prescription drugs Archives -
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The Synthetic THC Made by Big Pharma Company behind Fentanyl

The Synthetic THC Made by Big Pharma Company behind Fentanyl

Over a year ago, it was uncovered that a Big Pharma entity spent over $500,000 to oppose legalizing medical marijuana. This is just one example of how the pharmaceutical industry working over years to influence marijuana policy in America. What was so interesting about this company’s efforts is that their own product was a sublingual fentanyl spray.

That’s the same synthetic opioid that became a major factor in the ongoing opioid crisis in America as it was integrated into the illegal drug market.

Marijuana advocates see the move from drug makers to oppose legalization as an attempt to prevent competition. Studies show cannabis can be an effective substitute for pain treatment. Many states with medical marijuana laws acknowledge it as a means to help treat chronic pain patients.

So it became even more telling when it was revealed that the same fentanyl maker undermining medical marijuana was also developing their own synthetic THC.

Insys Therapeutics VS Cannabis

This isn’t the only time we have written about the shady dealings of Insys Therapeutics. Some may recall back in 2017 when the former CEO and founding father of the company had criminal charges brought against him, along with other company executives, for racketeering and corrupt marketing schemes.

For years, Insys has been trying to sway marijuana policy decisions. In 2011, the Big Pharma racket wrote to the DEA expressing opposition to loosening restrictions on naturally derived THC. In the letter Insys claims “the abuse potential in terms of the need to grow and cultivate substantial crops of marijuana in the United States.”

But later in 2016 the company petitioned the DEA to loosen restrictions on synthetic versions of CBD, which is another key component of the cannabis plant. Why? Because they were developing a CBD-based drug to treat pediatric epilepsy. At the time, Insys Therapeutics made a statement claiming their opposition to the marijuana legalization proposition was because, “it fails to protect the safety of Arizona’s citizens, and particularly its children.” However, the company did insist that is believed in the benefits of cannabinoids.

Now, the company accused of aggressively pushing an incredibly potent and potentially lethal opioid drug onto patients who did not need it is now working on another new racket- Syndros.

Syndros: Synthetic THC

As a chief financial backer of the opposition to medical marijuana in Arizona, Insys Therapeutics has worked hard to give itself a monopoly on the market.

Syndros is a synthetic version of the THC compound found in the cannabis plant. This is the main psychoactive component of the substance and is behind a lot of the controversy around marijuana legalization. However, Syndros was approved by the FDA to treat cancer and AIDS patients for symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

This drug is very similar to Marinol, another synthetic THC product that was already approved by the FDA to treat anorexia in cancer and AIDS patients.

Syndros and its generic variations are considered a Schedule II of the Controlled Substances Act. This acknowledges it for medical benefits, but indicates a “high potential for abuse.” So it is on the same level as prescription painkillers, morphine, and cocaine.

Meanwhile, marijuana is still a Schedule I drug, meaning the FDA still considers it more dangerous than morphine, Oxycontin and now synthetic THC.

Dronabinol Debate

Dronabinol is a synthetic THC nasal spray that was quietly granted a Schedule II classification about a year ago. The FDA allows it to be prescribed, sold and federally regulated. This is another product from Insys Therapeutics capitalizing on the components of cannabis while the company fought to smother any competition.

Ironically, in 2007 the company had admitted in a disclosure statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that if cannabis or synthetic cannabinoids were legal “the market for dronabinol product sales would likely be significantly reduced and our ability to generate revenue and our business prospects would be materially adversely affected.”

So in short- they adamantly opposed medical cannabis efforts for years in order to limit competition. Meanwhile, they were developing their own drugs derived from cannabis. But it was not enough for the company to oppose cannabis legalization efforts. Insys also worked to disrupt other Big Pharma companies from trying to create generic versions of its drug.

Shutting Out Competition

Now, according to publicly available documents, Insys has tried to extend its monopoly over its oral dronabinol product. In October 2017, Insys Therapeutics requested that the FDA decline applications from competitors seeking to produce generic versions of Syndros. They’ve already sued two such drug companies:

  • Par Pharmaceuticals
  • Alkem Laboratories

Each had submitted Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDA). And ANDA is the first step in the process of gaining approval for generic versions of existing drugs. The request from Insys consisted of two parts:

  1. It asked the FDA to decline to “receive or approve” any ANDA applications that didn’t establish “in vivo bioequivalence” to its drug.
  2. Asked that ANDA applications for its drug “include fed and fasted state bioequivalence studies.”

