ATLANTA — President Donald Trump on Wednesday put the blame for the ongoing opioid crisis on big pharma and vowed to hold the drugmakers accountable.
“We are holding big Pharma accountable,” the president said while speaking at the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
Refusing donation efforts from major pharmaceutical companies, the president said enough is enough. “I don’t want their money,” Trump said. “They have got to do what is right.”
“My administration is also taking aggressive action to reduce oversupply of highly addictive prescription drugs,” Trump said. “The Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 3,000 defendants in cases involving opioids.”
“We have secured a record $6 billion in new funding to combat the opioid crisis … [and] last year we provided $90 million to prevent youth substance abuse,” the president continued. “Following the recommendation of my surgeon general and many others last year, the distribution of the overdose-reducing drug, Naloxone, increased by over 1 million units. Pretty amazing stuff.”
On Tuesday the Trump administration announced it had charged drug distributor Rochester Drug Co-operative Inc and the company’s executives for their role in fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic. In exchange for entering a deferred prosecution agreement, the company has agreed to pay $20 million and admit it ignored thousands of suspicious orders for opioid pain killers.
The company’s former chief executive has been charged with multiple related felonies — the first case of its kind related to the opioid crisis.
President Trump has made waging war against the opioid epidemic a top priority within his administration. In 2017, he declared opioid abuse a national emergency and in October signed into law a legislative package that lawmakers and public health officials said they hope will help to end the crisis.
According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioid overdose in the United States jumped 17 percent in 2017 from just one year prior. The report attributed over 49,000 American deaths directly to the use of opioids.
BOSTON (AP) — A member of the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma told people at the prescription opioid painkiller’s launch party in the 1990s that it would be “followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,” according to court documents filed Tuesday.
The details were made public in a case brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey that accuses Purdue Pharma, its executives and members of the Sackler family of deceiving patients and doctors about the risks of opioids and pushing prescribers to keep patients on the drug longer. The documents provide information about former Purdue Pharma President Richard Sackler’s role in overseeing sales of OxyContin that hasn’t been public before.
The drug and the closely held Connecticut company that sells it are at the center of a lawsuit in Massachusetts and hundreds of others across the country in which government entities are trying to find the drug industry responsible for an opioid crisis that killed 72,000 Americans in 2017. The Massachusetts litigation is separate from some 1,500 federal lawsuits filed by governments being overseen by a judge in Cleveland.
But the company documents at the heart of the Massachusetts allegations are also part of the evidence exchanged in those cases. While the Massachusetts filing describes their contents, the documents themselves have not been made public, at the company’s request.
According to the filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, told the audience at the launch party to imagine a series of natural disasters: an earthquake, volcanic eruption, hurricane and blizzard.
“The launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white,” he said, according to the documents.
“Over the next twenty years, the Sacklers made Richard’s boast come true,” lawyers in the attorney general’s office wrote. “They created a manmade disaster. Their blizzard of dangerous prescriptions buried children and parents and grandparents across Massachusetts, and the burials continue,” they wrote.
The complaint says the Sackler family, which includes major donors to museums including the Smithsonian Institution, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Tate Modern in London, was long aware its drug was dangerous and addictive but pushed more sales anyway.
A memo among family members in 2008 warned of a “dangerous concentration of risk” for the family, the complaint says. Years earlier, Richard Sackler wrote in an email that the company would have to “hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” describing them as “the culprits and the problem.”
Joanne Peterson, who runs a Massachusetts-based support network for the family members of people addicted to drugs, said Sackler’s comments show a “blatant disregard for human life.”
“He certainly hammered them six feet under,” Peterson said. “I’ve been to more funerals than I can count in the last 15 years.”
Purdue Pharma accused the attorney general’s office of cherry-picking from millions of emails and documents to create “biased and inaccurate characterizations” of the company and its executives. The company said in a statement said it will “aggressively defend against these misleading allegations.”
The company also stresses that its drug is approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors; that it accounts for a small portion of opioids sold in the U.S.; and that illicit drugs including heroin and street fentanyl are causing most overdose deaths.
“In a rush to vilify a single manufacturer whose medicines represent less than two percent of opioid pain prescriptions rather than doing the hard work of trying to solve a complex public health crisis, the complaint distorts critical facts and cynically conflates prescription opioid medications with illegal heroin and fentanyl,” Purdue Pharma said.
Messages seeking comment were left with a spokeswoman for the Sackler family.
Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company’s executives in a complaint. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau, Richard Sackler and other members of the Sackler family.
A suit filed by the New York County of Suffolk also names members of the family. A lawyer who filed that suit, Paul Hanly, said he expects the family to be named in further suits.
Last year, Purdue halted efforts to market OxyContin to doctors.
Associated Press writers Alanna Durkin Richer and Geoff Mulvihill contributed to the contents of this report.
New York, N.Y. (Medical Daily) — More than a third of Americans may unknowingly use prescription medications that include depression as a potential side effect. The use of multiple medications simultaneously is also on the rise.
The study titled “Prevalence of Prescription Medications With Depression as a Potential Adverse Effect Among Adults in the United States” was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association on June 12.
Method and findings
The study looked at 26,192 adults, analyzing their medication use patterns from 2005 to 2014. It was found that more than 200 commonly used prescription drugs list depression or suicide as potential side effects.
Thirty-seven percent of Americans may be using these drugs which include hormonal birth control medications, painkillers, blood pressure or heart medications, proton pump inhibitors, antacids, etc. Around 8 percent of the total participants reported depression.
Risks of polypharmacy
Those who simultaneously used multiple medications (known as polypharmacy) were more likely to report depression, according to co-author Mark Olfson.
Approximately 15 percent of adults who used three or more of these medications at the same time reported depressive symptoms. It was 5 percent among those not taking the drugs, 7 percent among those taking only one drug, and 9 percent among those taking two drugs at the same time.
“We’re just showing that if you’re already taking them, you are more likely to be depressed,” Olfson said, emphasizing that the study did not imply causation.
Rates of depression, suicide
Clinical diagnoses of depression have risen by 33 percent since 2013, according to data released by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also noted a rise in suicide rates across the U.S. While mental health was a factor, the CDC also expressed concern about the access to lethal means.
“With depression as one of the leading causes of disability and increasing national suicide rates, we need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue,” stated lead author Dima Qato, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
The takeaway message
According to Qato, what people could take away from the study was that polypharmacy may lead to depressive symptoms. Both patients and healthcare providers should be aware of the risk, she said. When screening for depression, physicians may consider evaluating medications, she said.
Donald Mordecai, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente in California, encouraged people to pay more attention to the risks and benefits of their drugs and also keep track of changes since starting medications.
“People who don’t have a history of depression and then, suddenly, start to have symptoms of depression should be concerned that it’s potentially due to a side effect, or potentially, an interaction,” he said.
By speaking to a doctor about concerning changes, medications can potentially be switched or reduced with the help of lifestyle changes.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741. The line is available for free, 24 hours a day.