The several million Americans dependent on narcotic painkillers, along with their families, friends and co-workers, are probably giving a little cheer today at some pretty amazing news. Two California municipalities, Santa Clara County and Orange County, have launched lawsuits against five of the largest narcotic painkiller pharmaceutical companies in the world.
The suit, being brought on behalf of the entire state of California, accuses the drug companies of creating the nation’s prescription drug epidemic by “waging a campaign of deception” to boost sales of their dangerously addictive painkillers.
Named in the suit are:
- Endo Health Solutions Inc.
- Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals
- Purdue Pharma
- Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.
The drugs made or marketed by these companies include most popular brand name painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Opana, Duragesic and others, along with many generic narcotic painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and others.
Both Orange and Santa Clara counties say they have been seriously impacted by prescription narcotic overdose deaths, emergency room visits and skyrocketing medical costs. The lawsuit contends that the pharmaceutical companies violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.
The LA Times said the 100-page lawsuit uses “sweeping language reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry.” The companies employed tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry to “conceal their deceptive marketing and conspiratorial behavior.”
The suit “alleges the drug companies have reaped blockbuster profits by manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite ‘a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary’”, the Times said. The lawsuit claims that the drug companies’ marketing practices “opened the floodgates” for such drugs and “the result has been catastrophic.” Patients were encouraged to ask doctors for narcotic painkillers to treat common conditions such as headaches, arthritis and back pain. The drug manufacturers promoted narcotic painkillers as safer than they actually are and promised unproven benefits such as improved sleep and quality of life. Such claims are beyond those allowed by the FDA, the suit says. The result, says the suit, is “a population of addicts” which has led to the explosion in heroin abuse and addiction – the same high at a fraction of the cost of illicit prescription painkillers.
The suit also says that in Orange County, there is a painkiller-related death every other day. The county’s district attorney told the Times he sees the suit as a matter of public protection, with the “primary goal to stop the lies about what these drugs do.”
No methadone on the list
In what we see as an oversight, the narcotic painkiller methadone is missing from the list of drugs, along with the various companies that manufacture and market methadone. Also known as Amidone, Dolophine, Heptadon, Methadose, Physeptone, Symoron and many other names, methadone is associated with more deaths than any other narcotic painkiller. Deaths linked to methadone have at least quintupled since 1999, primarily from its use as a painkiller.
At least some of the responsibility for the methadone catastrophe belongs to doctors who prescribed the drug for pain, without properly cautioning patients about its uniquely dangerous characteristics. Methadone lasts much longer in the body than other opiate painkillers, long after the pain relief has faded. Feeling the return of the pain, patients take more methadone. The result is physical overdose and, all too often, sudden death.
But drug companies are also complicit for not ensuring that doctors themselves have been adequately educated about methadone. And we have to say, that responsibility also extends all the way up to the FDA which has allowed this situation to go on for far too long.
Meanwhile, methadone’s widespread use as a treatment for opioid addiction has created a new subclass of “legally” drug-dependent Americans. Unfortunately, many discover, sooner or later, just how tough it can be to get off methadone – even more difficult than the heroin or other narcotic they were previously taking.
Even worse, many of these people can become trapped when their daily methadone dosages become higher than average, something that can happen as time passes. The specialized medical methadone detox program they need for high-dose dependence is frequently difficult to find.
We’re looking forward to seeing what becomes of the California law suit. As one of the nation’s leading drug detox clinics, Novus Medical Detox Center is on the front lines treating all prescription narcotic painkiller dependencies. And Novus is one of the few detox centers in the country able to accept and successfully treat higher-dosage methadone detox patients.
If you or someone you care about is caught in the methadone trap, call us today. We are here to help.
Xanax side effects are much more dangerous than doctors and patients think, says noted doctor
A Duke University professor says that Xanax is much more dangerous than it’s perceived to be. He says that Xanax side effects are so bad that “a careful review of its risks and benefits” might see it taken off the market.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Allen Frances told MedPage Today recently that the side effects of Xanax are “much more subtle and dangerous” than most doctors and patients think. “In combination it can be deadly, and for many people it creates an addiction problem that’s worse than the original condition.”
Dr. Frances added, “I think if there was a careful review of its risks and benefits, it would be taken off the market or it would at least have much more restricted use. If the FDA were to conduct a thorough review of Xanax, it might not be so widely prescribed.”
