Category: Pharmaceutical

CBS/Washington Post: U.S. Congress complicit in advancing the U.S. opioid epidemic

Colorado House Rep. Scott Tipton. The bill that hobbled DEA’s pursuit of out-of-control opioid pharmaceutical distribution passed the House on a voice vote, so no record of individual votes was made.

A blockbuster CBS News/60 Minutes and Washington Post investigation reveals that after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) cracked down on big pharmaceutical distributors who were knowingly pumping millions of addictive opioid drugs into the black market in cities and towns across the country, the U.S. Congress passed a law to block DEA from freezing such highly suspicious drug shipments to keep them from getting to the streets.

G.J. Chamber Opposes Patient Choice in Pharmacies

No-choiceThe Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce in their Monday, April 11 ad in the Daily Sentinel, announced that it OPPOSES Colorado House Bill HB 16-1361, the “Patient Choice in Pharmacy” bill, which would prohibit health insurance companies from restricting subscribers’ ability to select a pharmacy or pharmacist of their choice. The bill also prohibits insurance companies from imposing extra co-payments, fees or restrictions on subscribers if they choose to use a pharmacy outside the insurance company’s network, as long the pharmacy/pharmacist has a valid CO license and meets some other criteria.

The G.J Chamber opposes citizens’ ability to freely choose where to shop for medications. Without this bill, smaller locally-owned pharmacies that are not in an insurance company’s network will lose businesses to bigger chains stores or mail order pharmacies that insurance companies tell subscribers they have to use.

Once again, the Chamber opposes a measure that would help smaller and locally-owned businesses, and that is beneficial to all citizens and working people.

 

Legal Marijuana Linked to Lower Death Rates from Prescription Painkillers

Marijuana-in-a-capsule-4-23-131States that legalize marijuana experience significantly lower death rates from pain medication overdoses, both from prescription painkillers and illicit drugs like heroin, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Authors studied states where medical marijuana laws were fully in effect between 1999 and 2010 and found these states had a 24.8 percent lower average annual death rate from opioid overdoses compared to states without such laws. Authors included all 50 states in the study. The longer the states had their laws in place legalizing medical marijuana, the lower the death rates they experienced from opioid analgesic overdoses.

The use of prescriptions painkillers has increased sharply in the U.S. in recent years. In 2010, doctors prescribed enough painkillers to medicate every American adult every four hours for one month. Prescription drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the U.S. since 1990. There are now more deaths from prescription pain meds than from cocaine and heroin combined. Every day in the U.S., 100 people die from drug overdoses. Many of these deaths are linked to prescription pain killers.

Marijuana is considered an alternative non-opioid treatment for chronic pain, which is also a major indicator for medical cannabis. The study’s authors conclude that laws making cannabis available may be affecting overdose mortality rates from opioid painkillers.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for AIDS research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center.

Botox Victim Wins $18 Million from Allergan after Contracting Botulism Poisoning

Ad for Botox Cosmetic. Allergan hid information from doctors and patients about the dangers of injecting botulinum toxin into the body.

Ad for Botox Cosmetic. Allergan hid information from doctors and patients about the dangers of injecting botulinum toxin into the body.

Dr. Sharla Helton, an accomplished obstetrician in Oklahoma City, won $18 million a long-running legal fight against the maker of Botox, after she contracted botulism poisoning as a result of getting injections of Botox Cosmetic 2006.

Botox Cosmetic, which is injected into people’s faces to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, is made from a highly potent neurotoxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Botulinum toxin is the most acutely lethal toxin known to man, and has been considered for its potential as a biological weapon. Just four hundredths of an ounce of undiluted botulinum toxin is enough to kill one million people by giving them the nerve disease botulism, which causes paralysis. Allergan must dilute their toxin so much that the amounts in its drug Botox cannot be measured in conventional terms. One “unit” of Botox is the amount that will kill one half of a test population of laboratory mice. A typical injection of Botox is 20 times that amount.

Even very slight errors in how and where a doctor injects the drug can potentially cause significant and even lethal health problems.

