Tag Archives: lawmakers

Opioid Addiction in America Accountability

opioid

The effort to rein in the prescription opioid problem here in America continues even though there hasn’t been an announcement from the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on how it plans to tackle the issue. While state and Federal lawmakers tirelessly work to bring about change and hold those responsible for their actions, the pharmaceutical industry has been less than cooperative. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise, after all the prescription painkillers are a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. Taking even a modicum of responsibility for misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of opioids would be to acknowledge profiting off suffering and death.

All roads lead to the pharmaceutical industry no matter from what angle you examine the American opioid addiction epidemic. There is a plethora of evidence showing the tactics of companies, like Purdue Pharma, beginning in the late 1990s. Methods including promotional videos assuring doctors that the number of patients who might develop an opioid use disorder was statistically irrelevant. Before long, and with the bonus of incentives to prescribe, primary care physicians began doling out drugs like OxyContin for all things pain.

Naturally, the opioid scourge in America wasn’t the doing of just one entity; we need to consider that there are many stops along the way from the poppy fields to the medicine cabinet. The onus of the problem affecting millions of people falls on many private companies, health organizations, and government agencies like the FDA. In fact, some of the companies which profited the most from addiction in America were pharmaceutical distributors, those in the business of getting drugs from manufacturers to the pharmacy. Even a cursory look reveals that wholesalers turned a blind eye to filling suspicious orders.

Opioid Addiction Accountability

Yesterday, the leaders of five pharmaceutical distributors sat before a House panel hearing fielding questions regarding their practices in the state of West Virginia. The population of the “Mountain State” is roughly 1.80 million, according to today’s estimates and yet, 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone tablets went into the state between 2007 and 2012, CNN reports. The town of Kermit, WV, for instance has a total population of 400 people and yet, over the course of just two years almost 9 million painkillers were sent to one local pharmacy.

At one point during the hearing, House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee chairman, Gregg Harper (R-MS) asked McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Miami-Luken and Smith Wholesale if their companies had a role in the opioid epidemic? All the distributor heads but Dr. Joseph Mastandrea, chairman of the board of Miami-Luken, answered Harper unequivocally, “NO!”

Despite the fact that Rep. David McKinley, (R-WV) was not a member of the subcommittee he was able to sit in and allowed to share some thoughts with the distributors, according to the article. He points to the companies' "lack of attention on your algorithm and your core operation. And deflecting responsibility, saying, 'I just had to fill the order' -- no, you had a role. You had a role." Adding, "And for several of you to say you had no role whatsoever in this I find particularly offensive."

I just want you to feel shame in your roles, respectively, in all this," said McKinley. "I am so frustrated for the people of West Virginia and this country that you all have not stepped up and took more responsibility for this.

Paying for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

Lawmakers’ ire is fervent toward manufacturers as well, with many reasoning that since the companies had a role in creating the problem, the least they can do is help cover the cost of treatment. Currently, some 15 states have legislation in the works that would tax prescription opioids; the revenue would then fund addiction treatment services, The Chicago Tribune reports. Of course, bringing such laws to fruition is, unfortunately, a David and Goliath scenario given the powerful ‘big pharma’ lobbies. To date, only the state of New York has been able to pass an opioid tax measure.

The industry is up-to-its-eyeballs in lawsuits and protracted litigation, owing mainly to the staggering death toll in the last twenty years. The general public and lawmakers (some of whom have lost loved ones to overdose) want the industry to do what’s right, take responsibility, and be a part of the solution. Such companies can afford to help, especially when you consider the amount of money opioid developers spend in efforts to defeat common sense legislation. The big opioid producers spent $880 million on politics and lobbying from 2006 through 2015, according to AP and the Center for Public Integrity.

So, what is the manufacturers and distributors argument, you ask? The companies contend that an opioid tax is wrong and would lead to patients or taxpayers eating the cost in the long run. As you can probably imagine some lawmakers are at their wit's end with the lack of accountability, state Sen. Julie Rosen (R-MN) walked out of a meeting with big pharma reps, the article reports. She said:

They know that they're spending way too much money on defending their position instead of being part of the solution.

Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

If you are a young man struggling with opioid addiction, PACE Recovery Center can help. Our team of experts can teach you the skills and provide you the necessary tools for leading a productive life in recovery. Please contact us today to learn more about our program.

PAARI: Addiction “Angel Programs”

PAARIIt has been nearly 20 years since the beginning of the American opioid epidemic, the greatest public health crisis of modern times. With the continued overdose death rates now at an all-time high, and scores of people being denied access to substance use disorder treatment, it may be time to stop and ask some vital, albeit hard, questions to answer. And at the top of the list is: What have we learned?” Of course, that question could be succinctly answered in a number of ways, for instance: we have learned that our reliance on prescription opioid painkillers is alarming, unparalleled in any other country. We have learned that making it harder to acquire prescription opioids has the unintended effect of fueling a demand for heroin, a drug that is often stronger and cheaper than prescription opioids. Perhaps the most import knowledge gained by battling an epidemic for two decades, something that addiction professionals have been arguing for since time immemorial, is the fact that we cannot arrest our way out of the opioid epidemic—treatment is the answer.

Providing Access to Addiction Treatment

Previously we have written about the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), a bill that was passed which aims to, among other things, provide access to addiction treatment to the millions of Americans who need it. The bill, at the end of the day, is a perfect example of what can be achieved when lawmakers put their differences aside for the good of the country. However, there are many experts who believe that the bill lacks adequate funding for all the programs the legislation calls for, leading to a letter written to Congress and Senate by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The letter aims to persuade the same lawmakers who passed the bill to fully fund CARA. Hopefully, action will be taken to ensure that happens. CARA, adequate funding or not, is still a step in the right direction, a move that will surely aid some people in receiving the help they need. There is a new bill that was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives this week, known as the 21st Century Cures Act. The bill will likely be approved in the Senate as well, according to USA Today. While the bill is not without criticism, due to some glaring signs of impropriety, the legislation would provide $1 billion in new funding over the next two years for opioid addiction prevention and treatment. With 2017 just around the corner, millions of Americans are hoping to reap the benefits of both CARA and the Cures Act, but in the meantime, opioid addicts continue the fight for access to treatment. And in some cases, both lawmakers and law enforcement have come up with some novel ideas for providing treatment, and just like addiction recovery, it all starts with surrender.

PAARI: “Angel Program”

As lawmakers continue to argue over how to fund addiction treatment, in some parts of the country local law enforcement agencies have resorted to a novel idea: Encourage opioid addicts to come to the police station and surrender their narcotics without fear of punishment, in turn the police will link the addicted individuals with addiction treatment services. In 2015, officials in Gloucester Massachusetts created the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative (PAARI), otherwise known as the “Angel Program.” The initiative was so successful that it has spread throughout the country, with 160 police-based programs nationwide, and more to follow. PAARI has released its first annual report, with some promising results:
  • More than 400 Gloucester individuals have been helped into treatment by the Police Department
  • Nationwide, thousands more have been helped by other Police Departments.
  • PAARI communities have seen a 25 percent reduction in crimes associated with addiction.
  • More than 5,000 doses of nasal naloxone have been distributed.
  • PAARI can be found in more than 20 states, working hand in hand with more than 300 treatment centers.

Working with Young Adult Men

Here at PACE, we have a multi-pronged approach to our men's addiction treatment program and philosophy because we understand that our clients are complex beings. Having a place where men can delve into their underlying issues, which have caused them to resort to substance use and self-defeating behaviors, is the core philosophy of PACE.

Contact Us

...