NC vs. Insys Lawsuit Alleges Fraud, Bribes

Insys lawsuit alleges bribes

The state of North Carolina is suing drug maker Insys Therapeutics, Inc. for pushing a drug through what they say is fraudulent and illegal tactics. In the state’s Insys lawsuit, North Carolina accused the pharmaceutical giant of knowingly and repeatedly violated the state’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act in how it marketed and sold its product, Subsys, for years.

“As millions of Americans were becoming addicted to and dying from prescription painkillers, it appears Insys and its sales representatives [were] pushing its incredibly potent opioid on North Carolina patients just to make more money,” said Attorney General Stein in a press release announcing the actions. “This is unconscionable, it’s unacceptable and it’s illegal.” Subsys is meant specifically for cancer patients who are already taking heavy narcotics but experience additional, breakthrough pain. The drug is meant for patients that don’t find other medications as effective as the alternatives, such as high doses of morphine.

The lawsuit alleges a laundry list of illegal actions according to the State of North Carolina. Insys is accused of giving illegal kickbacks to doctors. Doctors were allegedly rewarded for promoting and prescribing Subsys for non-cancer patients. The money was funneled through a multi-million dollar speaker program, that the Attorney General says rewarded physicians who wrote prescriptions for the drug. Emails reveal that in 2012, a Charlotte-based Vice President of Sales told one sales rep that the only requirement to be a speaker at the program, the doctors need only prescribe a large quantity of the drugs. Subsys costs between $3000 and $30,000 dollars a month.

Insys employees are also accused of pressuring doctors to switch patients not on already fentanyl to Subsys, and sometimes at doses over 16 times the recommended dosage. At the same time, insurers were being duped into covering prescriptions of Subsys for people who might not actually have a need for such a hardcore opioid. Insys employees are accused of being deeply involved in this process, making calls on behalf of doctors and their staff and inventing medical histories for. In total, just 10% of people who received prescriptions for Subsys were taking it for breakthrough cancer pain, which is the only use the FDA has approved for the powerful drug. “Breakthrough cancer pain” is considered to be an uncommon symptom.

Insys Therapeutics has sold almost a billion dollars worth of Subsys, which is 100 times stronger than morphine, in five years.

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FDA Says Kratom is Not Safe

kratom leaf

A Kratom leaf

The FDA recently issued a warning that Kratom isn’t a safe way to withdraw from Oxycontin or other opioids — or use for pain management. The plant that has been consumed for thousands of years by indigenous people, has made its way to America via the internet, marketed as a cure for opioid addiction, pain, and over a dozen other maladies that have normally been treated with pharmaceutical medication. One of the most storied uses of Kratom, however, is that it was once used as a “substitute” in East Asian countries during the opium epidemic.

Users of the drug don’t believe that Kratom is not safe and tout the benefits of daily usage. Sure, some people use it heavily and experience withdrawal, they will admit, but this is no worse than caffeine withdrawal. Last year, the Drug Enforcement Administration tried to temporarily place the main psychoactive component found in Kratom into the schedule I category of the Controlled Substances Act, only to get a large amount of pushback from chronic pain advocates, Kratom users, and people who have used Kratom to detox from opioids. The FDA hasn’t backed off with banning the substance altogether and has

According to the FDA’s research, use of Kratom as a supplement raises “significant concerns,” and there have been at least 36 deaths linked to the use of products since they have started tracking. Calls to poison control centers regarding this s have increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2015, as the drug has become widely available for sale on the internet.

Side Effects of Kratom

Taking this supplement can be linked to serious side effects like seizures, liver damage, and withdrawal symptoms, not to mention the danger of anaphylactic shock in people with severe allergic reactions. People who use it to treat depression, pain, or withdraw from opioids may be putting themselves at risk for a whole other list of maladies. “Patients addicted to opioids are using Kratom without dependable instructions for use and more importantly, without consultation with a licensed health care provider about the product’s dangers, potential side effects or interactions with other drugs,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says in the new advisory. While he encourages research through a legitimate pharmaceutical company for the development of drugs, the FDA says that it’s simply too dangerous for consumers to use this plant directly.

The advisory that was issued is a standard action that usually precludes the banning of certain substances. Kratom is a very popular substance, and it is expected that people who use it will put up a big fight. However, the FDA has also asked Customs to prevent any new shipments from entering the US.

