Attorney General Jeff Sessions made an announcement at a news conference Tuesday that the Justice Department will be creating a new task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids. It seems that beyond pursuing new restrictions being put on prescriptions, there will be a more intentional focus on Big Pharma and those who many believe have made the opioid crisis possible.
Jeff Sessions said the task force will “examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance.”
Meanwhile, Sessions also included the Justice Department is going to be backing a lawsuit in Ohio against major prescription opioid makers.
Ohio VS Opioid Makers Lawsuit
In truth, this lawsuit isn’t just about the state of Ohio. It consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties and Native American tribes nationwide. Buckeye Nation has definitely been hit hard by the opioid crisis, but for now, the stage is set here for a massive effort against questionable practices from opioid makers.
The lawsuit that solicits the Justice Departments attention is pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland. It goes after various companies for using misleading marketing to promote prescription opioids, including:
The lawsuit also accuses the defendants of:
- Downplaying the risk of addiction to these drugs
- Failing to report suspicious orders by consumers, which would indicate the drugs were being abused
Furthermore, there are some big names in Big Pharma being listed as defendants, including:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceuticals
The suit is also going after large distributors, such as:
Not to mention pharmacy chains like:
So how will the Justice Department be engaging in the current lawsuit? How will this new development impact the outcome of the case?
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Statement of Interest Against Opioid Makers
During the press briefing, Sessions explained that the Justice Department plans to file what is called a “statement of interest” in the Ohio lawsuit. This is a technique that past administrations typically would only resort to in cases that directly affect the federal government’s interests, such as diplomacy and national security.
However, with the intensity of the opioid crisis being what it is, it is perfectly understandable to make it such a high priority for the current administration to get involved with. So far, recovery advocates have been largely unimpressed with the half-measures that have been presented thus far with the Trump administration to address the issue.
By invoking the statement of interest, the attorney general is legally able to argue on behalf of the government’s interest in any court in the country. However, it does not make the government a plaintiff. All things considered, Sessions said his department will use criminal and civil penalties. He states,
“We will use whatever tools we have to hold people accountable for breaking our laws.”
Which is quite a statement, considering it isn’t at all common for criminal charges to be brought against Big Pharma.
The Devil Is in the Data
What brought the Justice Department into this began with a discussion on access to certain data. This past Monday, lawyers for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to the Ohio courtroom to discuss how much data they would share about the national distribution of painkillers.
The DEA said it would only provide two years of information in the case, asserting that the agency did not want to compromise ongoing criminal investigations. However, Judge Dan Aaron Polster’s request is to provide the sides with nine years of data. He said the agency has until next Monday to decide whether it will comply. This data can assist in determining:
- The number of pills distributed
- The locations
- The distributors
This information could be crucial in allocating liability.
Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicts that the statement of interest from the Justice Department “will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for flooding communities with pills.”
Therefore, it appears Sessions is going to be taking some big steps toward calling out Big Pharma for their involvement in the opioid crisis. Sessions says the government will be taking a hard look at doctors who overprescribe prescription painkillers. Even legal drugs like these too often lead to addiction and abuse of illegal drugs like heroin.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine says he believes this is a game changer. With all the suffering communities in Ohio have seen over the past several years, we can only hope.
Holding Big Pharma accountable is a huge step. Nevertheless, we should also highlight the need for state and community officials to promote safe and effective addiction treatment. Innovative and holistic recovery programs can make a dramatic difference in helping heal communities. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.
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One Ohio City is fed up with dealing with drug addicts who overdose over and over again.
Their solution? Simple: Three strikes and you’re out.
But is this really the right way to go about this?
Recently, Dan Picard, a councilman from Middletown, Ohio proposed a new strategy to handle the influx of overdose calls in his city. He claims the city had spent $100,000 on the lifesaving drug. His solution is to limit the number of times an addict can be revived with Narcan.
“It’s not a proposal to solve the drug problem,” Picard said this week. “My proposal is in regard to the financial survivability of our city. If we’re spending $2 million this year and $4 million next year and $6 million after that, we’re in trouble. We’re going to have to start laying off. We’re going to have to raise taxes.”
While it may seem extreme, Picard believes something must be done to reduce the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent administering the overdose antidote Naloxone.
According to the National Institute of Health, Naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan, is a “medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.”
How the Proposed Plan Works
The plan proposed states that anyone who overdoses twice must complete community service equivalent to the cost of administering the Narcan. If the person has been provided Narcan two overdoses before and has not completed the required community service requirement, dispatchers will not send help their way.
