OxyContin Maker Wins Patent for Addiction Treatment

A member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma – the same company that makes OxyContin – has been awarded a patent for a treatment for opioid use disorder. [1]

Purdue Pharma is currently being sued by more than 1,000 jurisdictions for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis with its OxyContin painkiller. But Dr. Richard Sackler, one of 6 inventors of the new patent, doesn’t seem to be bothered by that. He is more than willing to gain financially from the very problem he himself helped create, even if it means generating a great deal of criticism in the process.

Colorado is one of the states suing Purdue Pharma. In a statement, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said: [2]

“Purdue’s habit-forming medications coupled with their reckless marketing have robbed children of their parents, families of their sons and daughters, and destroyed the lives of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. While no amount of money can bring back loved ones, it can compensate for the enormous costs brought about by Purdue’s intentional misconduct.”

In the lawsuit, the state accuses Purdue of downplaying the risk of addiction associated with opioids and exaggerating the medicine’s benefits. The lawsuit further alleges that the drug maker “advised healthcare professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids.”

It’s enough to turn your stomach.

Related Read: The Opioid Crisis Deemed a National Emergency – So What Happens Now?

Profiting from People’s Pain

Source: Sun Herald

There were more than 63,000 drug overdoses in the United States in 2016, and more than 66% of them were attributed to opioids, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Source: Aiken Standard

The patent is for a new formulation of buprenorphine, a medication known to help people kick their opioid addiction. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved it in tablet and film form, but the patent is for a wafter version of the drug that dissolves even faster than existing forms when placed under the tongue. [1]

The patent states that the faster buprenorphine dissolves, the less risk there is for diversion.

As mentioned, Purdue Pharma is facing more than 1,000 lawsuits from cities, states, counties, and tribes. But a case brought by Massachusetts recently named the Sackler family as defendants.

Read: Washington City Sues OxyContin Maker over Opioid Epidemic

Right now, Congress is seeking from Purdue a copy of a deposition from Sackler that was taken as part of a lawsuit brought by Kentucky against Purdue. Though the case was settled in 2015, it marked the only time a member of the Sackler family was questioned under oath about their role in the marketing of OxyContin and what Purdue knew about the addictive nature of the opioid painkiller.

In the patent, Dr. Sackler doesn’t even attempt to hide the fact that he’s trying to profit off of other people’s suffering. The description for the patent justifies the need for a new form of opioid addiction treatment by pointing out that people addicted to OxyContin are often willing to break the law in order to get their “fix.” Public safety and law enforcement costs associated with addiction are cited in some of the lawsuits against Purdue.

The description of the patent also states that buprenorphine could also be used to treat pain in people and animals.

Purdue Made Efforts on Paper…

Purdue is trying to show that it is taking steps to address the opioid crisis. The pharmaceutical giant has donated money to the National Sheriffs’ Association to purchase naloxone – a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose – and train law enforcement on its use. It has backed safer prescribing efforts, and in early September 2018, Purdue contributed $3.4 million to a company working on an inexpensive naloxone nasal spray.

…However

There is no question that Purdue Pharma is at fault for a pretty big chunk of the opioid crisis. In 2007, 3 top current and former company employees pleaded guilty to criminal charges, admitting that they falsely duped doctors and their patients into believing that OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid analgesics. It was reported earlier in 2018 that Purdue planned to stop promoting the drug. [2]

Luke Nasta, director of Camelot, a New York-based treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction, said:

“It’s reprehensible what Purdue Pharma has done to our public health.”

He added that the Sackler family “shouldn’t be allowed to peddle any more synthetic opioids – and that includes opioid substitutes.”

Sources:

[1] STAT (featured image source)

[2] The Washington Post

Sun Herald

Aiken Standard

A Sad 1st in America: Heroin Overdoses Outpace Gun Homicides

In a report published December 8, 2016, the CDC said that in 2015, heroin deaths spiked by more than 2,000 cases since 2014, resulting in a sad milestone: There were more heroin-related deaths that year than gun homicides. As recently as 2007, gun homicides outnumbered heroin deaths by more than 5 to 1. [1]

Source: The Washington Post

The number of opioid deaths increased by 30,000 from 2014 to 2015 – another first for the U.S. – up from 5,000 in 2014. But for the first time since at least the 1990’s, heroin deaths outnumbered deaths from traditional opioid painkillers, like hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Additionally, deaths involving potent synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, rose by nearly 75% from 2014 to 2015.

But according to the CDC’s data, deaths may involve more than 1 individual drug category, so the numbers may not be mutually exclusive. For example, many opioid deaths involve multiple types of opioids, or opioids combined with alcohol.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement:

“The epidemic of deaths involving opioids continues to worsen. Prescription opioid misuse and use of heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl are intertwined and deeply troubling problems.”

Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy, also said in a statement:

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country—in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment. That is why the President has called since February for $1 billion in new funding to expand access to treatment.”

Congress recently passed a spending bill allocating $1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic. That amount includes money for addiction treatment and prevention.

