OxyContin makers avoid televised courtroom trial — Settle out of court for $270 million.

Click to enlargeJustin Lane/EPA

❝ Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its owners, the Sackler family, agreed to pay $270 million to avoid going to a state court trial over the company’s role in the opioid addiction epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans over the past two decades.

❝ The payment, negotiated to settle a case brought by the state of Oklahoma, was far larger than two previous settlements Purdue Pharma had reached with other states. It could jolt other settlement talks with the company, including those in a consolidated collection of 1600 cases overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland.

❝ “Purdue appears to have concluded that it was less risky to settle the Oklahoma case than have the allegations publicly aired against it during a televised trial and face exposure to what could have been an astronomical jury verdict,” said Abbe R. Gluck, a professor at Yale Law School who directs the Solomon Center for Health Policy and Law.

Lock ’em up and throw away the key!

Sugar industry hid evidence of negative health effects nearly 50 years ago

❝ A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago…

Researchers Cristin Kearns, Dorie Apollonio and Stanton Glantz from the University of California at San Francisco reviewed internal sugar industry documents and discovered that the Sugar Research Foundation funded animal research to evaluate sucrose’s effects on cardiovascular health. When the evidence seemed to indicate that sucrose might be associated with heart disease and bladder cancer…they found the foundation terminated the project without publishing the results…

❝ The results suggest that the current debate on the relative effects of sugar vs. starch may be rooted in more than 60 years of industry manipulation of science. Last year, the Sugar Association criticized a mouse study suggesting a link between sugar and increased tumor growth and metastasis, saying that “no credible link between ingested sugars and cancer has been established.”

Sugar can be part of a natural diet, one reflective of the gradual evolution of Homo sapiens. Want to get back to that situation? You’ll have to battle against the brainwashing you’ve been subjected to by decades of adverts on radio and TV, in movies – and, now, on the interwebitubes [thanks, Dave].

Nothing new about profiting from induced addiction.

“We’re only just getting started” — OxyContin goes global


❝ OxyContin is a dying business in America.

With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.

❝ Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.

A network of international companies owned by the family is moving rapidly into Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other regions, and pushing for broad use of painkillers in places ill-prepared to deal with the ravages of opioid abuse and addiction.

Profits above all else as your standard, greed supersedes need in the 19th Century capitalist minds ruling Big Pharma.

RTFA for all the details. There’s much in the article. Nothing to make it smell better.

Prescribing addictive opioids is OK — prescribing treatment for that addiction ain’t OK

Almost 1 million U.S. physicians can write a prescription for opioid painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin — one pathway to opioid addiction. But, because of regulatory hurdles and other factors, fewer than 32,000 doctors are permitted to prescribe buprenorphine, a medication to treat such addiction.

That is a statistic worth thinking about since opioid painkillers and heroin contributed to the deaths of nearly 30,000 Americans in 2014, triple the number in 2000. Perhaps many of these lives could have been saved with buprenorphine…

Taking buprenorphine or methadone, alongside counseling, is the most effective approach to opioid addiction treatment. Because the drugs relieve patients’ cravings for heroin or narcotic painkillers, patients taking them can focus more on recovery and less on getting high. When taken properly, the drugs can help addicted patients and their families get their lives back to normal while reducing the risk of fatal overdose, crime and their societal costs.

But the need for these treatments far outstrips available supply. Less than half of the 2.5 million Americans who could benefit from medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction receive it.

Expanding the use of methadone will be difficult. Methadone is provided only in dedicated clinics, which patients must visit daily. But many communities resist clinics because they attract patients with addictions, a highly stigmatized population.

Work by Christopher Jones, a pharmacist and public health researcher, showed that the number of patients treated at them has barely increased in more than a decade. Most methadone clinics operate at or near capacity, and some have waiting lists…

Since 2000, buprenorphine can be prescribed by qualified doctors to a limited number of patients to take at home. Buprenorphine use has expanded as a result, but availability is limited by regulation. Doctors may prescribe it only after taking an eight-hour course and applying for a special license. No such hurdles are required for prescribing any opioid painkillers…

“Increasing availability of medication-assisted treatment will require far more than just allowing doctors to prescribe buprenorphine to more patients,” Dr. Bradley Stein said. “Fostering greater ability and willingness among doctors to effectively manage the growing numbers of addicted patients is an uphill battle.”

So, we are to believe doctors can’t be bothered dealing with addicts – even though many of those addicts got their start down that primrose path with the aid of a physician. How about requiring the pharmaceutical companies making a bunch of dollar$ from the production of opioids to kick in a percentage to sell physicians on treatment as hard as they did getting them to prescribe opioids?

The fighter jet setting new records for consuming dollar$

The helmet is only $400K

The F-35 Lightning II jet was slated to become the future of stealth aircraft for the US military and its allies. But since its start in 2001, the project has faced a relentless stream of technical glitches, from software issues to reports that the plane’s engine cannot withstand the high-tech threat of Canadian birds.

There’s also the ever-looming issue of cost. By the time it’s completed, the government’s spending on the F-35 project is set to exceed $1 trillion, more than any other military project in history. Helmets for the jet alone reportedly cost $400,000…

The plane, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, was meant to appease critics worried about cost by appealing to three military branches at once. The aircraft meets the requirements of the Air Force, Navy, and Marines, each of which have traditionally made their own planes. The problem is, making one plane that can handle each branch’s needs has proved more than difficult.