Essentially, Insys was claiming that Dronabinol was too complex to be replicated by generic competitors.

However, the FDA eventually denied the company’s petition.

Robin Feldman is a professor of law and director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. She literally wrote the book on all the ways mainstream pharmaceutical companies try to subvert generic competition. When discussing the language used in Insys petition to the FDA, she states:

“Companies pile these exclusivities on one after another to keep generic competitors off the market as long as possible. So the reason I laughed is what you are seeing is a multipronged effort by the brand company to stave off generic entry as long as possible.”

Insys has been able to enjoy some time cornering the market on synthetic THC products. But apparently, it is very likely that more companies will be able to get in on the racket pretty soon.

The Other Synthetic Marijuana

Then there is the other synthetic marijuana sold on the streets, which is very different and extremely dangerous.

Meanwhile, we have seen countless stories in recent years of the synthetic THC products made on the streets for recreational use and how these chemical compounds have resulted in outbreaks of overdoses. Infamous brands like Spice and K2 are designed to mimic the properties of natural marijuana. However, these synthetic cannabinoids can cause a range of adverse side effects, including:

  • Seizures
  • Psychosis
  • Cardiac arrest

These are the more dangerous synthetics made in unregulated labs with chemical cocktails that are unpredictable and frequently toxic. Thousands of people have been hospitalized over the years due to the synthetic THC on the street. There are even dozens of fatalities attributed to illicit synthetic THC products.

Again, these are two different variations of synthetic THC. Synthetics like Spice or K2 are not quite the same thing as medications produced by companies like Insys. However, it should at least give some pause to consider that they are being created with the same intention- to artificially manufacture the effects of cannabis.

Drug Makers Want Marijuana Monopoly

Officials all over America are calling out Big Pharma companies for pushing to stop cannabis legalization efforts. Some say many of these drug companies are just trying to sell more drugs that addict patients. Essentially, the argument is that pharmaceutical companies are actively making a profit from drugs containing marijuana constituents while lobbying to prevent medicinal cannabis growth and development.

So do companies like Insys have the best interest of the patient in mind? Can a company accused of questionable tactics and supposedly illegal kickbacks be trusted with a monopoly on synthetic THC? Or are they just want a monopoly on marijuana-derived substances?

And if opioid makers get to dominate the market on synthetic THC products, will they be willing to put more people at risk of drug abuse and addiction in order to maintain their dominance?

Whether it’s natural cannabis, illicit synthetic marijuana, or medical synthetic THC, the risk for substance abuse should be taken seriously. Marijuana use disorder is a real issue that affects a lot of people across the country every day.  If medical marijuana products are going to continue to evolve, our treatment of marijuana use disorder has to evolve with it. Innovative and holistic treatment options can make all the difference.

Marijuana use disorder is a very real issue that people struggle with all over America. If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, such as chemical dependency or addiction, please call toll-free now to speak with a specialist today. We want to help.

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Opioids in Tech Industry: Internet Will Not Take the Blame for Crisis

Opioids in Tech Industry: Internet Will Not Take the Blame for Crisis

On the 27th of June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted an Online Opioid Summit to discuss the impact of the digital marketplace on the real-world issue of drug abuse in America. According to earlier reports, the summit was meant to encourage tech officials to collaborate on new initiatives that would take stronger action when it comes to illegal opioids being marketed online. With opioid addiction being such a huge issue today, more effort is being put into stopping the spread of prescription drugs.

However, the summit eventually stirred up a bit on controversy. On one side, the tech companies believe the pharmaceutical companies should be held accountable for the opioid crisis. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies pointed to the tech industry as being more responsible.

So while the hope was to use this summit as an opportunity to bring people together, it still created a new version of the opioid blame game. Should the tech industry really be taking more of the blame?

