FDA Studies On Opioid Education Were Flawed

Studies on doctor education in the opioid epidemic were flawed, and hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. And although the FDA has lobbied heavy criticism and the pharmaceutical industry has paid fines, they are not without blame. They took years to investigate the makers and distributors of Oxycontin. Instead of protecting consumers, the federal agency instead left its own bumbling paper trail for opioid education oversight, according to a New York Times report. The FDA, documents reveal, did little to stop overprescribing and, in fact, created a study that failed to be accurate by design, according to Caleb Alexander, the senior author of the study. “It’s unclear why the FDA didn’t insist upon a more scientifically rigorous evaluation of this safety program.” This means that it's unclear if any studies were correct. What Studies Were Done on the Safety Programs? In 2007, Congress gave the FDA authority to require drug manufacturers to train physicians to safely prescribe certain dangerous drugs, such as opioids and other addictive painkillers. The bill…

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Death Certificate Project Charges 9 CA Doctors With Opioid Overprescribing

In California, nine doctors have been charged with overprescribing opioids along with other violations after a years-long investigation into their prescribing habits by a controversial state project. Dubbed the “Death Certificate Project,” the state scans death certificates to find people whose death was caused by prescription drugs such as opioids or benzos. The state then finds out what doctors prescribed a controlled substance to that patient within three years of death. (The doctors may not have been the current provider of prescriptions at the time of death, however.) After implementing the highly controversial “Death Certificate Project,” California officials have charged nine doctors with overprescribing opioids. The state's prescription drug database, CURES (California Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System), flagged the doctors for investigation alongside hundreds of their peers who were presumably cleared from trouble. In the complaints, the Project’s complaints cite "gross negligence," "furnishing dangerous drugs without examination," "unprofessional conduct," and "inadequate record keeping." Several of the doctors under investigation didn’t use the state's prescription database, CURES. While…

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Maryland Doctor Charged with Forging Oxycodone Prescriptions

A doctor in Montgomery County, Maryland is charged with writing hundreds of prescriptions for oxycodone (the generic version of Oxycontin) for a patient that doesn’t exist. The total amount of pills he prescribed totaled 11,000. Doctor Brandt E. Rice, 50, took the prescriptions to the pharmacy himself. The orders were for a patient Named Aaron Rice, who the police relentlessly attempted to find to no avail. Police say that last December, Doctor Rice, 50, went to a Rite-Aid store with his driver’s license, DEA card and a prescription for Oxycodone in Rice’s name. He also handed the pharmacist with a prepared letter explaining his patient was homebound and suffering from prostate cancer, and the patient has been battling cancer for a decade. The pharmacist at the Rite-Aid grew suspicious of Dr. Rice's claims and told the doctor she needed to verify a few things before completing the order. After an investigation, she contacted Montgomery County Police, resulting in a months-long investigation into Dr. Rice and his prescription writing habits.…

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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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Doctors Call for an End to Long-Term Prescriptions for Opioid Painkillers

In response to the growing problem of prescription painkiller abuse in the U.S., three California doctors are calling on their colleagues to rethink the use of narcotic prescription drugs as medication for patients who experience chronic pain.  In the U.S., opioid painkillers including OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin are now prescribed more than any other drugs.  According to the doctors, up to 20% of patient visits to physicians result in a prescription for one of these opioid drugs. Dr. Deborah Grady, Dr. Seth Berkowitz and Dr. Mitchell Katz have published their plea as an editorial in the Archives of Internal Medicine.  The doctors state that 20-40% of adults report non-cancer chronic pain and that opioids have become the most common form of treatment even though few studies are available that examine the use of these drugs for the long-term treatment of pain.  In fact, a large body of statistical evidence shows the harm these drugs can do.  According to Dr. Katz, the use of prescription opioid painkillers results in more…

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Increase in Doctors Facing Criminal Prosecution Related to Drug Abuse

Dr. Conrad Murray is currently facing trial for involuntary manslaughter for administering a powerful anesthetic that led to the death of Michael Jackson.  Murray is part of a growing trend of doctors who are criminally prosecuted for medical malpractice.  According to Reuters news service, fewer than 40 doctors faced criminal charges for malpractice between 1809 and 2000.  Since 2001, there have been at least 37 cases – almost as many as in the previous 200 years. The majority of the cases since 2001 involved doctors who have overprescribed prescription painkillers and other controlled substances.  Many doctors have been charged under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, which allows prosecution of physicians who knowingly prescribe medication outside the usual course of professional practice or for non-medical purposes. Prior to the case of Dr. Murray, the most famous prosecution of a doctor involved the death of model and reality TV star Anna Nicole Smith.  Dr. Sandeep Kapoor, Smith's doctor, was charged with supplying the celebrity with dangerous prescription drugs that eventually…

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