The side effects of Xanax are too many to list here. But they range from minor discomforts up to slurred speech, loss of coordination, memory problems and hallucinations, thoughts of suicide, liver failure, seizures and potentially fatal allergic reactions. It’s also seriously addictive and requires specialized detox protocols to get off, such as those offered by Novus.
Xanax is a member of the benzodiazepine family of drugs. Benzos, as they’re often called, are enormously popular. And Xanax tops the list in prescriptions, abuse and addiction, trips to the ER, and deaths from opioids-and-Xanax combinations:
- PRESCRIPTIONS: Last year, there were more than 50 million prescriptions written for the alprazolam, the generic version of Xanax. This is more than half the 94 million total prescriptions written for the entire family of more than three dozen benzodiazepines.
- ABUSE AND ADDICTION: Xanax now parallels the abuse levels of opioids – illegal street opioids like heroin, methadone and morphine, and all the prescription painkillers like OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, Vicodin and dozens of others. Here at Novus Medical Detox Center we’ve also noticed the up-tick in benzodiazepine abuse and addiction, as more and more patients arrive needing Xanax detox or detox from one of the more than 40 other benzos.
- TRIPS TO THE ER: Researchers at the University of North Texas (UNT) said the number of trips to ERs that involved Xanax rose 170 percent from 2004 to 2008. And in 2010, Xanax emergencies accounted for roughly twice as many as the next most common benzo, Klonopin (clonazepam). There were 152,000 Xanax emergencies, compared with 73,000 for Klonopin. As mentioned above, Xanax side effects can be severe.
- OVERDOSE COMBINATION DEATHS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says a third of all opioid overdose deaths involve benzodiazepines. The latest statistics reveal that adding benzos to opioids increases the risk of death more than 30 percent. And the UNT researchers say that more often than not, the benzodiazepine is Xanax.
Benzos are being combined with opioids for a reason. Opioid addicts and abusers often take Xanax to boost the high from the opioid they are taking. This dangerous practice has trickled down to recreational abusers across the country. And from there, it’s spread to legitimate users of prescription painkillers, who also take Xanax trying to boost the painkilling effect.
In the overdose death of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman last month, the New York medical examiner reported that it was much more complex than the simple heroin overdose that everyone was talking about in the media. Hoffman also had benzodiazepines in his system along with the heroin. A quick review of celebrities who have overdosed on opioids show almost all of them also taking benzos, and almost always it’s Xanax.
Xanax is America’s favorite pop-it-any-time-you’re-feelin’-down drug. And almost all prescriptions are coming from the family doctor, not high-priced specialists. Someone better tell these doctors soon what they’re really dealing with, or should we just say dealing – as in, drug dealing. Family and primary care physicians are contributing to a very serious situation, something they should and could do something about.
You can do something about the risks of opioids and benzos too. You can forward this blog to your family and friends, and warn them to avoid Xanax and, if they’re in trouble, get to Novus right away for a benzodiazepine detox.
Find out how the Novus Medical Detox program effectively handles benzo detox abuse and addiction. Call 1-866-631-3905 today and get all your questions answered.
America has been having a “love affair” with tranquilizers for over 50 years. From barbiturates in the early 1950s, like those that killed Marilyn Monroe, to the Miltown tranquilizers of the late 1950s and the more powerful benzodiazepines of the 1960s and 1970s like Librium and Valium, it seemed like everybody wanted some.
People wanted to “take the edge off” and “chill out” and “be cool”, and tranquilizers did the trick and were available everywhere. Most doctors handed them out like M&Ms to almost any patient with a twitch or a whiney complaint. But if you couldn’t get some from the family physician, there were always other family members, friends or co-workers.
Today, the most prevalent “tranq” on the scene is Xanax, the best-selling benzodiazepine in history with twice the number of prescriptions than all the others, a drug worth countless $billions to drugmaker Pfizer.
Well, folks, the honeymoon is over. In fact it’s been over for many years, but too many people haven’t gotten the message.
So here it is:
On their own, benzodiazepines are very addictive and they can really mess you up. Benzo addictions can be very hard to treat. And benzos can cause overdoses and deaths on their own. Many habitual benzodiazepine users and abusers don’t realize they are playing with fire.