Lawsuit Blames Chicago Woman’s Death on Botox

Botox™, made of botulinum toxin, one of the most potent poisons in the world. Incorrect injection can cause death from symptoms of botulism.

A woman injected with cosmetic Botox at a skin care center in Chicago in May, 2011 developed symptoms of botulism and died, and her husband is suing the doctor who injected her.

In May, 2011, after receiving injections of Botox, Janet Rosenstern, 55, started suffering progressive generalized muscle weakness. She eventually became unable to hold up her neck. She developed weakness in muscles throughout her body, developed severe anxiety, truncal parasthesias (feelings of prickling, burning or tingling in the skin) dizziness, unsteady gait, muscle spasms and involuntary jerking-type movements in her abdominal wall.

She contacted her doctor immediately after her Botox injections and reported her symptoms, but the doctor was dismissive of her complaints. She went to the emergency room several times as her symptoms worsened.

After suffering with these progressively worsening symptoms for nearly a year, on April 22, 2012, she was found unconscious and died the next day.

Her husband, Klaus Rosenstern, is suing his wife’s doctor, Steven Dayan of the True Skin Care Center in Chicago, seeking damages for negligence, lack of informed consent, medical battery and wrongful death. He charges that Dr. Dayan failed to inform his wife of the known serious, debilitating and deadly potential side effects of being injected with Botox Cosmetic.

Botox is Allergan’s trade name for botulinum toxin, one of the most potent neurotoxins in the world. If it spreads through the body, it can cause death.

Janet Rosenstern was a registered nurse who is described in the lawsuit as a “high functioning” and “articulate” woman.

People who have had serious reactions from injections of Botox, like a woman in British Columbia who ended up paralyzed and in a wheelchair, are struggling to make others aware of the serious risks of being injected with Botox.

Source: Courthouse News Service, Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Stacy London: What Not to Promote

On July, 8, 2013, Stacy London, star of the TV show What Not To Wear, entered into a partnership with drug maker AbbVie, manufacturer of the anti-psoriasis drug, Humira. Humira is reportedly responsible for 70% of the drug maker’s profits. The promotional campaign is called  “Uncover Your Confidence with Stacy London.”

StacyLondon

Stacy London of the TLC TV show “What Not to Wear,” promotes a psoriasis self-help website in partnership with AbbVie, the manufacturer of Humira, a drug the company promotes to treat psoriasis. Humira has been demonstrated to have potentially deadly side effects. Warnings even say Humira can CAUSE psoriasis — the very condition is is prescribed to treat.

The campaign would be great except for the long list of dire adverse effects and side effects Humira has had on patients who have used it.

Humira works by suppressing your immune system, but a weakened immune system can leave your body’s defenses too weak to protect you from ordinary bacterial infections and a host of other rare deadly diseases. The adverse effects and side effects of Humira have been so bad that the FDA has required a black box warning on the drug telling users they can get “Serious infections and malignancy that may lead to hospitalization or death.” Infections and cancers linked to Humira include tuberculosis, lymphoma, skin cancer, leukemia,  Kaposi’s sarcoma (a tumor caused by a herpes virus). Adverse effects of Humira include liver failure, sarcoidosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome (progressive paralysis), stroke, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis and more.

London’s campaign misleads

The campaign featuring London leads people to believe that she recovered from psoriasis by using Humira, but she has written a book in which she states that her psoriasis cleared up after she had a tonsillectomy at age 17. She writes, “No only did the operation clear up my skin, but I haven had an outbreak of psoriasis since.”

The information about what actually cleared up London’s psoriasis is not contained on her “UncoverYourConfidence.com” website, sponsored by AbbVie.

Dr. David Healy, who wrote a book exposing the pharmaceutical industry called “Pharmageddon” (and who runs the website RxIsk.org, which crowd-sources data on drug side effects),  wrote an article in August, 2013,  “Stacy London, What Not to Take,” which asked London to help psoriasis sufferers by letting them know AbbVie has taken legal action against the European Medicines Agency to try and block access to data on Humira’s side effects (pdf).

