Medicine

Big Pharma’s Neutering of the DEA Highlights Corruption of US Capitalist and Political System

by m2c4 – The pharmaceutical industry apparently just won’t stop in its efforts to expand the opioid crisis in order to line its own pockets with profits. A report from the Washington Post shows how, even at the height of the opioid epidemic in 2014, the industry basically bribed 23 members of Congress with over $1.5 million in campaign donations and spent over $100 million lobbying Congress in order to keep the DEA from interfering in its suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of opioid pills which netted pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars. A law, eventually passed in 2016 but effectively enforced by DEA lawyers starting in 2014, changed the level evidence that the DEA needed to intercept suspiciously large shipments of opioids to highly suspect pharmacies and doctors. The legal wording changed the existing law from requiring the DEA from merely determining “imminent danger” based on the “preponderance of evidence” to a...

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Delaware AG Pushes for Recovery High Schools to Help Fight Opioid Epidemic

by Teresa Wiltz – In the wake of a new federal report that found Delaware has the fastest-growing rate of drug overdose rates in the country, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is calling for the development of a recovery high school in the state. Meanwhile, a report commissioned by the state Department of Justice found that Delaware was treating just over half the people in need of treatment for opioid addiction. As the nation struggles with an opioid epidemic, a growing number of states are experimenting with recovery high schools, which enroll kids with drug addiction and alcoholism. In addition to academics, the schools provide treatment and support, and proponents say they reduce the chances of a relapse and help divert teens from the criminal justice system. Nationwide, an estimated 1.3 million 12- to 17-year-olds have a substance abuse disorder. People who are 12 to 19 years old account for nearly 12 percent of all admissions to publicly funded rehab...

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Big Pharma Can Be Beaten: This Union Proved It

by Fran Quigley, Truthout | Report – When Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval sat down at the Culinary Health Center in east Las Vegas on June 15 to sign the nation’s toughest-ever drug pricing law, Bonnie Sedich was thinking of her daughter Mary. Mary had Type 1 diabetes, and she had struggled to afford insulin as its cost rose by over 300 percent in recent years. Sedich thought about the still-unpaid bills for the credit cards that she and her husband maxed out trying to help Mary buy medicine. And she thought about Mary’s last grim months of life, partially paralyzed by a stroke and tortured by other diabetes complications, before dying in November at age 51. Bonnie Sedich’s grief was still raw when she talked to Nevada legislators earlier this year about the need to rein in the price of insulin, a 95-year-old drug likely manufactured at a cost of a few dollars...

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Opioid Use Now Tops Tobacco Use in the U.S.

by Julie Fidler – More opioid prescriptions in Tennessee than residents. A survey released by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that more people in the U.S. use opioid painkillers than tobacco, highlighting the tragic opioid crisis gripping the country. A federal review published in the spring showed that opioid prescriptions in the U.S. decreased for the 1st time in 2 decades, which suggests that doctors are finally starting to heed warnings about the drugs’ addictive properties. However, that decrease has not translated into fewer deaths. The SAMHSA report illustrates just how widespread the problem remains. The problem is especially severe in Tennessee, where there are more opioid prescriptions written than people actually living in the state. There are 1.18 opioid prescriptions per every resident of Tennessee. More people died from overdoses in the state in 2014 than from car crashes or shootings. Source: CDC Nationally, 37.8% of American adults...

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Disaster For Big Pharma As 50% Of People Report Quitting Pills For CBD

by Carey Wedler/ANTIMEDIA – According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. According to a recent survey conducted by cannabis market research firm the Brightfield Group and HelloMD, an online medical cannabis community, nearly half of CBD (cannabidiol) users give up prescription drugs and over the counter medications in favor of the non-psychoactive substance. The survey of over 2,400 respondents found forty-two percent of CBD users — whether they used marijuana-derived CBD or hemp-derived CBD — “have left their traditional medications behind altogether and now use cannabis instead.” The survey summarized that roughly “66% of CBD users indicated that CBD products are either ‘more effective’ or ‘much more effective’ in relieving their medical conditions than are over-the-counter (OTC) products.” Further, “pproximately 52% of this consumer group indicated that their CBD products are either ‘more effective’...