Tech Leaders in Washington

The summit was organized to bring together leaders in the tech industry, along with academic researchers and advocacy groups. Part of the big draw included representatives from Silicon Valley and social media empires, such as:

The Online Opioid Summit also welcomed lobbyists and government officials to participate in the discussion. The involvement of the tech industry in the opioid crisis has been brought up a lot these past few months in Washington, D.C., including:

  • The testimony of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Congress months ago
  • At the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April, FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that the tech industry had not done enough when it came to getting rid of illegal drug sales and marketing online.
  • When the FDA sent letters to nine companies, which are responsible for operating 53 online pharmacies, and instructed them to cease the marketing of opioids.

Initially, the FDA’s invitation for the summit suggested the FDA planned to ask tech companies, such as Google and other social media giants, to sign what it called a “Pledge to Reduce the Availability of Illicit Opioids Online.” Had this plan gone through, the pledge would have been published 30 days after the summit.

Tech Industry Pushing Back

However, the FDA decided not to follow through with the plan after speaking at length with tech industry leaders. This may be because the tech companies are pushing back against the claims that they should be held more accountable to the illicit sale of opioids online.

One day before the summit the Internet Association held a call with reporters prior to the summit. For those who aren’t aware, the Internet Association represents various tech industry interests, such as:

  • Amazon
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • Etsy
  • LinkedIn
  • Paypal
  • Reddit
  • Uber
  • Yelp

A representative from the Internet Association reportedly cited research by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The studies they point out state that most people misusing opioids get them from non-online sources.

And even when you do consider the online sale of opioids, reports indicate that either:

  • Most illegal online opioid sales are happening on the dark web.
  • Some “open” websites claim to sell opioids but actually do not. They actually steal people’s information.

Needless to say, the tech industry is not willing to let the burden on blame rest on their shoulders. However, some still say that does not mean they are unwilling to take steps.

Tech Taking Small Steps on Opioids

In order to eliminate opioid sales online, some of the biggest names in the tech industry are taking steps, even small ones. For example:

  • Google

Google implemented a special tool on its homepage back in April to help promote the DEA’s Drug Take-Back Day.

  • Facebook

This social media cornerstone is redirecting users who are trying to buy opioids on the platform to a help hotline.

  • Instagram

As a part of the bigger Facebook family, the photo-sharing app Instagram now monitors hashtags that relate to opioids.

An official from the Internet Association states that many of the trade group’s members:

“-have partnered with nonprofits, health groups and the federal government to educate people about the epidemic and prevent it from spreading.”

While it is a start, some are still asking more of the tech industry. Libby Baney, an advisor to the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies, tells Wired that beyond the small changes being made, these companies also need to acknowledge the role they have played. Baney states:

“This is a historic opportunity to do more with what we already know is true.”

“If it ends up being us versus them and there’s pointing fingers and a lot of ‘We’re already doing this or that,’ that’s an old-school way of thinking that isn’t responsive to the public health need.”

According to Wired, one FDA spokesperson made statements suggesting that this shouldn’t be labeled a loss,

“We will consolidate the feedback and ideas discussed at the summit and turn it into an actionable plan—not just for those in the room but for all internet stakeholders to join.”

For now, the FDA worries that as other means of obtaining opioids are restricted, the online marketplace will keep growing. Hopefully, the tech industry will continue to work with the FDA and other government agencies to find the most efficient and proactive methods for keeping illegal online pharmacies from exploiting their platforms to distribute dangerous drugs.

Should we hold the tech industry responsible for some of the issues with illegal opioid sales? Should they be doing more to help curb the illegal opioid market? Surely, we cannot blame Facebook or Google for the opioid crisis. But what role can they play in helping slow the spread of drugs?

Furthermore, thing we can do to fight addiction together is to make as many resources for effective addiction treatment more available. Part of overcoming the opioid crisis is getting people who are struggling the help that they need. This means offering medical detox options and holistic treatment programs. The easier for people to find reliable treatment resources, the better chance we all have of making our country safer.

Palm Healthcare Company believes in supporting innovation and offering a personalized path for each individual trying to recover from drug or alcohol addiction. We do our best to connect with those who need us most and help them better understand the opportunities available to them. If you or someone you love is struggling, please call toll-free now.

