Friday, February 16, 2018

Deaths Triple From Deadly Combination of Anti-Anxiety Pills and Opioids

Steve Birr Vice Reporter
1:03 PM 02/16/2018

Deaths attributed to a combination of anti-anxiety medication and opioid painkillers are rising rapidly in the Chicago area, claiming hundreds of lives in 2017.

Officials in Cook County, Ill., say addiction to benzodiazepine medications like Xanax, Valium and Klonopin appear to be increasing in the region. Benzodiazepines are a class of medication commonly prescribed to treat anxiety conditions that can slow a user’s breathing, particularly when mixed with an opioid medication. A youth rehab network run by Gateway says roughly one in four patients now have abuse problems with a benzodiazepine, up from only one in 10 in 2013, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Cook County Medical Examiner Ponni Arunkumar says the deadly mixture of prescription opioids and medications like Xanax are causing deaths attributed to benzodiazepines to spike at an alarming pace. Deaths from the anti-anxiety drugs have tripled in the region since 2015, claiming 333 lives last year.

“This has taken the place of ecstasy in the party culture for some people,” Karen Wolownik Albert, executive director of Gateway in Lake County, told the Chicago Tribune. “Because it’s a prescription drug, people can rationalize it. It doesn’t fit into people’s concept of what drug abuse looks like.”

Officials warn that many people who are prescribed both opioids and benzodiazepines may be unaware of the danger the medications pose when taken together.

Federal drug agents also recently issued a warning about rising overdose deaths, particularly among young adults and teens, from counterfeit Xanax pills cut with the potent opioid fentanyl.

Officials say the anti-anxiety medications, which are often glorified in music and on social media, are increasing in popularity among teens and young adults in recent years. Rapper Lil Peep, who often rapped about Xanax, fatally overdosed on a combination of Xanax and fentanyl before a November concert in Arizona.

Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine which is pouring into the country across the border and through the mail from China. The substance is fueling more overdose deaths as drug dealers increasingly cut the substance into heroin, cocaine and pill supplies to maximize profits.

Fentanyl overtook heroin as the deadliest substance in the U.S. in 2016, claiming 19,413 lives, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016.

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Monday, February 12, 2018

A Short Salute To Our US Military

ISIS and their Ilk grew completely out of control under Obama.

Since the last Presidential election that has changed.

Fact Check: Does The Federal Government Borrow $1 Million Per Minute?

BTW: If you got here through google looking for Psychiatric Drug coverage just click our tag Risperdal.

Kush Desai Fact Check Reporter
10:31 PM 02/11/2018

Republican Sen. Rand Paul claimed Thursday that the federal government borrows $1 million every minute.

Verdict: True

The annual federal deficit has averaged more than $1 million per minute since fiscal year 2016 and is projected to reach around $2 million per minute in FY 2019.

Fact Check:

Congress passed a two-year budget deal early Friday morning. Although lawmakers still have to appropriate specific spending by late-March, the deal addressed spending priorities of both parties by hiking defense and domestic spending caps in addition to allocating $90 billion in disaster relief funding. The deal received bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, and President Donald Trump signed it later that morning.

The budget deal is projected to add $320 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade. Paul, a fiscal hawk, opposed the deal and demanded an amendment to cut federal spending.

Delaying the Senate’s vote on the budget bill with a series of roadblocks and floor speeches that ultimately resulted in a brief government shutdown, Paul underscored how U.S. deficit spending is too immense to ignore.

“I don’t advocate for shutting the government down, but neither do I advocate for keeping it open and borrowing $1 million a minute. In fact, the statistics this year are closer to $2 million a minute,” Paul claimed. “This is a government that is horribly broken.”

Paul made the claim multiple times on Thursday, and again on Friday.

Data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (FRED) indicate that the federal government’s spending exceeded its revenue by $585 billion in FY 2016. While the Treasury Department does not actually borrow money on a minute-by-minute basis, the deficit averaged out to $1.1 million of new debt every minute.

FRED data show that the deficit increased in FY 2017 to $666 billion, averaging $1.3 million per minute.