The Activism Behind CVS’s Cigarette Announcement

CVS touts its apparent new-found interest in people's health

CVS touts its apparent new-found interest in people’s health

CVS Drugstores announced this week that they are finally acting on information the rest of us have known for fifty years: they’re going to stop selling cigarettes because they are addictive and deadly. On February 5, 2014 CVS announced that it would end cigarette sales at its 7,600 stores nationwide by October 1. What CVS didn’t mention was the grassroots efforts behind this move, including the relentless driving force of a human being, Dr. Terence A. Gerace, who carried out an almost four year-long, single-focus, one-man campaign to push CVS to stop selling cigarettes. Dr. Gerace started his campaign in earnest on May 20, 2010. Over the years it has included a web site containing a log and description of every single one of the days he personally stood protesting in front of a busy CVS store in a prominent part of Washington, D.C., a “CVS Sells Poison” Facebook page, a “CVS Sells Poison” YouTube song and video, almost 170 days of personal protest in all kinds of weather at the Washington, D.C. store and some imaginative, hand-made iterations of what Terry though CVS ads could look like if the chain finally went cigarette-free. To his credit, though, Dr. Gerace has turned down offers of publicity for himself now that CVS has finally agreed to stop selling cigarettes, saying the focus should be on the change, and for that he deserves a gold medal.

Some communities understand that it is wrong for pharmacies, which market themselves as interested in peoples’ health, to sell cigarettes. A few enlightened U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Richmond, California, Boston and about 80 other cities in Massachusetts now have ordinances banning pharmacies from selling cigarettes. Canada prohibits pharmacies from selling cigarettes and so does the United Kingdom. In Europe, pharmacies do not sell cigarettes.

For decades the tobacco industry has protected the big national chain drug stores against lawsuits brought by people who were sickened by cigarettes bought at their stores through contracts that indemnify the stores against such legal action. After all, the pharmacies know they are selling a deadly product but keep doing it, to the cigarette makers’ great financial advantage. CVS had many such protective contracts with cigarette companies. To see the contracts tobacco companies held with any drug chain, just go to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library online and enter the search term “indemnify and hold harmless” along with the name of any major drug store chain you like to shop at, like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, etc. They’re all there, demonstrating that these stores know they are selling a deadly product and choose to do it anyway.

Now that CVS has decided to stop selling cigarettes, the only question left in people’s minds is no longer which national chain drug store will be the first to stop selling cigarettes. It’s which one will be the last.

Legal Marijuana and Big Tobacco

Will this soon be the new reality in Colorado and Washington?

Will this soon be the new reality in Colorado and Washington?

Recreational use of marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state. People can possess up to an ounce of marijuana and smoke it on private property without fear of legal punishment. Tobacco companies predicted this moment would come and have been preparing for liberalized marijuana laws since the last cultural shift occurred around pot in the 1970s.

Notes from a 1976 “Problem Laboratory” (brainstorming) session of Lorillard Tobacco Company’s advertising employees in April 1976 mention marijuana. Members of the group were encouraged to present their goals and wishes in the form of “How To” and “I wish” statements. Participants were instructed to come up all kinds of ideas, even ones that were illegal, immoral or non-feasible (all of which makes this document particularly fascinating and insightful). With all need to appear decent and moral removed, these employees were able to express their most sincere and ambitious wishes and desires for their products:

In Session #1 participants were asked to identify ways to give smokers more perceived value in their cigarettes.  Ideas expressed by the group included Idea #38: “How to have a cigarette with MJ [marijuana] added to it.” While we’re there, other entertaining items include Idea #50: “How to make it so addictive: one cigarette and you’ve got him for life,” and (#51), “How to have a cigarette specifically for children (sparkler additive candy).” Even more: “How to have an aphrodisiac [in cigarettes],” “How to make cigarettes more like Linus’ blanket,” and “How [to use cigarettes to] deliver birth control (for men).”

Kroger-Owned City Market’s Fake “Your Health Matters” Ad Campaign

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Can you count the number of lies in this sign?