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Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

Opioid Makers Will Soon Face New Justice Department Task Force

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:

  • Manufacturers
  • Distributors
  • Dispensers

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:

  • McKesson
  • Cardinal Health

Not to mention pharmacy chains like:

  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid

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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Can You Quit Medication-Assisted Treatment Without Withdrawals?

Can You Quit Medication-Assisted Treatment Without Withdrawals?

Support for Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has continued to grow in recent years as the opioid epidemic in America has put a mounting strain on the country. While the numbers of overdoses and opioid-related deaths have steadily climbed to devastating heights there has been more effort to explore treatment options. A better understanding of the medical and mental health aspects of addiction has become a priority. Stigma has slowly begun to carry less weight while advocates push for more effective and supportive routes to care for recovering addicts. One thing people have turned to heavily is medications like Suboxone of Methadone in attempts to steer away from more illicit and dangerous substances like heroin or fentanyl.

The application of medication in treatment can be very useful. It is a strategy that can help with the preservation of life by helping people stay off more unpredictable and life-threatening substances. However, some would say that if used for long-term this form of treatment is still relying on the idea of substitution. Often times these drugs have their own very harsh withdrawal symptoms, especially with extended use.

Taking a look at the more popular drugs used for medication-assisted treatment, one may ask- can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals?

Understanding Medication-Assisted Treatment

Medication Assisted Treatment is the use of anti-craving medications to try and help address issues related to drug dependence, withdrawal, and relapse. The more common medications used in MAT include:

But MAT is also utilized alongside comprehensive therapy and other forms of support. Experts and advocates for addiction recovery, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), insist that maintenance medications alone are not sufficient enough treatment.

Advocates for medication-assisted treatment will compare MAT to someone taking medication for diabetes or asthma, with the belief that maintenance drugs are an essential part of staying healthy. However, others in the world of addiction recovery still believe it is possible to be healthy in recovery without the prolonged use of powerful medications.

The truth is the answer may not be the same for everybody. Different treatments may be more useful for different people. No one should be ashamed of the method they use to get help. But we also want to look at how some drugs used in medication-assisted treatment might make things more complicated for certain people.

Suboxone

Looking at the most popular maintenance drugs for opioid addiction, of course, we find Suboxone. To better understand Suboxone withdrawals, we first have to know what it is. This popular brand name is used to identify a prescription medication that contains active ingredients:

  • Buprenorphine- a narcotic opioid medication
  • Naloxone– an opioid blocker that impedes the effect of opioid medications

This medication functions as a partial opioid agonist and diminishes cravings as well as prevents other opioids from reacting to the brain’s opioid receptors. Taken in low doses for short periods of time, the drug can be helpful in curbing opioid withdrawal symptoms while tapering off without too many residual effects.

The tricky part comes when someone uses Suboxone for an extended amount of time as a replacement for heroin or other opioids.

Sometimes this can lead to its own form of recreational use and physical dependence. Even the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration reports that Suboxone is commonly susceptible to abuse. It is still a powerful drug.

Suboxone Withdrawal Symptoms

While Suboxone and other maintenance drugs may be a preferred tactic for going ‘cold turkey’ off of heroin or other opioids, the drug itself still has the power to cause its own set of withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include:

  • Irritability or agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Profuse sweating
  • Tearing
  • Runny nose
  • Frequent yawning
  • Stomach pain or cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Changes in mood

Not to mention precipitated withdrawal, when the ingredients in this medication can actually induce the onset of unpleasant symptoms rapidly, if not immediately, for someone actively engaged in opioid use.

Methadone

Methadone is a long-acting opioid medication utilized since the 1970s to try and help people get off of heroin. It is typically used today under strict medical supervision because the drug is very potent and has a high risk of addiction. In fact, a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that approximately 2.46 million people reported to using methadone for a non-prescribed purpose at least once.

According to another study, in 2009 methadone was responsible for 1 out of every 3 opioid overdose deaths.

Because of the risks, a gradual taper should be utilized to wean someone off of methadone. Often times doctors will prescribe another detox medication to help with this process, with the tapering to be done under medical supervision.