With the passage of the budget deal, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), an independent think tank that advocates for deficit reduction, now projects that the deficit will grow to $800 billion in FY 2018. This averages out to $1.5 million per minute, consistent with Paul’s claim that current borrowing is “closer to $2 million” per minute.

Paul’s office told The Daily Caller News Foundation that Paul was using his office’s estimation that Congress will actually end up spending even more than what was agreed to in the budget deal and, as a result, run a deficit of $1 trillion in 2018 – which averages out to $1.9 million per minute.

CRFB estimates that deficits will balloon to $1.2 trillion in FY 2019, or $2.3 million per minute. This is about $400,000 a minute higher than before the budget deal was passed.

Congress’s budget deal marks a stark departure from the fiscal discipline it had legislated in the Budget Control Act of 2011, which instituted federal spending caps and automatic sequestration if Congress could not agree on spending cuts. Sequestration, in addition to broader economic recovery from the Great Recession, helped reduce annual budget deficits by more than two-thirds from a peak of $1.4 trillion in FY 2009 to $438 billion in FY 2015.

The deficit started increasing again for the first time in years in 2016 as entitlement spending grew and tax revenues were lower than expected. The fiscal outlook then worsened when the GOP – with Paul’s vote – passed a major tax cut in December that is estimated to add at least $1.5 trillion to the national debt over the next decade.

By FY 2027, CRFB estimates that the deficit could balloon to $2.1 trillion, or $4 million per minute.

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Report: New Opioid Meds Are Encouraging Heroin Abuse

Ethan Barton Investigative Reporter
2:56 PM 02/06/2018

Harder-to-abuse opioid medications major pharmaceutical companies manufacture are encouraging heroin use, a study published Tuesday found.

Opioids manufactured with an abuse-deterrent formulation are designed in such a way that it prevents users from crushing and snorting the drugs, according to the Cato Institute report. But the inability to abuse such medications has led addicts to switch to more dangerous drugs, like heroin, to get their fix.

“Little evidence suggests that abuse-deterrent formulations of opioids are having the intended effect of reducing the opioid overdose death rate, and strong evidence suggests that they are contributing to the rise in heroin use and overdoses,” the report said.

“Data show that in recent years, the overdose death rate attributable to prescription opioids has stabilized, while the death rate from heroin has increased,” the report continued, noting that, for the first time, there were more overdose deaths from heroin than from prescription opioids in 2015. (RELATED: Big Pharma Accused Of Flooding Small Town With 20.8 Million Opioid Painkillers)

Users ultimately transition to heroin when abusable prescription opioids aren’t available, according to the report. (RELATED: How One Painkiller Ignited The Addiction Epidemic)

“When we combine heroin and opioid deaths together, we find no evidence that total heroin and opioid deaths fell at all after the reformulation — there appears to have been one-for-one substitution of heroin deaths for opioid deaths,” the report said.

The reformulated opioids even led to an HIV outbreak in one instance, according to the report. Abusers started injecting an opioid medication in an Indiana county after it was switched to an abuse-deterrent formulation, which resulted in 190 people testing positive for the autoimmune disease from sharing needles.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has encouraged manufacturers to focus on creating abuse-deterrent version of their opioids.

“The FDA should end its policy of encouraging [abuse-deterrent] opioids and particularly its goal of eliminating non-[abuse-deterrent] opioids,” the report said.

“Lawmakers should abandon efforts to require consumers to purchase coverage for costlier [abuse-deterrent] opioids and should instead allow insurers to steer medical users of these products toward cheaper, non-[abuse-deterrent] generic formulations,” it continued.

Also, reformulating opioid medications allows pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend the life of their patents, according to the report.

“The patent protections for many of the original opioid preparations have expired,” the report said. “When that occurs, competition from generic drugs reduces prices for opioids — and cuts into the profits of drug companies that first brought those drugs to market.”

Since the government is encouraging the prescription of abuse-deterrent opioids – which brand-name manufactures hold the patent on through extensions – the price of these drugs has increased, which is passed onto patients and taxpayers alike, according to the report.