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Martin Shkreli Found Guilty on 3 of 8 Fraud Charges

by mconvente – Hot off the presses.  Martin Shkreli, the infamous “Pharma Bro” who raised the price of the generic medicine Daraprim, which his company owned the rights to, from $13.50/pill to $750/pill overnight, has been found guilty by a jury of his peers on three of eight securities fraud charges.  Shkreli faces up to 20 years in prison. From the New York Times: Martin Shkreli, accused of defrauding his hedge fund investors and a pharmaceutical company, was convicted on three of eight counts on Friday, after a five-week trial in the Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He faces as much as 20 years in prison. The conviction, even as a mixed verdict, was a shattering defeat for the divisive Mr. Shkreli, who said before the trial that he was “so innocent” that the judge, jury and prosecutors would apologize to him afterward. Mr. Shkreli was accused of securities and wire fraud related to two...

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Deregulation and Market Forces Can Lower Pharmaceutical Prices

by Marc Joffe – The pharmaceutical market is anything but free at present. In the rollout of their “Better Deal” program last week, Democrats identified high prescription drug prices as a major challenge facing America and proposed new regulations to rein them in. Their diagnosis is spot on, but their prescription is backwards. The way to roll back pharmaceutical prices is to deregulate and rely on market forces. But for that to happen, both Democrats and Republicans will have to resist the pharmaceutical lobby, which benefits from the status quo and is very generous with its donations. In 2015, spending on prescription drugs totaled $325 billion, or roughly $1,000 for every person in the U.S. according to federal data. Pharmaceutical spending rose by 9 percent from 2014 to 2015, far outstripping the growth of the GDP. Drugs in the U.S. often cost more than twice as much as they do in other developed countries. A 28-day supply of...

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Trump is About to Break a Major Campaign Promise

by Tara Culp-Ressler – He said he would lower drug prices. But he’s embracing Big Pharma’s wishlist instead. During his campaign for president, Donald Trump sounded a lot like Bernie Sanders on one policy issue: He promised to implement sweeping government reform to lower drug prices and called Big Pharma executives “disgusting” for profiting off life-saving medication. It was a campaign pledge that earned Trump some praise for his apparent populism. But it’s not one that Trump seems prepared to keep. According to reporting from Kaiser Health News and Politico, the Trump administration’s task force working on policy solutions for rising drug prices is now cozying up to pharmaceutical industry interests. Documents from the task force reviewed by the two outlets reveal the administration is backing away from ambitious reform, such as allowing the government to directly negotiate with Medicare over drug prices, in favor of focusing on policy priorities that mirror Big Pharma talking points. For instance, one of the “principles”...

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Tom Price Bought Drug Stocks. Then He Pushed Pharma’s Agenda in Australia.

by Robert Faturechi – Tom Price Bought Drug Stocks. Then He Pushed Pharma’s Agenda. In the spring before the 2016 presidential election, the Obama administration’s 12-nation trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, was still alive. Negotiators worked on details as Congress considered whether to ratify the pact. The Australian government was getting in the way of one change demanded by U.S. pharmaceutical companies. Makers of cutting-edge biological drugs wanted to have data from their clinical trials protected from competitors for 12 years, as they are under U.S. law — not the roughly five years permitted under the TPP. Australian officials insisted that an extension would deprive consumers of cheaper alternatives for too long. On April 5, 2016, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers arrived in Canberra, Australia’s capital, for meetings with government officials on a broad range of subjects. Among those on the routine congressional trip was Rep....

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Should We Treat Big Pharma as a Public Utility?

by Fran Quigley, Truthout | Op-Ed – Drug prices are skyrocketing in the US, and eye-watering Big Pharma profits are rising right along with them. With millions of Americans skipping medicine doses due to cost, widespread public frustration has spurred lawmakers to propose some good ideas for addressing the crisis. Lifting the ban on Medicare negotiating the price it pays for drugs and allowing prescription drugs to be imported from other countries would be helpful. So would the US government overriding patents and licensing generic manufacture of drugs that were discovered with taxpayer funding. Another popular idea, featured in pending Congressional legislation and more than a dozen state proposals, is forcing pharma corporations to open up their black box on drug pricing and research costs. At first glance, so-called transparency legislation, which is already the law in Vermont and has passed the Maryland legislature, can seem a bit tame. After all, what difference will it really make, as long as companies remain free to hike up their prices, with the limited...