A number of US allies who have put orders in for the planes have cut down the number they will eventually receive in recent years, citing too much variation in cost projections. One of eight partners, Canada, is still debating whether or not to pull out of the program all together.

“The reality is that there is no such thing as absolute stealth,” said Gen. Norton A Schwarts, former US Air Force Chief of Staff. So far, that reality hasn’t stopped the US from trying to manufacture the most costly and ambitious plane in military history.

Depending on the flavor, these critters will go for $200-$300 million each. Congress and the Pentagon now believe the sucker must be built because – you guessed it – we’ve already invested too much in the project. So much for science projects where decisions are made by politicians.

Kratom, a botanical dietary supplement alternative for addicts — is addictive itself

Three shaky months into recovery from heroin addiction, Dariya Pankova found something to ease her withdrawal. A local nonalcoholic bar sold a brewed beverage that soothed her brain and body much as narcotics had. A perfect solution — before it backfired.

Ms. Pankova grew addicted to the beverage itself. She drank more and more, awakened her cravings for the stronger high of heroin, and relapsed. Only during another stay in rehab did Ms. Pankova learn that the drink’s primary ingredient, a Southeast Asian leaf called kratom, affects the brain like an opiate and can be addictive, too.

“It’s preying on the weak and the broken,” said Ms. Pankova, 23, a Brooklyn native who received treatment in Delray Beach. “It’s a mind-altering substance, so people like me who are addicts and alcoholics, they think just because it’s legal, it’s fine. It’s a huge epidemic down here, and it’s causing a lot of relapses…”

Concern is particularly high in South Florida, where a rising concentration of drug-treatment providers has coincided with the sprouting of kratom bars. But kratom is now available around the country. Powdered forms of the leaf are sold at head shops and gas-station convenience stores and on the Internet. Bars have recently opened in Colorado, New York, North Carolina and other states where customers nurse brewed varieties, varying in strength, from plastic bottles that resemble those for fruit juice…

Just because a substance is “green” – and not yet illegal, doesn’t mean it isn’t addictive and harmful. Of course, a sensible drugs policy which regulated public access and distribution of any substance like this would go a long way towards providing help for addictive personalities and nudge DEA coppers and drug squads in the direction of useful employment.

That ain’t about to happen either. But, don’t kid yourself about quasi-legal green goodies always being better for your health. Just a prettier monkey on your back.

Unlike the USA, Ireland hopes to treat drug addicts like addicts

On Monday, the minister in charge of national drug strategy said that Ireland’s next government will likely move toward decriminalizing all drugs, the Irish Times reported. Aodhán Ó Ríordáin also said that the country will open up injection rooms for heroin addicts, where users can obtain and use the drug — under strict medical supervision — without resorting to criminal traffickers and dealers.

This does not mean that Ireland stores will begin selling marijuana, heroin, and cocaine anytime soon. But if the next government takes up the plan outlined by Ó Ríordáin, it would remove criminal penalties for the possession of these drugs, eliminating the risk of prison time for drug possession, while criminal penalties remain for manufacturing, trafficking, and selling the substances.

Ireland wouldn’t be the first country to do this. In a move that got a lot of media attention, Portugal in 2001 decriminalized all drugs, including heroin and cocaine. Reports from Portugal have found largely promising results, with drug use remaining relatively flat as more people get treatment for their drug problems.

But Portugal didn’t just decriminalize; it also paired up decriminalization with a much greater emphasis on public health programs for drug addicts. That seems to be what Ireland is trying to do, as well. And at a time when the US is dealing with a harrowing opioid painkiller and heroin epidemic, Portugal and Ireland’s radical approaches could provide a lesson to America.

Which presumes the United States once again recognizes health as a public need with public solutions.

…Eliminating or at least diminishing the stigma surrounding these drugs could also come with a public health benefit: It would make it so that people aren’t as scared to get help when they need it. This is what a 2009 report from the libertarian Cato Institute found when it looked at Portugal’s decriminalization scheme: “The most substantial barrier to offering treatment to the addict population was the addicts’ fear of arrest. One prime rationale for decriminalization was that it would break down that barrier, enabling effective treatment options to be offered to addicts once they no longer feared prosecution. Moreover, decriminalization freed up resources that could be channeled into treatment and other harm reduction programs.”…

The details of Ireland’s new drug policies are still being worked out. But the country’s current government seems interested in adopting an approach that focuses first on treating instead of imprisoning drug users. And Ó Ríordáin seems convinced that the next government will continue along that path with full decriminalization…

But more broadly, the new Irish approach is increasingly becoming the new norm. As more countries take another look at the war on drugs and its failures to significantly cut down on drug use, they’re looking to rely less on law enforcement and more on doctors and hospitals to deal with drug abuse and addiction. Ireland is just the latest high-profile example of this shift. America, as it deals with its opioid epidemic, might not be too far behind.

I manage to be both an optimist and a cynic. I believe much of the educated world will continue to move towards solving substance abuse questions as a public health issue. I don’t include the United States in that equation.