Now there’s a new problem, and it’s getting worse. Thousands of Americans are dying every year because they’re using benzos to “boost” the effects of prescription opioid painkillers. They heard about it from somewhere, or they’ve discovered it on their own. Either way, bad idea. Medically and scientifically, a very bad idea – a combination that can very quickly put you down for the count. Combining benzos with painkillers – OxyContin or Vicodin or any opioid – is playing with living lightning.
Everyone knows that America’s other love affair – prescription opioid painkillers – has turned sour and become a dangerous obsession. In the last decade, prescriptions have more than quadrupled, and so have overdoses and deaths. Prescription opioids kill at least 12,000 people a year, without any help from benzodiazepines. Opioids are involved in over 75 percent of all prescription drug overdose deaths.
And when you add the benzodiazepines to the painkillers, deaths rise another 30 percent to over 16,650 in 2010, the most recent year for which data are available. That’s nearly 5,000 people who might still be alive if they hadn’t popped both kinds of pills at once. Plus perhaps similar numbers in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – maybe 15,000 people. Enough for a small American town. Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, as the child’s rhyme goes.
Death from prescription drugs cares nothing about social position, what you do for a living, if you have any money in the bank, or who your friends are. And the combo of benzos with opioid painkillers just makes things even worse.
If you or someone you care about has any problem at all with opioid painkillers or with benzodiazepines, and especially if they have both drugs on hand, you need to call Novus Medical Detox Center today. Get the facts from one of our expert counselors, and find out why Novus patients are so happy with our medical detox solutions that can almost eliminate withdrawal symptoms.
Find out more about our program by calling 1-866-631-3905 or visiting our main website.
Categories: Drug News
The untimely and tragic death of one of Hollywood’s most important actors, Philip Seymour Hoffman, underscores the terrible need for better heroin addiction treatment in this country. Hoffman is only the latest in a long list of popular actors, musicians and artists who have lost their lives to heroin addiction.
Heroin-related deaths have been on a steep and steady increase for years in America, along with a steady rise in heroin abuse, especially in the last few years. Over 4 million Americans of 11 years old and older try heroin at least once every year, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990. Although prescription painkillers kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined, heroin is still the No. 1 killer among illegal drug users especially long-term addicts.
In our next blog, we’ll explain the real causes of overdose deaths, and why long-term addicts are even more likely to die than new users.
Hoffman was struggling with his heroin addiction demons
As you’ve already seen on the news, Hoffman was found lying dead in his underwear on the bathroom floor of his $9,800-a-month West Village, New York City apartment with a syringe still stuck in his arm. His assistant, with one of the actor’s friends, had come to investigate why the actor had failed to show up at a nearby park to play with his kids.
Attempts to revive him proved hopeless. He was pronounced dead by emergency responders. Police later found more than 50 bags of heroin and large quantities of prescription drugs in the apartment. At first it was thought Hoffman had died from an overdose of a dangerous heroin-fentanyl mix, already responsible for dozens if not hundreds of overdose deaths in the northeastern states. But tests showed that none of the actor’s heroin contained fentanyl.
Hoffman had an early history of drug and alcohol abuse. But he’d been clean for 23 years when he fell off the wagon last year. His longtime partner and the mother of their three children, Mimi O’Donnell, insisted Hoffman move out of their $4.4 million Manhattan apartment they shared with their kids — Cooper, 10, Tallulah, 7 and Willa, 5 — and get into rehab. Friends said O’Donnell told him he needed some ‘time away from the kids and to get straight again’.
The actor reluctantly entered rehab in May, it was reported, but unfortunately he opted for only a brief 10-day treatment – certainly inadequate to deal with any serious addiction, and barely enough time to simply detox. Soon after leaving rehab, Hoffman was back on the streets copping heroin from local dealers. He was still attending AA meetings, and was there just a week before he died. But he was also seen around the Village, scruffy and unkempt, drinking in bars alone at night, obviously high and in pretty bad shape.
Most heroin addiction begins with prescription painkillers
The recent explosion in heroin abuse seen in cities all across the country is directly related to simple economics. We don’t know how Hoffman came to heroin, but it usually starts with prescription painkillers which lead to prescription drug addiction – and not just for Hollywood stars but for tens of thousands of ordinary Americans every year. They soon discover that street heroin is less than a tenth as expensive as prescription painkillers, and does the same job. Narcotic painkillers like OxyContin and oxycodone are essentially just legal heroin.
Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his role in the 2005 film Capote, had a week of filming still left to shoot for the sequel to The Hunger Games, leaving the producers, writers, cast and director with the problem of reshooting crucial scenes and editing the film to makes sense.
For Mimi O’Donnell and three young children, there is no reshoot, no editing, no fixing things up. There’s just tragic, pointless loss – pointless because it was preventable. Addiction does not have to be the crippling, lifelong affliction that so many so-called experts say it is. The entire tragedy could have been prevented if Hoffman had gotten a truly effective heroin detoxification, followed by an effective, long-term heroin addiction treatment program.
Novus Medical Detox successfully handles OxyContin detox and heroin detox, even when other detox methods have failed. That’s because Novus medical detox protocols ease the side effects while shortening the time it takes to safely and thoroughly complete the detox program.
After more than 13 years of often bitter wrangling among various interest groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may finally tighten restrictions on hydrocodone-combination painkillers like Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, moving them up from ‘Schedule III’ to the more tightly controlled ‘Schedule II.’
Hydrocodone-combination painkillers contain hydrocodone and some form of acetaminophen (or paracetamol). Hydrocodone is a leading cause of addictions and deaths. But acetaminophen overdoses result in at least 56,000 emergency room visits, 26,000 hospitalizations and 458 deaths each year. So there’s more to the risk than just the opiate hydrocodone.
Under the new schedule, doctors would be required to actually write all prescriptions, rather than just call them in without seeing a patient. And they would only be allowed to prescribe three months worth of doses, rather than the six months allowed under the current Schedule III.
Opponents of the plan say that “up-scheduling”, as it’s called, hydrocodone combination meds from Schedule III to II, would deny patients access to their meds. On the other hand, supporters of the plan say it’s more important to reduce the terrible epidemic of Vicodin addiction and ruined lives.
Supporters want to reduce hydrocodone addiction
Supporters include consumer and patient safety associations, many concerned physicians and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). On the opposing side are the drug companies, some pharmacists’ groups and some medical associations. While supporters are concerned about the safety of patients and reducing hydrocodone addiction, the opposition seems to be more about the potential for less income, since there’s no hard data to back up their claims that it would impact patient access.
Supporters say the new rules won’t create insurmountable hardship for patients, because the pills are there for prescribing as usual, and all that’s being asked is a little more attention from doctors and pharmacists. They remind us that prescriptions are required for all other similarly dangerous drugs – and hydrocodone is a dangerous drug – require doctor visits and written prescriptions. And few patients, if any, are complaining about it.
Hydrocodone biggest killer in Florida
Here in Florida and in many other states, hydrocodone leads the list of death-dealing drugs – far ahead of oxycodone and OxyContin. In fact, hydrocodone is the most-prescribed drug in the entire country. Hydrocodone accounted for 131 million prescriptions, for 47 million patients, in 2011 – far ahead of the cholesterol drug simvastatin, in second place with 94 million prescriptions.
Way back in 1999, the former director of an addiction treatment center in Syracuse, N.Y., petitioned the FDA to raise restrictions on hydrocodone combination drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and others. The drug had exactly the same reputation as oxycodone, especially among law enforcement and emergency room personnel. Since then, more consumer groups, physicians and even the DEA have all called repeatedly for up-scheduling of hydrocodone.
Until now the FDA has largely ignored the evidence against Vicodin
The FDA, on the other hand, has largely ignored legal and medical evidence and advice, even from its own people. In 2009, an FDA advisory panel recommended removing Vicodin from the market because of its danger to the public. Now, after two days of hearings this past January, a new advisory panel has recommended that the FDA take steps to reschedule hydrocodone combination drugs to Schedule II.
In spite of all the arguments against it, Schedule II controls just don’t sound as if any legitimate patients would unduly suffer. Novus Medical Detox Center is a leader in the field of drug treatment, with years of experience handling Florida hydrocodone detox. We cast our vote for tightening up the restrictions on hydrocodone combination drugs like Vicodin, Lortab and Norco, because we’ve seen the damage these drugs can do.