times per week. Among that group, the rate of prescription drug abuse or addiction is 18%. There are currently 38 million adults over age 65 represent in the U.S, representing 13% of the total population. One third of all prescriptions are written for this group. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), 2.8 million seniors abuse prescription drugs. By 2020, seniors will represent 20% of the population and SAMHSA estimates that 4.4 million will abuse drugs. Many experts believe that aging Baby Boomers are more likely than their parents to turn to drugs for pain relief. Members of the World War II generation showed a tendency to be stoic about pain and to be careful about their use of drugs.…

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Chinese Surgeons Treat Opiate Addiction by Removing Brain’s Pleasure Center

Doctors in China are experimenting with an extreme treatment for addiction. The experimental procedure consists of destroying portions of the brain's pleasure center in an attempt to stop cravings for opiate drugs like heroin. Possible side effects including permanently disabling an addict's ability to experience the entire range of human emotions, including the capacity to feel joy. Attempts to Ban Controversial Procedure The controversial procedure was banned by the Chinese Ministry of Health in 2004, due in part to pressure from Western media related to ethical concerns. There are also suspicions that researchers have not been truthful about results of the procedure and have exaggerated the benefits in order to be published in leading medical journals. The Ministry of Health's decision was also reported to be based on the lack of long term data about effects of the procedure. The ban on the procedure was not complete, however. Some physicians have been allowed to continue their research on the use of brain surgery to treat addiction. In 2007, the…

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Should Doctors Focus Less on Patient Satisfaction to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse?

Far too many health care providers are more concerned with patient satisfaction than they are with protecting patients from the risk of prescription drug abuse and addiction. This attitude is enforced by current teaching in pain management, which is largely based on a concern for providing relief for patients with chronic pain. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that roughly 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Healthcare providers have long struggled with the challenges involved with the long-term treatment of pain, including the need for escalating doses as patients become tolerant to medication and the risk of addiction. Doctors and Hospitals Worry about Negative Patient Feedback According to Sherry Green, CEO of the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws (NAMSDL), education for prescribers needs to focus less on patient satisfaction and more on improvements in patient functioning. Green also points out that with physician ratings available online, some doctors feel pressured to give patients the drugs they ask for rather than risk a negative rating. Hospitals…

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California Lawmaker Seeks More Oversight of Prescription Drug Deaths

A California state Senator has been working diligently to introduce a bill requiring coroners to report prescription drug deaths to the Medical Board of California. Senator Curren D. Price Jr., who is also Chairman of the Medical Board of California, hopes the new bill will help to identify medical professionals whose prescribing methods may contribute to prescription drug addiction and overdose. The proposed legislation is a response to  an LA Times investigation into coroner reports. The investigation revealed that numerous deaths caused by the overuse of prescription pain medication can be linked to a handful of physicians. The Times examined 3,733 prescription drug related deaths that took place between 2006 and 2011 in the counties of Orange, San Diego, Los Angeles and Ventura. It was revealed that 1,762 cases resulted from overdosing on medications that had been prescribed by doctors. A total of 71 doctors were found to have prescribed drugs to at least 3 patients who died from overdose and addiction. Five doctors had prescribed medications to 10…

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Ibudilast: New Medication for Prescription Drug Addiction

Addiction to prescription drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin has become a more serious problem in the U.S. than addiction to illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin. The CDC reports that the number of prescription drug overdose deaths in 2011 exceeded the number of deaths from illegal drug overdoses. The magnitude of this problem is putting  increasing pressure on drug makers to find a solution for prescription drug abuse. MediciNova, a San Diego drug manufacturer, is banking on a drug called Ibudilast to help ease recovery from prescription drug addiction. The National Institutes for Drug Abuse (NIDA) is funding clinical trials to determine if the drug can safely be used as a treatment for addiction to methamphetamine and opioid prescription drugs. MediciNova reports that Ibudilast reduces the cravings that can cause relapse during drug treatment. The company is recommending that the medication be used to fight drug dependence during withdrawal and for the initial 6 to 18 months of sobriety. Since lifestyle changes are required to successfully overcome drug addiction, it…

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