Recently City Market grocery stores, a chain owned by Kroger Company, started running billboards in Grand Junction, Colorado that say “Your health matters to us.” The ads boast that City Markets have dietitians, pharmacies, “natural and organic” foods, “health centers” and “NuVal,” a scoring program that ranks the nutritional value of some foods they sell on a scale of 1 to 100.  I called a local City Market store to find out how to get in touch with one of their dietitians but was told they didn’t really have any. “It’s misleading,” said Pansy Hubbard, a Grand Junction City Market service counter employee, about the billboard campaign. She said there aren’t any registered dietitians at any of the Grand Junction stores.  People with a computer and an Internet connection can find their way to Kroger’s website, where, if you dig a little you can find links to email addresses of dietitians, but the inference that City Markets have dietitians available at their stores is patently false, at least in our area. But the stores’ claim about dietitians isn’t even the most misleading part of the ad.  The biggest thing that negates City Market’s claim that “Your health matters to us” is that all their stores knowingly continue to sell a product that is well-known to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year: cigarettes. Cigarettes are a known addictive and deadly product, and City Market makes lots of money off them despite what they do to peoples’ health.  This makes it very clear that money is what matters to City Market and the Kroger Company, not their customers’ health.

Some other store chains besides Kroger/City Market can now make a more honest case that they care about their customers’ health. Target stores, for example, stopped selling cigarettes chain-wide in 1996, and are still very much in business. Other stores that truly promote healthy lifestyles have quit selling cigarettes and said publicly that selling tobacco products is not conducive to their pro-health mission.

They are absolutely right.

New FDA-Approved Anticoagulants Have No Antidote; Patients Bleeding to Death

Pradaxa

FDA allowed the new anticoagulant Pradaxa to go on the market without any known way to quickly reverse its effects.

Cardiac patients who experience atrial fibrillation are routinely prescribed anti-clotting drugs to help prevent strokes. For many years, the most popular anti-clotting agent has been warfarin, marketed as Coumadin. Warfarin is the active ingredient in rodenticides like D-Con, which work by causing rats and mice to bleed to death internally. Coumadin works by depleting the body’s level of active Vitamin K, a clotting factor present naturally in many foods. But Coumadin has major drawbacks. Patients taking it require frequent monitoring to assure they have the correct levels of the anticoagulant in their blood, and have to be careful about what they eat, because foods high in Vitamin K can alter Coumadin’s effectiveness. Recently new anti-clotting drugs have come on the market that have been hailed as major improvements over Coumadin because diet not a factor and patients taking them require little or no monitoring for blood levels. With brand names like Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and Eliquis (apixaban), the new drugs are being hailed by investors in Big Pharma as “blockbuster” drugs, and their manufacturers are, as usual, aggressively marketing them through television ads. But these drugs can be quite costly in several ways. Pradaxa and Xarelto cost around $3,000 a year, while warfarin costs as little as $200. But a much bigger problem for patients is that there is no known antidote to the new drugs for patients who experience bleeding emergencies.

Abbott Labs Pays $1.6 Billion for Illegal Drug Marketing

Abbott Laboratories, the maker of Ensure, PaediaSure, Similac and Vicodin, pled guilty to misbranding and illegally marketing its drug Depakote. Abbott will pay a $1.6 billion fine and undergo five years of probation under an agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Justice in which Abbott admitted that from 1998 to 2006 it kept a separate, specially-trained sales force to market Depakote to nursing homes for the control of aggression and agitation in elderly patients with dementia, even though no credible scientific research existed showing Depakote was effective for that use. Abbott also admitted that from 2001 through 2006 it marketed Depakote for the treatment schizophrenia, in the absence of any proof that the drug was effective for that condition, either. Abbott funded two separate studies on the use of Depakote for schizophrenia, but neither study met its set goals. Abbott took two years to tell its sales force about the failed studies, and in the meantime kept marketing Depakote for schizophrenia. The case against Abbott arose in 2007 when a former Abbott saleswoman filed a lawsuit accusing the company of encouraging  its sales force to illegally promote use of Depakote in nursing homes and publicly-operated mental health centers, where most patients are covered by federal health programs like Medicaid. Whistleblowers also filed suits against Abbott in Virginia, Illinois and the District of Columbia accusing the company of paying illegal kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists to discuss off-label uses of Depakote to increase sales.

Main source: Courthouse News Service, May 7, 2012