Category Archives: Prescription Drug Abuse

Shire Pharmaceuticals Settles False Marketing Lawsuit for Adderall

adderallIn September, Shire Pharmaceuticals, the developer and marketer of Adderall, settled a lawsuit claiming that they falsely marketed this drug. The lawsuit, brought by a former executive of the company, stated that Shire had made marketing claims about this drug intended to treat problems controlling one’s attention (referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder by doctors and psychiatrists) that were not supported by clinical evidence.

For example, the lawsuit states that Shire claimed Adderall XR (extended release) was superior to drugs from other manufacturers treating the same condition when there was no such evidence on hand. Also that Adderall XR could help prevent some problems thought to be associated with ADHD, again when there was no such evidence. The list of these problems included:

• Poor academic performance
• Loss of employment
• Criminal behavior
• Traffic accidents
• Sexually transmitted disease

Shire did not admit wrongdoing but settled the claim for $56.5 million. Continue reading

Thousands of Tons of Drugs Accepted on Drug Take-Back Days

dropping of prescription drugs on take-back dayIn September 2014, the Drug Enforcement Administration held its last Drug Take-Back Day. These events were started four years ago as a way to remove harmful, abusable and addictive medications from households around the country. Now, the DEA has established alternate outlets that will be able to accept these drugs and send them off to be destroyed so no more Drug Take-Back Days are needed.

By survey, the majority of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family. By removing these drugs from households, they will never be able to cause a person to overdose. They will never move anyone closer to being addicted. Continue reading

Epidemic of Opiate Abuse and Addiction

The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health has been released. Study this very long and detailed report and you will see that for some drugs, the numbers of Americans using them have gone down. Not so for heroin.

The graph below shows the numbers of heroin users among those 12 and older. You can see how much the numbers have gone up since 2003.

graph of heroin users

Past Month and Past Year Heroin Use Among Persons Aged 12 and Older: 2002-2012 Source: National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings, 2012.

This report just takes you through 2012. Some of heroin use numbers in 2013 were up again. Continue reading

Opioid Overdose Deaths – Are They from Heroin or Painkillers?

prescription drugs heroinSurveys show that teens and young adults abuse prescription drugs because they think they are safer than street drugs. If that impression were actually true, then it would seem that the majority of opiate overdose deaths would come from heroin. A new report shows that prescription opiates are killing more people than heroin.

Many people get started abusing these drugs after they are prescribed by a doctor. With many drugs that end up being abused, the first thing that happens is that a patient develops a tolerance to the initial dose. As a tolerance is built up, it takes more of the same drug to provide the same degree of pain relief. The patient returns to the doctor and explains that they are once again in pain (or sleepless or anxious, depending on which drug was prescribed). The doctor expects this and increases the dose. This may happen again, maybe even two or three more times. At this point, many doctors will become uncomfortable with increasing the dose and may refuse. Or he may become concerned with the possibility of overuse or abuse by the patient and cut him or her off completely. Continue reading

New Federal Restrictions for Prescription Painkillers

painkillersUntil fairly recently, you couldn’t get a prescription for opiate painkillers unless you were on your deathbed or in the midst of cancer treatment. These medications were reserved for patients suffering from severe pain, and in many cases only for those with conditions that were determined to be beyond hope of a recovery. Drugs like Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin are simply too addictive to take any chances with. Continue reading

Will New Form of OxyContin Really Reduce Abuse?

opiate pain pillsThere’s a new painkiller that’s just been approved by our Food and Drug Administration. It’s called Targiniq ER – ER means Extended Release. It breaks down slowly in your body and provides lengthy pain relief. Targiniq is a new form of OxyContin and is made by Purdue Pharma, the same company that has always made OxyContin.

What makes this pill different is that is contains another ingredient, naloxone. Naloxone blocks the effects of the opiate, making it non-euphoric if it is abused. This is the same substance that has started being distributed to first responders, like police, so they can bring back a heroin or painkiller user from an overdose.

The naloxone only kicks in if the pill is crushed to be snorted or injected. If a person takes the drug by mouth, it won’t have any effect.

The idea here, according to one of the FDA staff:

“The development of opioids that are harder to abuse is needed in order to help address the public health crisis of prescription drug abuse in the U.S.”

The implication is clear: This tamper-preventive formula will help reduce prescription drug abuse.

Or will it? The FDA even admits the shortcoming in a article:

“Targiniq ER can still be abused, including when taken orally (by mouth), which is currently the most common way oxycodone is abused.” Targiniq is expected to “deter, but not totally prevent” abuse.