The CDC data was released just a week after the DEA closed its open comment period on kratom, an herb that many credit with helping them safely withdraw from opiates.  [2]

Read: DEA Decides NOT to Ban Kratom … For Now

Opioids in 1996, to the Late 90’s, to Today

Opioid use exploded in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but the opioid epidemic may have started in 1996, the year OxyContin was introduced to the U.S. market. In its first year on the market, OxyContin earned its maker, Purdue Pharma, $45 million. By 2000, that number ballooned to $1.1 billion. Ten years later, OxyContin raked in $3.1 billion for the pharmaceutical company, and accounted for about 30% of the painkiller market. [1] [3]

Source: attn:

OxyContin rose to the top of the opiate heap because Purdue was giving doctors kickbacks for prescribing the pain reliever, and heaping massive bonuses on sales execs who convinced doctors to prescribe OxyContin over other opioids.

Read: “Hillbilly Heroin” OxyContin Approved for Use in Children

This is not the only cause of the opioid crisis, but it may have been the jumping-off point. And as the crisis ballooned, state and federal authorities started issuing tighter restrictions on painkillers, driving opioid addicts to the illicit market to get their hands-on heroin.

Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, said:

“Criminalization drives people to the margins and dissuades them from getting help. It drives a wedge between people who need help and the services they need. Because of criminalization and stigma, people hide their addictions from others.” [1]

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] Gizmodo

[3] The Week

attn:


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Did a Common Anti-Anxiety Drug Play into Soundgarden Rocker’s Death?

In mid-May of 2017, fans of grunge music were shocked and heartbroken to hear of the death of Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman Chris Cornell. His death was ruled a suicide, but Chris’ family says he never would have intentionally taken his life, and are blaming his use of the common anxiety drug, Ativan, for his state of mind at the time. [1]

Source: The Mercury News

The Seattle-based musician, 52, was found in his hotel room at the MGM Grand Detroit following his grunge band’s performance on May 18, 2017. He was discovered on the bathroom floor, with a red exercise cord around his neck. [1] [2]

Cornell’s wife, Vicky, said her husband was slurring his words when she spoke to him on the phone after his show. Chris told Vicky that he had taken more than his prescribed dose of the anti-anxiety drug, Ativan. [1]

Vicky asked security to check on Chris, and that’s when they found his body.

Since then, it has come out that Chris’ bodyguard gave him 2 Ativans before his death. [2]

Vicky said in a statement about Chris’ death:

“I know that he loved our children and he would not hurt them by intentionally taking his own life.” [2]

Source: The Mercury News

Kirk Pasich, the Cornell family’s attorney, said in a statement that the family is “disturbed” that anyone would think Chris knowingly and deliberately took his own life. Pasich said such conclusions shouldn’t be drawn before the toxicology test results came back. [1]

“Without the results of toxicology tests, we do not know what was going on with Chris — or if any substances contributed to his demise.

Chris, a recovering addict, had a prescription for Ativan and may have taken more Ativan than recommended dosages. The family believes that if Chris took his life, he did not know what he was doing, and that drugs or other substances may have affected his actions.”

Ativan

Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, a benzodiazepine. It is used to treat anxiety, drug withdrawal, seizures, and agoraphobia – which, according to Mayo Clinic, “is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.” [2]

The drug can have serious side effects, including worsening depression, unusual mood or behavior, and suicidal thoughts.

Ativan is intended for short-term use, and can be addictive. Addiction to benzodiazepines, or “benzos,” can be extremely difficult to break, and can be fatal. Fleetwood Mac singer Stevie Nicks successfully overcame an addiction to Klonopin.

Read: Link Established Between Benzodiazepines and Dementia

There are some other famous names in this class of drugs:

  • Valium, a.k.a. “Mother’s Little Helper.”
  • Restoril – A medication for temporary insomnia that became the “Date Rape Drug.”
  • Xanax – This drug may have at one time accounted for 60% of all hospital admissions for addiction.
  • Klonopin – Originally brought to the market in 1975 as a drug for seizure disorders that has since become “a prescription of choice for drug abusers from Hollywood to Wall Street.”
Source: Business Insider – The 10 most addictive drugs in the world, as of March 2016.

Asher Simon, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who did not treat Chris Cornell, said:

“Yes, of course you should never take more than prescribed. But 1 or 2 additional pills is usually not a huge deal.” [3]

At least, not on its own. And a couple of pills wouldn’t cause someone to slur their words, according to the doctor.

It’s considerably more dangerous to combine Ativan with alcohol or other drugs, because the potential is there to develop poor judgement, and experience slowed breathing and heart rate, according to Simon.

Chris Cornell struggled with substance abuse for most of his life, and did admitted in 2009 that he did a stint in rehab for OxyContin addiction. He said he’d been sober since 2002. [2]

Opioids and benzodiazepines are an especially dangerous combination.

Here are a few comments from Dr. Drew. Tell us what you think of this.

A non-suicidal person wouldn’t likely become suicidal from taking Ativan, Simon said, adding:

“A lot of suicide comes at a time of acute anxiety, and if it treats the anxiety it can actually prevent those suicides. It is extremely unlikely to cause suicidal thinking in and of itself.” [3]

Read: Benzos, Antidepressants Linked to Mass Shootings

However, that’s not a given. Sometimes it works the other way.

“In someone who is already depressed and suicidal, it can impair their judgment—and if someone is intent on killing themselves, it can lower their inhibition and make them more likely to act on their impulses.”

Sources:

[1] The Mercury News

[2] Variety

[3] Health.com

The Mercury News

Business Insider


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