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Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half!

Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half! | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

An important barrier to formulating effective policies to address the rapid rise in U.S. fatal overdoses is that the specific drugs involved are frequently not identified on death certificates.

Current death certificate data are problematic for understanding the drug poisoning epidemic, with a particular issue being the frequency with which no specific drug is identified. This results in an underestimate of the involvement of specific drugs in fatal overdoses (but not in the overall number of drug fatalities), which is sometimes substantial. For instance, mortality rates calculated using imputed data on specific drugs where such information was lacking on death certificates suggest that in 2014 opioid and heroin involved death rates were understated by more than half in Pennsylvania (8.5 vs 17.8 per 100,000 for opioids and 3.9 vs. 8.1 per 100,000 for heroin).


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PA State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo Urges Governor to Improve Access to Opioid Addiction Treatment: Calls for 10% Tax on Sales of Opioids

HARRISBURG – On the heels of the governor’s disaster emergency declaration to fight the ongoing opioid crisis in Pennsylvania, Rep. Gene DiGirolamo (R-Bucks) has sent the administration a series of practical, critical recommendations to combat the epidemic. 

 “I applaud the governor for taking this innovative approach to fighting this crisis and putting every tool at his disposal to save lives,” said DiGirolamo, chairman of the House Human Services Committee. “More than 4,600 people lost their lives in 2016 to this overwhelming overdose crisis, a 37 percent increase from 2015. Sadly, that number is expected to rise, continuing to devastate families and communities throughout Pennsylvania.”

Namely, DiGirolamo is urging the administration to direct that empty buildings owned by the Commonwealth be put to use for badly needed, long-term residential addiction treatment. He is suggesting to open three centers in different parts of the state.

“One of the biggest challenges in fighting this battle is the lack of treatment beds,” he explained. “The addiction cycle perpetuates itself when treatment is unavailable. By repurposing these empty buildings, we can begin to get people the help they desperately need.”

Other recommendations DiGirolamo has sent to the administration are listed below: 

• Staff the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs fully and vigorously support its cross-departmental statutory base. 

 • Publicly support and push for the opiate litigation in Pennsylvania to assure that the companies involved are held accountable for their actions, which have resulted in so many unnecessary, tragic deaths. 

 • Direct the Insurance Department to review health insurance plans to ensure that the coverage for addiction treatment is comprehensive (as required by Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and Pennsylvania Act 106 of 1989) and that it is accessible to subscribers. The subscriber and/or employer have already paid for addiction treatment services in the health plans. However, few are able to access treatment and many end up seeking help through public funding.

 • Push vigorously for DiGirolamo’s House Bill 1378 to levy a 10 percent tax on revenue on the sales of opioids in Pennsylvania. Revenue would be designated to fund long-term residential addiction treatment, county purchase of Narcan, addiction counseling in county jails, reimburse costs to coroners and to support the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, among other expenses. 

 • Provide funding to local police to assist with enforcement activities with the opioid problem. 

 • Establish a funding pool of at least $10 million in the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs solely for use by county district attorneys and Drug Court judges to aid in placing offenders in long-term residential addiction treatment facilities.

“Funding is, of course, a major issue across the board, and the crisis has overwhelmed the drug and alcohol abuse prevention, education and addiction treatment infrastructure,” DiGirolamo noted. “Because of this, it is logical to expect the opioid manufacturers – which are expected to receive over $11 billion in opioid sales in one year – to foot the bill for the problems they have created through misleading marketing and other strategies.”

 DiGirolamo added, “So much more can and should be done to address the problem. I am pleased that the governor declared a state of emergency, and I am hopeful that we will all work in a bipartisan way so that we can truly make a difference to those who so desperately need our help.”
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United States Opioid Crisis is a Warning to the World: Pharma Partly to Blame

United States Opioid Crisis is a Warning to the World: Pharma Partly to Blame | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Writing recently in The Lancet, Stanford’s Keith Humphreys, PhD, shines a spotlight on the expanding globalization of the opioid epidemic. He urges leaders in other nations to learn from the United States’ mistakes and take immediate action to prevent an international crisis

 

Humphreys cites sobering statistics showing more than 530,000 Americans died from drug overdoses between 2001 and 2015. “The USA was an ideal environment for opioid prescribing to explode and thereby produce an epidemic of overdose and addiction,” he writes, describing the cultural, legal and industry-based forces that fueled the crisis.

 

Of particular relevance to other nations is the role that some opioid drug manufacturers have played in the spread of opioid use, he said. In the piece, Humphreys discusses how opioid drug manufacturers — responding to physicians’ concerns about the poor management of chronic pain — began marketing their products as effective, low-risk medications in the 1990s.

 

Humphreys calls out particular pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma and Mundipharma International for engaging in deceptive practices such as understating the addiction risk of their opioid products. With the U.S. taking steps to curtail the issue of excessive opioid use, drug manufacturers like Mundipharma are likely to continue efforts to further expand sales internationally, Humphreys writes.

