January 11, 2012
By Michael Gormley
Following fatal shootings in two New York pharmacy robberies, a U.S. senator is warning that a new batch of “super painkillers” now under review could force repeats of recent violent robberies that left six people dead.
“It’s tremendously concerning that at the same time policymakers and law enforcement professionals are waging a war on the growing prescription drug crisis, new super-drugs could well be on their way, flooding the market,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. “The FDA needs to grab the reins and slow down the stampede to introduce these powerful narcotics.”
A message seeking comment from the Food and Drug Administration was not immediately returned Friday.
The Associated Press reported last month about addiction experts’ fears over four drugs being tested that contain a more powerful version of one of the nation’s most abused painkillers – hydrocodone.
Schumer is particularly concerned about legalizing the drugs for prescriptions because they would be prized commodities in the black market.
Experts say painkiller addiction has been driven partly by a loophole in the 1970 Controlled Substances Act that classified pure hydrocodone – a super painkiller – as a strictly controlled Schedule II drug. But the law put combination products, such as pills containing hydrocodone and acetaminophen, into the less strict Schedule III.
Because of the loophole, patients can refill a prescription for a hydrocodone-acetaminophen drug like Vicodin up to five times. A prescription for a similar oxycodone product, such as Percocet, can be filled only once. Critics say the loophole has flooded American medicine cabinets with hydrocodone.
December 27, 2011
By Associated Press
“Whoo Hoo! Drug companies are hoping to invent new (even stronger) painkillers we can all become addicted to. Time to party!” –KTRN
Drug companies are working to develop a pure, more powerful version of a highly abused medicine, which has addiction experts worried that it could spur a new wave of abuse.
The new pills contain the highly addictive painkiller hydrocodone, packing up to 10 times the amount of the drug as existing medications such as Vicodin. Four companies have begun patient testing, and one of them — Zogenix of San Diego — plans to apply early next year to begin marketing its product, Zohydro.
If approved, it would mark the first time patients could legally buy pure hydrocodone. Existing products combine the drug with nonaddictive painkillers such as acetaminophen.
Critics say they are especially worried about Zohydro, a timed-release drug meant for managing moderate to severe pain, because abusers could crush it to release an intense, immediate high.
“I have a big concern that this could be the next OxyContin,” said April Rovero, president of the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse. “We just don’t need this on the market.”
OxyContin, introduced in 1995 by Purdue Pharma of Stamford, Connecticut, was designed to manage pain with a formula that dribbled one dose of oxycodone over many hours.
Abusers quickly discovered they could defeat the timed-release feature by crushing the pills. Purdue Pharma changed the formula to make OxyContin more tamper-resistant, but addicts have moved onto generic oxycodone and other drugs that do not have a timed-release feature.
July 19th, 2011
By: J.D. Heyes
No parent wants to lose a child, but when one dies from something that should be very preventable, the heartbreak and tragedy is compounded. Such is increasingly the case with prescription drugs – they’re killing our youth.
Sarah Shay and Savannah Kissick, of Morehead, Ky., best friends since high school, were both victims of what experts and the White House are describing as an epidemic of prescription drug deaths. Sarah died in 2006 at the tender age of 19; Savannah just three years later, at 22.
Since the medications they were using were prescribed by physicians, some experts believe they carry some sort of legitimacy. But the fact is they are being abused by young people just the same as drugs that are illegal – more so even, in some cases.
“I don’t think the kids have any idea how addicting the substance is,” Karen Shays told the BBC in an interview. “Before they know it, bam! They’re addicted.”
Drugs like Xanax, Oxycodone, Klonopin and Hydrocodone are routinely being abused more and more in Kentucky in particular, but in other parts of the nation too, by teenagers and young adults. So bad is the problem that the state has set up rehabilitation centers, where a huge number of addicts – more all the time – are being treated.
So bad is the addition that some kids have even turned to crime to feed it.
Some of the kids say they could have likely found other drugs to feed their habit, but prescription drugs were not only legal but much easier to get.
All in all, it’s sort of like Armageddon, but with prescription drugs – a sort of “Pharmageddon,” if you will, as evidenced by Kentucky’s overflowing jails, say state officials.
“I believe I can safely say that over 80 percent of the inmates in the Pike County regional detention center are in there for something dealing with their addiction to prescription drugs,” Dan Smoot, director of law enforcement with an organization called Unite – a new and innovative counterdrug that combines police investigations, treatment and education.
According to the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy, in a recent report, the problem stretches beyond the borders of Kentucky – and it’s getting worse.
“A number of national studies and published reports indicate that the intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, to get high is a growing concern — particularly among teens — in the United States. In fact, among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs have become the second most abused illegal drug, behind marijuana,” said the study, called, “Teens and Prescription Drugs.”
“Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide and the percentage of teens abusing prescription drugs is still relatively low compared to marijuana use, there are troubling signs that teens view abusing prescription drugs as safer than illegal drugs and parents are unaware of the problem,” it said.
In particular, the study found:
- Teens are turning more and more away from illegal street drugs and instead are taking (and abusing) more prescription medications – so much so that new users of prescription drugs have caught up with new users of marijuana;
- Next to marijuana, the next most common thing kids use to get high are prescription drugs;
- Teens abuse prescription medications because they mistakenly believe that, since they are prescribed, they provide safe highs;
- Most teens get prescription drugs easily and free, usually from friends or relatives;
- The most commonly abused drugs by kids are OxyContin and Vicodin; and
- Adolescents are more likely to get hooked on prescription medication than are young adults.
The study found that teens most likely to abuse prescription medications live in the west and southeast. The most common abuse occurs in the following states: Arkansas (10.3 percent); Kentucky (9.8 percent); Montana (9.6 percent); Oregon (9.3 percent); Oklahoma (9.1 percent); Tennessee (8.9 percent); and West Virginia (8.9 percent).
“There’s a reason that prescription drugs are intended to be taken under the direction of a doctor: if used improperly they can be dangerous,” said a recent National Institute of Drug Abuse summary.
Abuse of prescription painkillers in general is not new. In fact, such abuse has risen 400 percent between 1998 and 2008.
But now it seems, our kids have made a startling discovery – that using prescription meds to get high – is too easy and too accessible. And it’s costing more of them their lives.
March 7th, 2011
By: David Gutierrez
Companies across the United States have started including some prescription drugs in random employee drug tests, and firing workers who test positive.
For example, Sue Bates lost her job of 22 years as an assembly line worker at Dura Automotive Systems after she tested positive for hyrdrocodone, a drug she had been legally prescribed.
Dura and other employers claim that many medications may hamper a worker’s job performance and even affect job safety. Yet many workers’ advocates object to such summary punishment for taking legal medication.
“I don’t think it should end the way it did,” Bates said. “You tell somebody you lost your job because you’re on prescription medication and they’re like, ‘Yeah, right.’ ”
Indeed, many of the workers fired for taking pain medications had been prescribed those drugs after they were injured on the job. Some of those workers allege that their employers used the drug tests as a pretext to fire them and thereby avoid paying their insurance premiums.
Data from workplace drug testing company Quest Diagnostics shows that employees are 400 percent more likely to test positive for opiates (which includes many popular prescription painkillers) after suffering an injury than employees undergoing tests at the time of hiring.
Yet no one denies that legitimate medication may adversely affect employee performance, or that many people do in fact abuse narcotic painkillers and other prescription drugs. Quoting Dr. Julian Whitaker in their book Side Effects, Kenneth W Thomas, Ron Gilbert and Gerd Schaller write, “There is currently a nationwide epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this country. In a report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, it was revealed that this type of drug abuse had nearly doubled from 7.8 million to 15.1 million from the years 1992 to 2003.”
“This may be the point guard for an important societal issue,” said Robert Cochran Jr., a pain doctor treating three fired Dura employees who are now suing the company.
“How do we address these drugs as a society?”
April 6, 2010
By: Dr. Mercola
Even parents who keep medicines out of their children’s reach are at risk of an emergency.
The Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America notes that in 50 percent of all childhood accidental poisonings, the medication bottle was only “out” for a short amount of time as it was being used.
Here are some of the more common medicines that can lead to emergencies when accidentally ingested by kids:
- Heart Pills – In children, they can cause dangerously low blood pressure and heart rate, and even lead to shock.
- Muscle Rubs – Camphor is especially dangerous because ingesting it works so quickly; symptoms occur within 10-20 minutes, and often children can go into seizures without any warning.
- Prescription Pain Medications – For an infant, even half a tablet of hydrocodone can be lethal.
- Aspirin and Oil of Wintergreen – Oil of wintergreen is particularly hazardous because its pleasant smell tempts toddlers to ingest it, but one teaspoon of oil of wintergreen is the equivalent of nearly 90 baby aspirins — a life-threatening dose for a toddler or child.
- Antidepressants – After pain medications, antidepressants are the second highest cause of accidental death from poisoning in children younger than 6.
- Blood Pressure Patches, Eye Drops, and Nasal Sprays – These medications, designed to be absorbed over time through your skin, can lead to serious consequences when ingested by a toddler. As little as 6 ml can lead to a coma.
- Diabetes Drugs – As these medications are more commonly prescribed, the incidence of pediatric poisonings has also increased, with over 2,500 occurrences in the United States in 2001.
February 9, 2010
The Columbus Dispatch
By Holly Zachariah
Ohio pharmacists filled 2.7 million prescriptions in 2008 for high-powered painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, narcotics that contain oxycodone; that’s nearly one for every four people in the state.