Methadone Withdrawal

But as with trying to quit heroin or other powerful opioids ‘cold turkey’, trying to abruptly discontinue methadone can bring on intense withdrawal. This includes physical and psychological symptoms such as:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Runny nose
  • Tearing or watery eyes
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Shivering
  • Trembling

Many of these symptoms are similar to the symptoms of withdrawing from heroin or other opioids. So in a sense, this drug can create similar withdrawal symptoms as the drugs it is supposed to be used to treat.

Quitting Medication Assisted Treatment

Is it possible to quit medication-assisted treatment- yes, there are always other options for getting comprehensive care and lasting recovery without the prolonged use of these medications. Even relapse prevention is possible without relying on medications to fight cravings.

Can you quit medication-assisted treatment with no withdrawals? Well, that may be a process. It depends on a number of factors, such as the specific maintenance medication and the length of time using it. For example, someone who has been using methadone for years could probably have a much harder time getting off methadone than someone who used another medication for a month or so to help get off opioids.

Safety is crucial when deciding to quit MAT. Quitting medication-assisted treatment without a taper or other forms of medication can cause intense withdrawals. It is not suggested that someone try to quit MAT ‘cold turkey’ or without consulting a doctor for help with changing the dosage and slowly tapering off the drugs.

Again, just because it isn’t heroin or fentanyl doesn’t make it harmless.

MAT or Detox?

Medication-assisted treatment holds a lot of value, but the question becomes whether or not it is the kind of sustainable solution you want. Recovery isn’t one-size-fits-all. Medication-assisted treatment can be helpful in saving someone’s life who cannot stop using drugs. But is it something that will completely eliminate cravings and withdrawals, or will it just postpone these symptoms?

Remember, these are still powerful narcotic drugs that have a high risk for abuse. Some people end up using medication maintenance for life. Others will use it for a short period of time, with a detox period afterward. Either way, it is your choice; how long do you want to rely on substances, and to what extent?

Other models believe in providing holistic treatment and personalized therapy after a detox period, helping to reduce and remove chemical dependence and build a foundation for personal recovery.

Using medication to help with the painful and often overwhelming symptoms of withdrawal from opioids and other drugs can be essential to a smooth and healthy transition. In fact, with a safe medical detox, each individual is given an initial assessment to see what medications will be helpful in making this phase of treatment comfortable and safe. This can include medications for anxiety, mood disorders, physical pains and various other side-effects of substance abuse.

And when it comes to some of these medications, it can sometimes be necessary to continue using them.

The biggest difference is whether narcotic maintenance medications like Suboxone or methadone become a long-term prerequisite to recovery, or if they are used to help someone who is sick get better so that the real healing can happen.

Palm Healthcare Company believes in providing a safe medical detox to allow for a comfortable and healthy transition from active drug or alcohol use. Our facilities utilize an experienced and professional medical staff who help to monitor each individual’s progress and provide effective medical support for lasting recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free now. We want to help.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

Opioid Commission Demands Insurance Companies Cover Treatment

Opioid Commission Demands Insurance Companies Cover Treatment

If that headline seems kind of confusing, don’t worry, it should. Technically insurance companies are already required by law to provide the same coverage for substance abuse and mental health that they do for other health conditions… and therein lies the issue.

Back in August the White House Opioid Commission, established by President Trump and led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made several recommendations to the current administration about how to address the current drug crisis as it damages communities across the country. One of those recommendations was to declare a national emergency, while others had to do with options for prevention and education.

In the aftermath of ex-DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi’s eye-opening interview exposing the shady connections between Congress and Big Pharma companies, many have been looking closely at how government officials and multi-billion dollar empires helped create the opioid epidemic. Now the White House’s Opioid Commission is putting a focus on how health insurance companies and the flaws in their policies have contributed to the intensifying addiction crisis.

So with the opioid commission saying they will call-out insurers and make demands on coverage for addiction treatment, will more people have access to help?

Restricted Addiction Treatment

One of the biggest issues the opioid commission seems to have with insurance companies is that frequently their policies only cover one type of addiction treatment and not others. It seems insurance companies are convinced that with a complex and extremely personal issue like substance use disorder or mental health conditions, there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Sadly, most advocates can tell you this isn’t the case.