“If the dispatcher determines that the person whose overdosed is somebody’s that’s been part of this program for two previous overdoses and has not completed community service and has not cooperated in the program, then we wouldn’t dispatch,” Picard explains.
Middletown has seen a significant spike in overdoses. Just last year alone, there were 532 overdoses reported. It may sound extreme, but Picard insists the city cannot afford to continue responding to overdoses at the same rate.
“We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do to maintain our financial security, and this is just costing us too much money,” he told NBC affiliate WLWT.
This city of Middletown, Ohio spent three times as much on Narcan this year as they did all of 2016. The numbers in 2017 already surpass that of the previous year at 577 overdoses so far.
Numbers Soar Throughout Ohio
All across Ohio, communities like Cleveland, Elyria, Parma, Chardon, and others have seen people need Narcan again and again after overdosing on opioids.
As of right now, the fire department is required by law to provide Narcan in response to an overdose. The legal department is reviewing this plan proposed by Picard. In the meantime, the fire department is applying for grants and donation to increase funds for Narcan.
Sal Valdez, the Clinical Coordinator for American Medical Response in Rochester, stated to a local news station, that he responds to at least four drug overdoses every day and about 80 every month. Each time, paramedics administer Narcan, they could need multiple doses. He also notices overdoses occurring in similar areas to repeat offenders.
“Sometimes we do know these patients by name,” Valdez said. “In my experience, we do see the same patients over and over again, and we respond to the same locations.”
Way Too Extreme?
One study estimates the cost of the prescription drug opioid epidemic costs American society $78.5 billion. Regardless, many find this proposed strategy way too extreme. This could mean the difference between life and death for some, preventing them the opportunity to recover.
Daniel Raymond, the deputy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, told the Washington Post, that he’s “disappointed” by Picard’s plan of action. He noted that the proposal was an insult to families of loved ones struggling with addiction.
“Ohio is an epicenter of the heroin epidemic … and you can empathize with the frustration, but not with this type of solution,” Raymond told The Post.
What are your thoughts on this plan? Personally, it feels like this proposal only further stigmatizes the perception of addiction. Would we treat any other illness in this manner?
We believe recovery is a better option. Addiction should receive treatment just like any disease. Please seek help if you are struggling with substance abuse. Please call toll-free today to speak to an addiction specialist. We want to help.
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Recently I came across an article with a title essentially warning people not to send their family members to Florida for drug and alcohol treatment. The interviews argue that high rates of overdose should justify officials urging people in other states not to send their kids to treatment in the area. However, the article also acknowledges that “South Florida has long been a destination for world-class addiction treatment” and includes a quote from Palm Beach County League of Cities member Andy Amoroso stating:
“Stop sending your children and your loved ones to South Florida,”
I think there is a real problem with this kind of statement though…
It ignores the fact that most people looking for recovery come from states with much worse issues of overdose crisis than South Florida.
To be clear, Florida has seen a spike in drug related issues, but guess what… so has basically everywhere in America! We are in the midst of a drug overdose epidemic all across this nation.
For example, let’s talk about where I came from. In 2014 I wrote about how my home state of Ohio led the nation in opioid overdose deaths. Ohio now also has the highest rates of heroin related deaths.
1 out of every 9 heroin deaths… happens in Ohio!
Dayton, Ohio is number 1 in the country by many reports for drug overdoses. Today, Dayton is quickly becoming known as the heroin capitol of America.
I have lived in Florida for around 4 years after coming to Delray Beach to get sober. I am an active member of a vast recovery community in the Palm Beach County area, and I would never have gotten the chance to do all the amazing and life changing work I am privileged to do if no one had sent me to South Florida to get help. In all likelihood, I would be dead.
Crunching the Country’s Overdose Numbers
There is no denying that Florida is typically in the top 5 rankings when it comes to total overdose numbers. However, there should also be some context to really show the difference between how other states are being affected. To get a little perspective, I want to run down some numbers.
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation compiled data from every state in order to show some details on the opioid overdose crisis. In those numbers they discovered the top 3 states in opioid overdose deaths for 2014 were:
Ohio- 2,106 opioid overdoses- which was 7.4% of nationwide deaths
California- 2,024 deaths
New York- 1,739 deaths
Out of 10,584 nationwide heroin related deaths in 2014, 1,208 were in Ohio. That is 11.4% of the countries heroin deaths in a state with a population a fraction of the size of California’s, New York’s and Florida’s.
In 2015 the top 3 states for overall overdoses were:
In 2015 Ohio’s overdose death rates jumped again to 3,310. In 2016 those numbers are again expected to have skyrocketed to well over 4,000.