“Specifically, requiring tamper-resistant properties … would have served to eliminate certain lower cost drugs from the market, increasing costs for patients and the health system, while having little to no effect in the fight against problematic opioid use,” the report said.

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Oxycontin Makers Hit With Another Lawsuit As Alabama Joins Fight

Steve Birr

Vice Reporter
4:55 PM 02/07/2018

Officials in Alabama are suing the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, accusing the company of deceiving the public about the risks of opioids in pursuit of profits.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed the lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, which seeks to hold Purdue Pharma liable for the economic damage of the opioid epidemic in the state. Hundreds of residents in Alabama die from opioid-related overdoses each year, leading to a drop in the overall life expectancy in the state, reports NPR.

Marshall argues that the early marketing practices of Purdue Pharma surrounding their drug OxyContin opened the doors for the pharmaceutical industry to push overprescribing of painkillers for chronic pain patients.

“The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding though every community of this state,” Marshall said Tuesday in a statement. “It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens.”

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result. The company overstated how long the effects of the medication lasted and severely downplayed the addiction risks of the drug. Three executives also pleaded guilty to criminal charges, but dodged prison time.

Purdue Pharma denies allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic and says it is committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” a spokesman for Purdue Pharma previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of New Jersey. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives last year, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015.

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FDA Calls Controversial Supplement Kratom An Opioid

Charles Fain Lehman
February 8, 2018 5:00 am

Kratom, the controversial drug proponents of which argue could help combat the opioid epidemic, contains opioid compounds and has the potential for abuse, according to a report issued by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

"As the scientific data and adverse event reports have clearly revealed, compounds in kratom make it so it isn't just a plant—it's an opioid," FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said.

Kratom refers to a plant originating in southeast Asia, where its leaves are chewed to relieve pain, improve mood, and as a stimulant. In recent years it has spread to the United States, where it is sold in pill form, consumed in tea, or smoked. Kratom is legal at the federal level, but regulators have voiced concerns about its opioid-like effects. In the summer of 2016, the Drug Enforcement Agency announced that it was listing several of kratom's active ingredients as a schedule 1 drug on an emergency basis, putting it in the same group as heroin, LSD, and MDMA.

Public outcry followed, including a 120,000-signature petition presented to the Obama White House and a letter from a bipartisan group of House members. This response prompted the DEA to announce that it would delay its ban pending public comment.

Since then, kratom has existed in a legal limbo, not scheduled but currently listed as a "drug of concern" by the DEA. The FDA has also been closely following the drug, issuing a public health advisory last November cautioning against use of the drug, and placing kratom products on import alert to prevent them from entering the the United States illegally.

The latest report from the federal drug regulator suggests these proactive measures may have been warranted.

The FDA's new analysis used computerized 3D modeling to investigate the molecular structure of the compounds that make up kratom. That analysis concluded "that all of the [kratom] compounds share the most structural similarities with controlled opioid analgesics, such as morphine derivatives." It also found that many of the compounds in kratom bind to the same receptors in the brain—mu-opioid receptors—as opioids do.

"The data from the PHASE model shows us that kratom compounds are predicted to affect the body just like opioids. Based on the scientific information in the literature and further supported by our computational modeling and the reports of its adverse effects in humans, we feel confident in calling compounds found in kratom, opioids," Gottlieb said.

The FDA also identifed 44 reported deaths associated with the use of kratom. At least one of those deaths, Gottlieb noted, involved an individual with no known history of opioid use besides kratom.

This adds up to a fairly damning case against kratom, Gottlieb said.

"Taken in total, the scientific evidence we've evaluated about kratom provides a clear picture of the biologic effect of this substance. Kratom should not be used to treat medical conditions, nor should it be used as an alternative to prescription opioids. There is no evidence to indicate that kratom is safe or effective for any medical use," he said.

He also objected to those kratom advocates who try to discount kratom's opioid effects because of its herbal plant appearance.