Something else especially frustrating is that laws already exist to prevent insurers from treating addiction treatment different than any other health issue. Chris Christie himself said,

“Why are we still not seeing addiction services covered, and mental health services covered as broadly as every other type of disease?”

“And what do we need to do to make sure that the law is enforced and followed?”

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires health insurers to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders the same as any other disease. It means they should provide health care coverage for these conditions without additional limits, co-pays or deductibles. If companies add on additional requirements, it creates even more barriers between the suffering individual and treatment. Sadly, not every insurance company thinks it has to play by the rules.

A task force convened by President Barack Obama last year reported that numerous insurance companies still place a number of limits on addiction coverage, like more strict pre-authorization requirements. The insurance companies claim that their policies are only part of a complex problem, insisting that the issue also has to do with shortages of doctors and poor medical training from healthcare providers in the field of addiction treatment.

However, the simple fact that insurance companies are still trying to push back against supporting addiction treatment has the opioid commission ready to address the inconsistencies that are making it even harder for people who need help to get the help they deserve.

Holding Insurance Companies Accountable

The opioid commission is not holding back when it comes to trying to make insurance companies contribute to solutions since they helped contribute to the problem. The New Jersey Governor warned health insurance companies to be prepared for a final report that will “place new demands” on health insurance policies.

Christie and the opioid commission seem to be playing offense, saying Big Pharma drug companies and health insurers profit while allowing an epidemic of addiction to continue, but these new demands will hopefully change all that. Christie added,

“I’m a capitalist. I want everybody to make profits. I think it’s great. But we can’t any longer go about addressing this problem this way,”

“I hope you’re prepared to accept the challenge, because we know if it hasn’t gotten into your own house yet, it could, and then all the sudden your perspective on this problem could become markedly different.”

Not only is there more pressure on insurance companies when it comes to treatment options in their policies, but with how they handle medications in the first place.

Health insurance providers are also under a greater deal of scrutiny for policies that sometimes favor powerful and addictive painkillers over less addictive, and more expensive, variations. So not only are they limiting the options when it comes to getting treatment for substance abuse, but they are limiting coverage of medications to more addictive drugs to save money.

Insurance providers did show up to testify at the commission to help create a more comprehensive view of the issue. Involved were executives from some of the nation’s largest insurance companies:

  • Aetna
  • Anthem
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield
  • Cigna
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • UPMC Health Plan

Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, also has questions for many of those same companies. Some of these inquiries stem from a report by The New York Times last month stating insurance companies “erected more hurdles to approving addiction treatments than for the addictive substances themselves.”

Cummings wrote letters to seven of the companies which state,

“This is not a hypothetical problem. The over-prescription of opioids leads to addiction and death.”

The White House’s opioid commission has also spoken with leaders in the pharmaceutical industry. All this shows that the opioid commission is not only worried about exploring our options for fixing the issue but also in examining all the elements that helped cause the opioid epidemic in America. Christie says the final report to President Trump will include sweeping recommendations but will also be “extraordinarily instructive in terms of how we got here, which is an important thing for this commission to acknowledge.”

The commission will hold its last meeting November 1st before delivering its final report to the President. Only time will tell what demands this report plans to place on insurance companies to provide more coverage for addiction treatment services.

Will Insurance Companies Change?

The big question becomes how will this impact the services offered by insurance companies. Will the opioid commission’s suggestions help shape new policies, or will some insurance companies continue to ignore the parity laws put in place to make sure they do not discriminate against the treatment of substance abuse?

Will these changes allow for the coverage of different innovative and holistic treatment options, or will the change only support programs that depend on maintenance drugs like methadone or Suboxone?

Hopefully, the new demands being put on insurance companies will help to support mental health and substance abuse parity. When it comes to addressing addiction in America, we need every resource we can get in order to move forward with overcoming the opioid epidemic. With more officials taking a closer look at every aspect of the issue, perhaps we can get a more effective strategy for addressing the problem.

With so many people struggling with opioids and other drugs across the country, comprehensive and effective treatment is essential to making any real progress. For decades Palm Healthcare Company facilities have been providing holistic addiction treatment options that help create lasting change. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free now.

 CALL NOW 1-888-922-5398

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