While we should acknowledge that the entire state of Florida had around 3,228 overall overdose deaths in 2015, Florida actually had less deaths per 100,000 people compared to 23 other states! These numbers include the top 5:
West Virginia- 41.5 per 100,000 people
New Hampshire- 34.3 per 100,000 people
Kentucky- 29.9 per 100,000 people
Ohio- 29.9 per 100,000 people
Rhode Island- 28.2 per 100,000 people
As well as:
So while Florida may be experiencing high rates of overdose, we need to see that dozens of states are seeing a much higher percent of their population be killed by drugs. Some states have less than half the population Florida does, but are still suffering with tragically high percentages of their population dying from overdose. Those people who want help deserve access to that same “world-class addiction treatment” that South Florida has to offer. For several years, countless families across the U.S. have suffered while the resources and the community in South Florida has helped to save thousands of men and women who needed a little hope and a second chance.
Prescription Drug Problem
In the Midwest, the problem with prescription drug abuse is an extremely distressing element of the opioid crisis. In 12 states, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions actually exceeds the number of residents living in those states! This includes:
Out of the 1.3 million people living in this state, there were 13 million doses of opioids dispensed in a 3 month period!
Just in case you haven’t seen the news in the past few years, prescription drugs have been one of the largest contributing factors to the current opioid epidemic and the rise in heroin addiction.
The reality is professional and effective treatment programs in South Florida save the lives of countless people from all over the United States. The positive impact on the world is immeasurable. The reason so many people travel here for treatment is not just the fact that there are beaches and sun in Florida (Although they are amazing). They travel because so many of the states being hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic are states that have limited resources when it comes to comprehensive drug addiction treatment.
We aren’t traveling here to bring drugs Florida had never heard of before. We’re trying to escape the familiar and fatal atmosphere we were stuck in for so long. We take this drastic step in a desperate time because we want to believe the help is out there.
Some would still argue that a large number of treatment centers creates a problem with corruption within the industry itself. One can’t argue with some of the stories we read, but if that’s the case maybe instead of turning people away we should be educating people on the most important things to look for in a legitimate treatment program. We should encourage families to seek out qualified and established addiction specialists. Instead of insisting they shouldn’t trust the industry; we should be telling them to look for the accredited addiction specialists who have earned a respected reputation through their record in service and their certifications. Let’s celebrate the treatment providers who do make a difference instead of signing on for whole-sale condemnation.
At the very least, lets teach them to make sure a treatment facility in South Florida is approved by:
The Joint Commission is a United States-based nonprofit organization that accredits more than 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the U.S.
Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)
The DCF is a state agency providing social services to children, adults, refugees, domestic violence victims and a number of other groups.
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No matter where we live we should never turn people away from our community for help. We should provide a platform for awareness. It is critical that addicts and their families know what makes effective treatment programs important. Florida should always be proud of the strength of its recovery community.
We are in this together
Accurate and detailed data for overdose death rates 2016 is not yet available. Yet it is estimated that almost 60,000 Americans died last year from drug overdose. Some experts say over 2 million Americans are suspected to be opioid dependent currently, and that overdose death rates in 2017 are only going to get worse.
Of course, it is understandable that people are concerned about the strain that addiction and overdose puts on their communities, but there is something we cannot, as Americans, forget… we are in this together. In the article I mentioned previously, one of the individuals quoted spoke of people struggling with addiction like we are all inconvenient intruders who have no place in their neighborhood. Thankfully, this is not the experience many of us live with.
I have to say it again… We are in this together.
We are all citizens of the same free country fighting the same fight. Even more important, we are all human beings. Every one of us is free to seek something that can save us. I often believe I would have never had this chance if I had not come to South Florida. I didn’t know what was possible… and thankfully nobody told me not to come looking for it. Nobody told me I wasn’t welcome.
This isn’t just about South Florida; any community with addiction treatment programs and a recovery community should know, we get it. We understand how it can seem a little scary when you think your neighborhood is changing. It’s easier to say “as long as it’s happening over there” until “over there” becomes everywhere.
At the height of the opioid epidemic in America, it is certainly not the time to hide the welcome mat and use fear to scare people away. It is time to make our voices louder and unify the recovery community to show more people that recovery is possible. Until more treatment opportunities are advocated for across the country, we will use every resources we have to preserve and protect the lives of those who are suffering. South Florida is still a great place for addiction treatment. If no one has told you yet, you are welcome here!
Palm Healthcare Company has been serving the South Florida community for 20 years, now with multiple specialized facilities and innovative holistic treatment programs designed to help create lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call now. We want to help. You are not alone.
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