If you’re planning on withdrawing from heroin or other opiates, there are safer ways to get and stay clean. Kratom is not safe and you may very well be trading one drug for another. If you need help, it’s available – and it’s safe. Call one of the treatment centers on this website or go to a 12 step meeting. You don’t have to go it alone.

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Opioid Ravaged States Turn to Addiction Outreach

NH addiction outreach programSometimes simple actions are powerful in the fight against opioid addiction. Across the US, programs meant to help people with substance abuse disorders have cropped up on a local level. One such way is through outreach programs in some of the areas where opioid addiction rages. An innovative addiction outreach program in Dover, New Hampshire reaches out to people, both clean and trying to get clean, and asks them how they’re doing. The program, aptly named the Telephone Recovery Support service (TRSS), says they make over 200 phone calls every week to support people who can’t make it to meetings or are unable to get a bed in treatment.

TRSS volunteers make phone calls to people who can’t get out to one of the recovery centers or other meetings with their peers. Some people who can’t get out are homebound for legal reasons, while others may be paralyzed by anxiety. Some may not be able to get across town. There are people from all walks of life who need support but can’t get it easily. The phone calls are meant to fill a gap for these people. They ask them how they are doing and talk about everyday challenges. The eventual goal is to able to help people overcome these obstacles and make their way to one of the SOS Recovery Community Organization recovery centers.

In states outside of New Hampshire, recovery outreach is also a part of the plan to help address the opioid epidemic and prevent casualties. Peer recovery coaches are used in Rhode Island to reach people with substance abuse disorders when they’re most vulnerable. Peer recovery coaches go through training and certification to help their peers who are struggling with addiction. They help these individuals to prevent relapse and help them learn to plan for the future. They may need to plan for drug treatment or getting mental health evaluations. Either way, they have a person who reminds them that they’re not alone, and that’s something they can hang onto for the rest of their day.

Treatment is Still a Solution for Addiction

The RI Secretary of Health and Human Services, Eric Beane says that the goal of the recovery coach program is to prevent relapses and also to keep people out of jail, where there is no medication-assisted treatment. Both of these are admirable goals. Unfortunately, these programs can’t alone keep somebody clean and sober.

Treatment is considered to be the gold standard for substance abuse disorders. Many of the people who need these services are hanging by a thread, and often they’re on a waiting list for a treatment program.

The unspoken truth about these programs is that they can’t substitute for long-term treatment. People with a substance abuse disorder often need time to learn about their addiction and how to change their behavior.

The current federal government has done very little to help states fund more beds in more treatment centers, which is ultimately what most of addicted Americans need. Until then, having a friend to hold their hand or lend their ear is definitely something great.


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Tom Price Debates Using Opioids to Treat Opioids

There is a general consensus in the United States that opioid addiction is not a ‘curable’ disease but rather a disease that requires treatment. The notion of using opioids to battle addiction to opioids has had considerable opposition over the years. Recently this method has come under scrutiny by Tom Price, the new Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration. He has stated that these methods only diminish the addiction and are not a step towards finding a cure.

A National Crisis No Longer in the Shadows

Meanwhile awareness of this epidemic has come to the surface in main stream society in the United States, especially in West Virginia, where they have highest death rates related to all available forms of opioids. Regardless if it is heroin or prescribed medication the outcry for a solution is ringing in the ears of the people who make important decisions.

On May 9, in West Virginia, Tom Price shared his opinions. He said “Folks need to be cured so they can be productive members of society,” and went on to say, “If we’re just substituting one opioid for another, we’re not moving the dial much.” As bold as this is, his remarks however do lack scientific substance. 

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is not backing down in their support of using drugs like buprenorphine and methadone to fight opioids. In their opinion this method is the first line of defense and thus a crucial step towards recovery. Considering their experience in this area of treatment, they have a considerable edge in this debate and continue to treat patients in this manner. 