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‘Kratom Is the Cure for the Opioid Epidemic.’ Q&A With Filmmaker Chris Bell (VIDEO)

by Justin Monticello – Yet the DEA wants to ban it. “I think kratom is the cure for the opioid epidemic,” says Chris Bell, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker behind 2008’s Bigger, Stronger, Faster and 2015’s Prescription Thugs. A plant native to Southeast Asia, kratom can relieve pain and provide a caffeine-like boost. Its most exciting application, however, is weaning addicts off heroin and prescription painkillers. Though the scientific literature is thin, users have been safely ingesting the plant for centuries. Despite kratom’s promise, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) claims that it poses an “imminent hazard to public safety” and tried to prohibit most clinical research on it. In August 2016, the DEA sought to ban the plant without public input by listing it as Schedule I drug alongside the likes of heroin, though it backed off after the community rose up in protest, apparently taking the agency by surprise. Chris Bell...

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This Court Ruling may have Been More Important than the Federal Halt to the Arkansas Executions

by Christian Dem in NC – By now, you know that a federal judge in Little Rock called a halt to Arkansas’ execution marathon. But that may not have been the most important ruling issued in this affair. A day earlier, a state court judge rapped the state Department of Correction hard for tricking a drug distributor into selling it one of the drugs it used in its lethal injection cocktail. Arkansas uses three drugs to carry out executions. Midazolam is intended to sedate the inmate, vecuronium bromide stops his breathing, and potassium chloride stops his heart. While most of the current furor over lethal injections centers around questions about whether midazolam will really knock someone out, Arkansas is under fire for how it obtained its supply of vecuronium bromide from McKesson. Vecuronium bromide is made by Pfizer. As I noted at Liberal America, that drug is one of several Pfizer now monitors all...

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The Opioid Overdose Epidemic Hypocrisy of Donald Trump

by Denise Oliver Velez –  As both a former drug researcher, and former user, I am not in denial about the rising number of overdose deaths in the U.S. To sit and watch the Orange Killer in the oval office hold a “listening session” using the families of overdose victims and tearful recovering addicts as a front for his public relations scam made me want to puke. His announcement at the end of March that he is launching “The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis,” flies in the face of his attempts to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in collusion with Republicans in the House and Senate—which would have dropped the addiction treatment mandate covering 1.3 million Americans. Mother Jones has been on his case like white on rice. In “Remember When Trump Said He Cared About the Opioid Crisis? Fast Forward to Now” they point...

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Drug Distributors Penalized For Turning Blind Eye In Opioid Epidemic

by Charles Ornstein – The middlemen between drug companies and pharmacies have been hit recently with fines for their role in not calling out suspicious transactions. “They’re like the quarterback. They distribute the ball,” a former DEA supervisor said. As the toll of the opioid epidemic grows, scores of doctors have lost their licenses and some have gone to prison. Pharmacies are being sued and shuttered. Pharmaceutical manufacturers are under investigation and face new rules from regulators. But penalties against companies that serve as middlemen between drug companies and pharmacies have been relatively scarce — until recently. In the past month, two major drug distributors, also known as wholesalers, have formally agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle claims that they failed to report suspicious orders for controlled substances to the Drug Enforcement Administration, as required by law. McKesson Corp., the largest such company in the U.S., last week agreed...

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Sanders Calls for Investigation of Big Pharma Drug Pushers

by Lauren McCauley – From 2007-2012, the Big Three wholesalers earned a combined $17 billion while they collectively shipped 423 million pain pills to West Virginia. Drug-pushing, multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies should be “investigated and prosecuted,” declared Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in response to revelations that out-of-state drug wholesalers have been pouring highly-addictive and lethal opioids into rural West Virginia towns, reaping profits while countless suffer. Bernie Sanders  ✔@SenSanders Large, multi-billion dollar corporations should not make billions pushing addictive drugs. They should be investigated and prosecuted. https://twitter.com/wvgazettemail/status/810521005680656384 … 3:18 PM – 20 Dec 2016 Reporter Eric Eyre with the Charleston Gazette-Mail published a two-part investigative series this weekend exposing what looks like the Big Pharma behemoths profiting off the state’s overdose epidemic. According to “previously confidential drug shipping sales records sent by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office,” and obtained by the Gazette-Mail, “drug wholesalers...