"Claiming that kratom is benign because it's ‘just a plant' is shortsighted and dangerous," Gottlieb said. "After all, heroin is an illegal, dangerous, and highly-addictive substance containing the opioid morphine, derived from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants."

Congressional supporters of kratom have previously contended that the drug is not an opioid, and does not represent enough of a public safety risk to merit scheduling by the DEA.

"Kratom is not an opioid, it is a natural supplement made from the leaves of a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia and a relative of the coffee plant," wrote the aforementioned 25 House members. "Numerous scientific studies, including studied funded by the NIH, have shown the addiction potential for kratom is substantially lower than that of ‘narcotic-like opioids' and it does not produce the deadly respiratory depressant effects that is the primary cause of opioid overdose deaths."

"The DEA has a limited amount of resources, and we feel taxpayer dollars should be prioritized to prevent the sale of illegal substances like heroin and fentanyl," the letter, sent in January, read.

The opioid status of kratom, and its overdose risk, are particularly important given the nationwide opioid epidemic. Recent estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that opioids are responsible for more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016. The rise in drug overdose, driven largely by opioids, is responsible for a two-year drop in U.S. life expectancy.

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Maryland's Largest County Sues Drug Makers For Spreading Addiction And Death

Steve Birr Vice Reporter
4:36 PM 02/08/2018

The most populous county in Maryland is suing drug makers for sparking, “unprecedented opioid addiction,” through deceptive marketing of their painkillers.

Officials with Montgomery County filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court Tuesday, targeting a number of the nation’s largest manufacturers and distributors of opioid painkillers including Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Cardinal Health. They allege the companies deceived the public and doctors on the addiction risks of their drugs and failed to report suspicious pill orders, reports The Washington Post.

Montgomery County lost 117 residents to opioid overdoses in 2016, up from only 27 in 2010. County officials want the pharmaceutical industry on the hook for the rising public costs of fighting the overdose epidemic.

“It is critical that we hold responsible the manufacturers and distributors whose negative actions have significantly contributed to the crisis,” Isiah Leggett, county executive, told The Washington Post.Pharmaceutical companies have previously denied any claims of wrongdoing and say they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” a spokesman for Purdue Pharma previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of New Jersey. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. There are currently more than 75 cities and states suing pharmaceutical companies over the destructive addiction crisis.

Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016.

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Older Americans Experience The Largest Spike In Opioid Overdose Deaths

Steve Birr Vice Reporter
4:11 PM 02/08/2018

Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 are experiencing the largest spike in opioid overdose deaths, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coverage of the opioid crisis largely focuses on the toll addiction is having on Americans between the ages of 25 and 44, however, overdose deaths of older Americans are accelerating faster than any other age group. Emergency workers in Michigan are urging the public to focus their attention on this segment of the population, which is particularly at risk, reports FOX 2 Detroit.

Dan Phillips, an EMS captain in Royal Oak, Mich., says there is a false perception that the crisis is largely due to abuse of street drugs like heroin. He says older Americans often become hooked on painkillers after being initially prescribed opioids for an injury.

“A lot of older people start with a real injury: broken hip, a shoulder injury – they get a real drug for a real reason,” Phillips told FOX 2 Detroit. “When that drug goes away because that injury is over, they don’t get the help for not being on that drug and that’s where we see our problems.”

Royal Oak lost more residents to opioid overdoses in 2017 than in the past five years combined, according to local officials. Phillips notes that none of the overdoses involved teenagers and the oldest victim was 62.

The opioid overdose death rate for Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 increased six-fold between 1999 and 2016. Over the same period, deaths linked to prescription painkillers went from representing roughly 20 percent of all drug deaths to more than 50 percent.

Opioid overdose made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, killing 42,249 people in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer. Deaths from synthetic opioids like fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine, experienced a particularly dramatic increase, more than doubling from 9,580 lives in 2015 to 19,413 lives last year.

Officials say the epidemic is contributing to declining life expectancy in the U.S. Life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2016 for the first time since an outbreak of influenza in 1962 and 1963.

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