The Nation Is In A Crisis 

  • U.S. opioid related deaths in to 2015 are 4 times that from 2000 
  • 2015 reports indicate more than 30,000 deaths from overdose

Opioids Have Many Names

  • Heroin
  • OxyContin
  • Hydrocodone
  • Fentanyl
  • Vicodin

The NIDA has shown that addicts can return to being productive citizens while under the treatment of methadone, buprenorphine and other less powerful opioids. These methods are primarily  used to stabilize addicts and is the first step in the recovery process. Given some of these facts, Tom Price’s remarks have fallen to deaf ears due to his insubstantial experience in the actual process of  ‘curing’ opioid addiction.

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Fentanyl and Other Home Made Opiates Invade Canada

The opiate epidemic continues to evolve and Canada has found out the hard way and they are trying to create legislation in order to cope with the new realities as opiates ravage indiscriminately.

Liquid Fentanyl Discovered in Canada

Fentanyl is now a very popular option for many opiate drug abusers, but the substance is so incredibly potent that the risk of overdose can not be overstated. Only recently, the first instance of liquid Fentanyl has been discovered by police in Ontario.

This drug has alarmed authorities and health care professionals because it it is often created in home labs which creates a lot of uncertainty about the strength of the substance (this probably contributed to a deadly Fentanyl outbreak in Northern and Southern California recently).  Recent arrests have also revealed the drug is being illicitly created in China and then shipped to Canada.

Fentanyl Robbery in Hamilton, Ontario, Alarms Authorities

Recently a robbery of a pharmacy that saw the crooks abscond with a large stash of Fentanyl caused authorities to scramble in order to put the word out that Fentanyl would presumably be available in street level drug deals that could cause accidental overdose due to it’s potency.

Controlling the Availability of Printing Presses in Canada

Canada is also scrambling to take action against home made Fentanyl (and other drug) creation by discussing the feasibility of regulating the pill “printing presses” in order to curb the availability of illicitly created narcotic drugs.


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Courts to Decide: Are Pharm Companies Misrepresenting Opiates As “Safe”?

On Tuesday, October 6, 2015, The Suffolk County, New York unanimously voted to sue drug manufacturers for what they call misrepresentation by pharmaceutical companies that the powerful opiates they prescribe are “safe and non-addictive,” according to an article in Newsday.

Image Credit: Pixabay (Public Domain


The county joins the growing ranks of public officials working to hold drug manufacturers accountable for a growing epidemic of opiate drug addiction in America. The legislatures say that the 90% upswing in heroin-related deaths from the years 2000 to 2012 is part of an epidemic of opiate abuse that originates with prescription drug addiction. Legislative representative Rob Calarco, from Patchogue, NY sponsored the bill. Calerco said that drug manufacturers have “misrepresented” to doctors that opioid drugs are safe to treat chronic pain – as well as non-addictive.

Legislator William Spencer, from Centerport, is a physician who is president of the Suffolk Medical Society. He supports the lawsuit and said manufacturers have pressured doctors to recommend the drugs to patients. “We were literally told that these (drugs) were less addictive,” he said.

Due to negligent marketing, lawmakers say, abuse of the drugs the companies manufacture has skyrocketed, taking a toll on families and straining the budgets of emergency services. Cities and counties have not only battled an epidemic level of opiate overdoses and addiction, but a spate of addiction-related crimes as well.

Heroin and Oxycontin addiction have taken a significant toll on communities nationwide. “We’re in the middle of battling a heroin epidemic which is rooted in prescription painkillers,” Calarco said of the lawsuit.

Suffolk joins two California counties, and the City of Chicago – so far – in have filing suit against pharmaceutical companies. A total of five pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma LP, a company based in Stamford, Connecticut that manufactures the painkiller known under the brand name OxyContin.

Bob Josephson, spokesman for Purdue Pharma LP, painted the accusations as unfair. He told reporters that the company has taken pains to help 400 law enforcement officers from Suffolk by educating them on drug-related issues since 2010. “We have a lengthy record of collaborating with policymakers, law enforcement and public health experts to address opioid overuse and abuse, so it’s unfortunate that a more collaborative path wasn’t chosen,” Josephson said in a statement to the press.

It will be up to the courts to decide in the matter. A court date has not yet been set for the action.

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In Vermont, Addiction Increases Child Abuse, Neglect Cases

Like many states across the US, Vermont is battling an increase in opiate addiction that is wreaking havoc in families in communities across the state, and research has shown that it comes at a high price for children. According to VTDigger, Vermont courts have seen a 62% increase in the number of cases of childhood abuse and neglect, and the cases are on the rise as more people in the state fall victim to the disease of addiction.