This new formulation may help prevent some abuse. But it definitely fails to get to the heart of the real problems that need to be addressed:

• Faulty prescribing methods
• Doctors not knowing how to spot addiction
• Doctors not knowing how to help a patient that is seeking drugs or one that has become dependent on their medications.

Dr. Andrew Kolody of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing was also quoted in this article on the website:

Dr. Andrew Kolodny… told the newspaper he is concerned that doctors who believe Targiniq is safe may be more likely to prescribe it than to look for alternatives. “If we really want to turn this epidemic around, the most important thing is to stop creating new cases of addiction,” he said. “Coming up with new gimmicks isn’t going to help.” (My emphasis.)

Many (not all) people will respond to other methods of pain control or relief than just prescribing opiates. There is a groundswell just starting to be felt that these other methods should be tried before settling into a painkiller routine. Perhaps an investment in non-opiate painkillers will pay off with a non-addictive solution.

Putting a patient on Targiniq has the potential to make a patient just as addicted as putting him on Vicodin or OxyContin. And he (or she) can still find heroin in any corner of the US if the pills run out.

The Right Legislation Can Help Reduce Drug Deaths

prescription pill bottlesThere’s no one solution to drug abuse and addiction. Solving this problem in our society will take many different actions, as wrote in a post last week. This week I came across some information on how the right legislation can help in the effort to reduce the number of people who lose their lives to overdoses of drugs.

It was in a story about a law change in Florida. Florida was notorious for having “pill mills” – businesses that had a doctor on the premises who would write you a prescription for painkillers or other drugs without asking questions. Until this law was changed, the situation in Florida was pretty far out of control. There were stories about parking lots full out-of-state plates and crowds of people standing on the sidewalks outside these businesses, waiting for their prescriptions. Continue reading

Will Zohydro Become the Next “OxyContin”?

hydrocodone pillsThere’s a new painkiller on the market. It’s called Zohydro. It offers a new formulation for those in pain: 100% hydrocodone.

Of course, there were already hydrocodone painkillers on the market. They contained, usually, 10 milligrams of hydrocodone and 325 milligrams of acetaminophen. This is the formulation brand named Vicodin or Lortab, among others. You may know acetaminophen by its best known brand name, Tylenol.

One of the reasons Vicodin (and other formulations) had acetaminophen was to discourage abuse by addicts. Many people know that acetaminophen causes liver damage or even failure if too much is taken, especially if it is taken together with alcohol. The idea was that people would want to avoid liver damage and do would not abuse this pill. Continue reading

Does Opiate Abuse Boil Down to A Prescription Problem

prescription problemThe United States is currently experiencing a massive wave of drug use, but it’s not at all confined exclusively to street drugs. On the contrary, the drugs that are fueling what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling a “deadly epidemic” are coming from the pharmacy and are not being pushed by drug dealers but by medical doctors.

Pharmaceutical painkillers such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) have become some of the most commonly prescribed drugs in the U.S., and they are also some of the most widely abused drugs of any kind. It should not be assumed, however, that all doctors have turned into dope peddlers who are doing little more than helping the big drug companies line their pockets at the expense of their patients’ health. On the contrary, it is a small minority of doctors who account for a very large percentage of all prescriptions written for opioid drugs every year. This is according to a study presented earlier this my at the annual research meeting of AcademyHealth. In the years 2011-2012, fully 40% of all prescriptions for narcotic painkillers in the U.S. were written by only 5% of all the doctors who prescribed such drugs, meaning that only a very few of all the doctors in the country are to blame for putting these powerfully addictive drugs in the hands of the American public. Continue reading

America’s Seniors Struggle with Addiction

elderly and prescription drug abuseThere’s been plenty of news and media coverage of the addiction of teens and young adults to drugs or alcohol. After all, these are the years of greatest drug abuse, on average. But now, USA Today brings a different drug situation to light: the problem of our older adults becoming addicted to prescription drugs.

After an analysis of government figures on drug abuse, USA Today realized that doctors were prescribing addictive prescription drugs for American’s seniors are a rapidly increasing rate. Painkillers, anti-anxiety medication – the prescription pad is an easy – if unthinking – solution to complaints by seniors. But there are some significant problems resulting from this practice:

• Rising overdose deaths
• A jump up in emergency room visits due to these drugs
• More admissions to addiction treatment programs. Continue reading