Prescription Opioids: Who Should Be Held Accountable?

prescription opioidsWhen considering who is responsible for the prescription drug epidemic in America, it becomes difficult to determine where to point your finger. Some people blame doctors for rampant over prescribing, others would like to hold as accountable the pharmaceutical industry or the FDA for approving highly addictive prescription opioids for home use. The truth it seems is that there are a number of different entities which had a hand in creating the crisis we face today.

Naturally, some states have taken a harder hit than others, the byproduct of state laws which made it possible for people to gain greater access to powerful opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone). Data shows which states have had the highest opioid overdose rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of fatal drug overdoses. In the year 1999, which is often considered the time when the opioid problem began, the fatal overdose rate was 4.1 per 100,000 people. By 2010, West Virginia’s rate was 28.9 overdose deaths per 100,000, which was mainly attributed to prescription opioids. The staggering surge in opioid overdose deaths in the state has some lawmakers demanding accountability.

Wholesale Prescription Opioids?

The attorney general of West Virginia has filed a lawsuit against one of the nation’s largest prescription drug wholesalers, the Insurance Journal reports. Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has accused San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation of violating state consumer protection laws and the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

The lawsuit claims that one of the major factors that contributed to West Virginia’s prescription drug abuse problem was McKesson Corp., which failed to detect, report and stop suspicious drug orders, according to the article. Between 2007 and 2012, McKesson distributed 99.5 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to West Virginia.

“This failure is one cause of many for the state’s prescription drug overdose rate, decreased worker productivity and the wasteful expenditure of precious state resources,” Morrisey said.

Collective Responsibility/Collective Solutions

While, if the allegations are true, McKesson Corp. should share some of the costs of the problem the company had a hand in creating throughout the state, prescription drug distribution companies did not act alone. The industry itself needs to be held accountable and changes need to be made regarding the handling of pain management and how pharmaceutical companies are allowed to market.

“The flooding of prescription pills into our state is a very serious problem that involves all parts of the pharmaceutical supply channel,” said Morrisey. “No one group or industry sector is solely responsible for this problem; a solution must involve many actors, including doctors, pharmacies, wholesalers, manufacturers and government bodies.”

Cutting Off Veterans from Opioids

veteransThe prescription opioid epidemic has had a lasting effect on every demographic in America. Years of overprescribing and limited options for those who become addicted to drugs like OxyContin ® (oxycodone) and Vicodin ® (hydrocodone), have created a problem that no one has been able to control. Efforts to reduce addiction rates and overdose deaths have done some good, but at the same time, new policies have failed to address the underlying addiction.

One demographic that has been hit especially hard by the new policies is veterans. Measures made to reduce opioid painkiller prescriptions among veterans, in favor of alternative pain management, have left many struggling with chronic pain, The Star Tribune reports.

A Double Edged Sword

Over an 11-year period, the number of prescriptions for opioids prescribed by VA doctors increased dramatically. In fact, prescriptions for oxycodone and morphine jumped 259 percent nationwide by 2013. After more than a decade of war, almost 60 percent of veterans listed chronic pain as their most common medical problem, according to the article.

Prescription opioids, while addictive, are by far the most effective way to manage chronic pain. The problem starts when addiction sets in and the drugs are still required. The federal government’s mandate to reduce opioid prescription did manage to reduce the rates of addiction, the article reports. Unfortunately, many veterans were left to deal with pain on their own, a number of which sought out illicit methods to manage their pain.

No Offers Of Assistance

Individuals who use any narcotic, especially opioids, require detoxification and effective alternatives to the drugs they were using. Simply cutting off the supply may look good for reports, but fails to address the addiction that comes with years of use. Addicts who are cut off from their supply will seek other avenues to find what they need, unless an effective alternative is offered.

“There wasn’t a lot of discussion with the veteran except for the provider saying, ‘We’re not going to be doing this anymore because it’s not good for you,’ ” said Joy Ilem, of Disabled American Veterans, one of the nation’s largest veteran service groups.

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If you are or loved one is addicted to prescription opioids, please contact Next Step Intervention. We can assist you in finding the right treatment which will help you learn how to live a life free of opioid addiction.

CVS Agreed to Pay $22 Million for Oxycodone Charges

VicodinThe State of Florida earned reputation for being an easy place to acquire large quantities of highly addictive prescription opioids. Up until the last few years, pain management facilities in Florida, otherwise known as “pill mills,” were places that people could be seen by doctors and leave with multiple prescriptions for opioids, such as OxyContin ® (oxycodone) and Vicodin ® (hydrocodone). It was often the case that abusers would attend multiple clinics in a week and amass loads of pills and then turn around and sell them on the streets for inflated prices.

After a number of years of these types of illicit activities, the state began to crack down; pill mills were closed up, a number of doctors lost their licenses, and some pharmacies had their licenses revoked for dispensing excessive amounts of oxycodone. In 2012, two CVS pharmacies were believed to be selling oxycodone pills that were not prescribed for legitimate medical purposes, Reuters reports. CVS Health Corp has agreed to pay $22 million to resolve the federal investigation.

The DEA had alleged that the two pharmacies were “filling prescriptions far in excess of the legitimate needs of its customers.”

According to a DEA news release, “CVS acknowledged that its retail pharmacies had a responsibility to dispense only those prescriptions that were issued based on legitimate medical need. CVS further acknowledged that certain of its retail stores dispensed certain controlled substances in a manner not fully consistent with their compliance obligations under the Controlled Substances Act and the related regulations.”

Just to give you some perspective, in 2011, the average pharmacy in America ordered approximately 69,000 oxycodone dosage units, according to the DEA. The two CVS pharmacies in question, located less than 6 miles from each other, ordered more than three million units together – during the same time period.

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