Image by: Pixabay (Public Domain)

Opiate addiction is a “big piece of the neglect problem and a big concern for Vermont,” Traci Sawyers, an early childhood health expert at nonprofit Building Bright Futures, told VTDigger.

Even more alarming: Up to 70% cases considered by the Department for Children and Families (DCF) that involved children below the age of 3 were tied to opiate abuse in the immediate family, according to DCF’s 2014 Child Protection Report.

The uptick is an alarming trend that has been amplified in the past several years. In 2002, there were only 12 babies born that had been exposed to opiates at local hospital Fletcher-Allen Health Center. Fast forward ten years and the number had increased to 136. Without a shadow of a doubt, the addiction epidemic is taking a toll on families, especially vulnerable children. The origins of the child abuse and neglect cases, according to research, is primarily addiction-related. Cited by social workers in official paperwork, substance abuse issues in the family were mentioned twice as often as financial stress, another leading cause of abuse and neglect of children.

And while many addicts aren’t purposefully hurting their kids, neglect can be just as damaging to children in their formative years as physical abuse. A 2012 Harvard University study revealed that neglect is capable of causing more harm to a child’s development than physical trauma. This is related to a near-constant level of what researchers call “toxic stress” that is a result of having unfulfilled basic needs – such as affection, regular meals, and assistance with daily hygiene.

Dr. Jim Hudziak, director of the University of Vermont’s Center for Children, Youth and Families, told VTDigger that he would like to see less court time and more treatment and recovery options for families struggling with the disease of addiction. “It would be better to help the parents by treating their drug addiction and teaching them to parent than to send them into the correctional system. It makes more sense to help the whole family,” said Hudziak.

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Oxycodone and Hydrocodone: Use, Abuse and Treatment.

A single OxyContin tablet can sell for $80 or more on the street

Oxycodone and hydrocodone, two similar sounding generic prescription drugs, are narcotic pain medications that are being abused at epidemic levels in the United States and Canada.

Oxycodone, which is sold under the brand name OxyContin and used in Percocet and Percodan, is a powerful analgesic designed specifically for severe pain disorders. It has highly addictive properties. Hydrocodone, which is an ingredient in Vicodin, is another painkiller that is frequently prescribed for moderate to severe pain for everything from toothaches to backaches. Both medications are subject to abuse and may cause fatal overdose when mixed with alcohol, other drugs or when taken in amounts exceeding recommended dosages.

OxyContin is a time-released formula of oxycodone that was introduced in 1995 as a Schedule II drug. It is a synthetic opioid that is very similar to morphine. OxyContin gained national attention in 2003 when conservative radio talk host Rush Limbaugh admitted that he was addicted to it. Since then, detox centers and pain management specialists have focused on helping patients withdraw from the deadly addictive medication.

Hydrocodone is a Schedule III controlled substance, which means that a prescription for the drug can be phoned in or faxed to a pharmacy. Schedule II controlled substances, such as Oxycodone, can only be obtained with a hard copy of a prescription and there are no refills. One must get a physician’s approval for each prescription of Oxycodone due to its higher potential for abuse.

In addition to traditional treatment approaches, many addiction specialists are hoping that new medications like Suboxone can help those who are addicted to oxycodone or hydrocodone. A relatively new drug, Suboxone is another potent pain medication that is used to help ease withdrawal symptoms. Precaution should be taken when taking this drug as it too has highly addictive properties and must be administered under the supervision of a pain management physician or drug addiction specialist.

Arrest records continue to rise each day as more drug rings, dealers and pill mills reap the grim rewards from other people’s pain and suffering. Even without illegal dealers, there are unethical physicians who routinely write unnecessary prescriptions for these dangerous drugs. We must continue to increase awareness and help those in need, holding on to the hope that a permanent solution for drug addiction will someday be found.

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Are You or is Someone You Love Abusing Prescription Drugs?

Drug abuse is a very serious and dangerous problem. When many people think of drug abuse, they’re picturing illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. Another very real form of drug abuse is prescription drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse, to be put simply, is taking a prescription medication that is either not prescribed by a doctor or taken in a way other than prescribed.