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CEO of Opioid Company that Funded Arizona’s Anti-Pot Campaign Charged with Bribing Doctors

by Mother Mags – Can you say hypocrisy? Of all the states that had marijuana propositions on the ballot this year, either legalization or medical weed, only Arizona rejected the measure. The state passed a medical pot referendum in 2010, and Prop 205 was an initiative similar to Colorado’s decriminalization law. Until a few weeks before the election it appeared 205 would pass by about 10 points. Then a well-funded anti-205 campaign kicked into gear, with 24/7 TV commercials and state officials, including the governor, attorney general, and other GOP leaders, going on their Reefer Madness tour (the Democratic Party supported 205). The TV spots said Colorado’s experience with legal pot was terrible: schools didn’t get the money they were promised and many more students were getting high. All of it was a lie. The fear-mongering ads were so dishonest that Colorado legislators sent a letter to Arizona’s anti-205 officials telling them to quit lying about Colorado....

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As Prices ‘Skyrocket,’ 20 States Sue Drug Companies for Collusion

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘We have evidence of widespread participation in illegal conspiracies across the generic drug industry,’ says Connecticut attorney general. Twenty state attorneys general filed a lawsuit on Thursday against several pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of entering into “numerous illegal conspiracies” to fix generic drug prices at consumers’ expense. The federal lawsuit (pdf) names generic drug-makers Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Aurobindo Pharma USA, Inc., Citron Pharma, LLC, Mayne Pharma (USA), Inc., Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., and concerns two drugs: doxycycline hyclate delayed release, an antibiotic used to treat a range of conditions including respiratory tract infections, and glyburide, an oral diabetes medication. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut and labels Heritage as the “principal architect and ringleader” that helped organize a “wide-ranging series of conspiracies” to fix prices. “My office has dedicated significant resources to this investigation for more than...

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Shkreli’s Infamous $750 Pill Recreated By High Schoolers For Just $2

by Whitney Webb – A team of high school students have created an inexpensive version of the drug Daraprim, which Martin Shkreli made infamous by increasing its cost by over 5,000%. Martin Shkreli quickly became one of the most hated men in the world almost overnight, when he used his position at Turing Pharmaceuticals to jack up the price of the drug Daraprim from $13.50 per pill to $750. The 5,000% jump in the drug’s price quickly drew protests from the medical community as concerns were raised that many patients would soon be unable to afford the drug. Daraprim, one of the World Health Organization’s essential medicines, is commonly prescribed as an anti-parasitic. Despite the obvious price gouging at work here, Shkreli maintained that the increase was simply a savvy business decision. Though Shkreli tried to make amends by reducing the drug’s price for hospitals, it has remained at $750...

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Medical Innovation Bill Would Water Down Disclosure of Industry Payments to Doctors

by Charles Ornstein – The 21st Century Cures Act aims to support biomedical research. But along the way, it would exempt certain payments from drug companies to doctors. Critics say such changes are a mistake. Update, Nov. 29, 2016: Provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act dealing with disclosure of physician payments were removed from the bill Tuesday, following criticism from some lawmakers and transparency advocates, a GOP aide said. This week, Congress is expected to consider a bill promoting biomedical research and innovation that would also weaken requirements on pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose certain payments to doctors. The goal of the 21st Century Cures Act, which has bipartisan support, is to help bring drugs and devices to market faster and at lower cost. It would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and would provide grants to states to address...

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The Republican Medicare Plan is an Atrocity

by Ian Millhiser – It only takes three Republican senators to stop it.  There’s a lot that you should know about the Republican Medicare plan, a plan that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) hopes to enact shortly after President-elect Donald Trump takes office, but the entirety of it can be summarized in just one sentence. Over the last half-decade, Ryan has proposed several different versions of the Republican plan to charge seniors a lot more for inferior health care. There are important differences among these versions. Some would phase out Medicare entirely over the course of many years, while others would merely make the system more inefficient and drive out-of-pocket costs for seniors much higher. The most recent version is impossible to fully evaluate because it lacks important details — like numbers. As Jonathan Cohn and Jeffrey Young quipped about the GOP’s overall health care package, “Speaker Paul Ryan wants to replace 20 million people’s...

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