They also filled 4.8 million prescriptions for hydrocodone medications such as Vicodin, one for every 2 1/2 people in the state.
And county sheriffs say their jails are full of people who illegally sold or abused those drugs, underscoring what’s quickly regaining attention as a national epidemic.
Just last week, the Adams County sheriff rented vans and shipped his prisoners to community centers throughout his southern Ohio county so he would have room in his jail for 28 people who were rounded up in a prescription-drug sting. The problem is statewide, but southern Ohio is particularly ravaged. It has landed Scioto County on a federal Drug Enforcement Administration watch list of the 10 most-significant places in the country for trafficking in the medications.
The drug abuse is bad in this Appalachian stretch of Ohio for a number of reasons, authorities say:
• Poverty: Scioto County’s unemployment rate hovers around 15 percent, and the drug trade can be lucrative.
• Location: Rt. 23 provides a pipeline to and from Columbus. In addition, the bordering states of Kentucky and West Virginia have significant amounts of prescription-drug abuse. Their proximity allows for doctor- and pharmacy-shopping across state lines, which is harder to detect.
• Apathy: The area has a track record of limited resources and uncooperative elected officials who have refused to help with drug investigations, said William Winsley, director of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.
All of those factors have created the perfect environment for illegitimate pain-management clinics — “pill mills” — where prescription drugs are easy to score. Authorities say that as many as eight such clinics could be operating in Scioto County alone, a county of about 74,000 people.
Law enforcers across the state say they don’t have enough money or legal authority to get at the root of the problem — rogue doctors who write the prescriptions and shady pharmacists who fill them.
The pharmacy board says it can’t go after the professionals without the cooperation of authorities willing to investigate, prosecutors willing to file charges and judges willing to take the expensive cases to trial.
The Ohio State Medical Association says there are only a handful of bad doctors running pill mills and it supports efforts to take them down. But the association doesn’t want new laws that would overburden everyone else.
December 23, 2009
Authorities said Monday it appeared actress Brittany Murphy died of natural causes after becoming ill with flulike symptoms in the days before she collapsed in the bathroom of her Hollywood Hills home.
Celebrity Web site TMZ is reporting there were “large amounts of prescription medications” on the nightstand when paramedics arrived at her Hollywood home, and that Murphy was “complaining of shortness of breath and severe abdominal pain” in the week before she died.
“She always denied any relationship to drugs,” US Weekly Entertainment Director Dena Sansing told CBS News. “She said she had never tried it. She said the strongest thing was Sudafed — it wasn’t her thing.”
But at least one leading pathologist tells “The Early Show” he’d bet a lethal combination of prescription drugs was involved.
“It’s possible, certainly” (that Murphy died of natural causes), Dr. Cyril Wecht told “Early Show” co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez Tuesday, “and usually, it will be some kind of a congenital heart condition. But in most of those cases, the patient will be aware that there is some heart problem.
“When you have a 32-year-old person dying suddenly, and especially a celebrity in Los Angeles, you can place your bet down that it’s going prove to be a case of acute combined drug toxicity. And I bet you that this young lady tragically died in the same way that Michael Jackson did, and Anna Nicole Smith, and her son, Daniel Smith, and Heath Ledger — a combination of drugs that had been prescribed for her, prescribed for her husband, for her mother, in some fictitious names, probably by doctors who are very, very quick to make available anything that celebrities want, sometimes using knowingly fictitious names.
“So, even though these drugs are, quote, legal, unquote, they are, many times, illegally obtained. And it’s a tragedy. And it’s being played out everywhere in America every day, and we only come to know about it when it involves celebrities.”
What leads Wecht to conclude drugs were involved here?
“I am aware of some of the drugs that were found. One of them was a drug that was involved with Michael Jackson, Adivan. One of them was a drug that was involved with Anna Nicole Smith, Klonopin. Two of the drugs are pain relievers, Hydrocodone, which we frequently see in these cases, and Vicoprofen, a form of Vicodin. So, I guarantee you that, if the pathologists at the Los Angeles coroner’s office had found something dramatic, like a heart attack, like a stroke, or like something of a definitive nature, would you have heard about it. The fact that they say that they’re going wait for toxicology tests and it will take a couple of months, you can be sure that this is going to prove to be a case of acute combined drug toxicity. A tragedy.”
Officially, Assistant Chief Los Angles County Coroner Ed Winter said to reporters that an autopsy had been conducted and officials were awaiting the results of toxicology and tissue testing before determining an official cause of death. It could take up to six weeks before a determination is made public.
Officials also interviewed Murphy’s personal physician and examined prescription drugs taken from her home. None of the medications was illegal, reports said.