An estimated 20 percent of Americans have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons (National Institutes of Health)

Prescription drug abuse cuts across a wide segment of the population, from Hollywood celebrities to the kids taking pills from the family medicine cabinet. OxyContin is the prescription drug that receives the most press coverage, but many other drugs that are also being abused. It could almost be said that if a drug is available under prescription, someone has tried to abuse it.

Most Abused Drugs and Methods of Abuse

These are the three main categories of prescription drugs that are routinely abused:

  • Opioid Painkillers – includes oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxymorphone (Opana)
  • Depressants – includes alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium)
  • Stimulants – includes amphetamines (Adderall), methylphenidate (Ritalin and Concerta)

There are three ways a person can take a prescription drug. In street terms, they are:

  • Pop it – refers to orally ingesting a pill.
  • Sniff or snort it – refers to crushing a pill into powder form and ingesting it nasally.
  • Cook or shoot it – refers to heating a drug into liquid form and using a syringe to inject it in into the body.

Millions of Americans Abuse Prescription Drugs Each Year

Prescription drug abuse occurs among all ages. A 2009 survey found that 16 million Americans over age 12 reported to have taken a prescription painkiller, depressant or stimulant for nonmedical purposes within the past year. According to a 2011 survey, 7.4% of children and teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 admitted to having used prescription medication for nonmedical purposes.

In 2011, nationwide deaths from prescription painkillers outnumbered traffic fatalities. There we also more deaths from narcotic prescription drugs than from heroin and cocaine combined.

There is some good news related to prescription drug abuse. A recent national survey indicates that roughly 300,000 fewer young adults are abusing prescription medication than in 2010. This declined in abuse among young people seems to show an increasing awareness of the issue. It also could reflect the fact that prescription drugs are becoming more difficult to obtain and abuse. However, there is concern that prescription drug addicts may be switching to illegal drugs. With mounting evidence that the use of illicit narcotics like heroin is on the rise, the nation continues to be faced with a critical drug abuse problem.

Many people think that abusing prescription drugs is somehow safer than illegal drug abuse. This is not the case. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction to prescription drugs, quitting cold turkey may be difficult or medically dangerous. In many cases, residential treatment is the safest solution for prescription drug addiction.

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Relapse Prevention Planning

The decision to quit using alcohol or drugs is an important first step on the path to a new life. The hard work of getting sober follows. Recovery may free you from many of the problems that substance abuse caused in your life, but you will still have to face the everyday stressors and major life changes that everyone must deal with. In the past, you may have dealt with stress and change by drinking or using drugs. That is no longer an option. By thinking ahead and planning strategies for dealing with trigger events, you can be more confident about avoiding relapse on your road to recovery.

A relapse prevent plan can help you stay healthy and avoid substance abuse.

Relapse is a process that begins long before you take a drink or use drugs. Many people in recovery have found that coming up with a relapse prevention plan is an effective strategy for staying healthy and avoiding substance abuse.

A relapse prevention plan that covers the following areas can help you defuse a relapse before it begins.

  • Identifying high-risk situations that you know will tempt you to relapse. Plan in detail what you will do or say when you are in a situation that puts you at risk.
  • Avoiding people who put your recovery at risk.
  • Dealing with stress and problems at home, school or work before pent-up emotions lead to a crisis.
  • Learning relaxation techniques that will help you maintain your equilibrium.
  • Taking time to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
  • Finding a work-life balance that allows you to fill your spare time with activities that your enjoy and helps you avoid negative feelings like boredom, anger and loneliness.
  • Overcoming cravings to drink or use drugs by relying on the help and support of family, friends or a support group or counselor. Let them know the warning signs of relapse so they can help you deal with stress and trigger events.

According a study published by the National Institutes of Health, the short-term relapse rate for alcoholism and drug addiction recovery can range up to 50 percent. Relapse is more likely to occur during the first 90 days of recovery, which is why residence in a sober living home after the initial drug rehabilitation is so crucial. During this early recovery period, handling stress can be especially difficult. In general, the longer you are sober, the easier it will become to cope with stress. The risk of relapse will decrease but not completely disappear, making it important to have a recovery prevention plan in place.

Many people who are in the process of relapsing do not see the warning signs. It’s important to surround yourself with people who are concerned about your well being and are prepared to help.

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