 

Further Reading:

“Harvard Opioid Study Calls for Crackdown on Big Pharma”; http://sco.lt/5shhSb
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Newtown Supervisors Revisit 2018 Budget, Which Now Includes a Special 1-Mill Tax to Better Fund the Ambulance Squad and Ensure Operational Fire Hydrants

Newtown Supervisors Revisit 2018 Budget, Which Now Includes a Special 1-Mill Tax to Better Fund the Ambulance Squad and Ensure Operational Fire Hydrants | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The first order of business for the Democrats, now with a 4-1 control of the board of supervisors, was to revisit the 2018 general fund operating budget passed last month by the Republican-controlled panel.


At the Jan. 10 meeting, the board voted along party lines, with lone Republican Kyle Davis dissenting, to reimpose a one-mill property tax hike to help fund improved services and reduce the projected deficit.


Voting for the new $12,567,459 preliminary operating budget were Democrats Phil Calabro and Jennifer Dix, as well as newly-elected John Mack and Linda Bobrin.


The one-mill tax hike had been examined during the previous budget process, but was scrapped in a 3-2 vote by the then-Republican controlled board.


But with party-control now reversed, the new board quickly scrapped that decision in hopes of both paring down a projected $1,350,000 deficit by the end of this fiscal year, as well as expanding needed purchases.


Back in the revised operating budget is the one-mill property tax which will cost the average homeowner a total of about $180 a year, an increase of roughly $40 on a property assessed at the $400,000 township average.


Of that one-mill hike, .45 mill would raise roughly $154,000 to fund the non-profit Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS).


The remaining .55 mill would generate approximately $189,000 to be used strictly for fire hydrant maintenance in the township.


While the township generates most of its tax revenue from the one-percent Earned Income Tax (EIT), it also currently imposes 3.5 mills on landholders, which now would rise to 4.5 mills under the Democrats’ latest action.


[Also read “Newtown's "Volatile" Sources of Revenue”; http://bit.ly/volatileTax] ;


The proposed tax increase would now free up money in the general fund to fund other purchases, including buying four new police vehicles instead of the three that were earmarked in the previous 2018 operating budget approved in December.


The newly-approved preliminary budget also include a capital purchase of $155,000 for a new six-wheel dump truck to replace the current 20-year old vehicle, which township manager Kurt Ferguson had said was “starting to rot.”


Two new snow plows and a piece of equipment known as a skid-steer loader for inlet repairs are also back on the table.


New microphones and cameras for township public meetings would also be purchased.


In addition, the two underground gasoline tanks at the township complex would be removed, as now required under state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) guidelines.


Further Reading: 

 • “The 2018 Budget Roller Coaster”; http://preview.mailerlite.com/c7o8l5 ;

 • “Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding”; http://preview.mailerlite.com/x4m0p2

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Ex-Insys Executive Wants Term "Opioid Crisis" Censored from His Trial

Lawyers for a former Insys executive implicated in an alleged kickback scheme … are asking that prosecutors not be allowed to use the term “opioid crisis” during his trial. 


The request was made to a federal judge that will hear the case of Jeffrey Pearlman, Reuters reported. Pearlman is a former district sales manager for Insys and among the former employees of the company charged in the case which alleges doctors were enticed to prescribe its high-power painkiller Subsys.


The defendants, which include Insys founder and billionaire John Kapoor, have denied the charges. The filing Wednesday suggested that “rampant media attention” from use of opioids in the country could make it impossible for Pearlman to get a fair trial.


“This prejudice would only be amplified if the government were to elicit testimony or make arguments regarding the opioid crisis or the over-prescription of opioids,” the lawyers argued.


Many people know someone who has been affected. According to the CDC, opioid drugs, including heroin and fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record. Of those, 40% involved a prescribed opioid. 


Subsys is a fentanyl-based drug that is sprayed under the tongue, approved to treat cancer pain. Pearlman and others Insys employees face kickback charges stemming from hundreds of “sham” speaking programs designed to induce doctors to prescribe the drug for that, and off label, for other pain. Federal investigators said that the events were typically “just a gathering of friends and co-workers where no educational component took place.”


To disguise the events as legitimate speaking programs, sign-in sheets were forged, with Pearlman's knowledge, the feds alleged in court documents. The sales manager received sales bonuses that earned him as much as $95,000 in a single quarter in 2013, the complaint against him claimed. 


 Further Reading: 

“Founder of Insys Indicted for Bribing Docs to Illegally Prescribe Fentanyl. Lock Him Up!”; http://sco.lt/8zb8gD ;

“Former Insys Sales Reps Bribed Docs To Prescribe Opioids To As Many Patients as Possible”; http://sco.lt/7jGNHN

“Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies”; http://bit.ly/JMrootcause

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PA Governor Tom Wolf Declares a Health Disaster Emergency to Help Deal with the Opioid Crisis

PA Governor Tom Wolf Declares a Health Disaster Emergency to Help Deal with the Opioid Crisis | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Pennsylvania's governor declared the state's opioid addiction epidemic a public health emergency Wednesday and ordered a command center set up to treat the crisis like it would a natural disaster. 


Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed an order for the 90-day disaster declaration, widening access to the state's prescription drug monitoring program and making it easier for medical professionals to get people into drug treatment more quickly.


"We're still losing too many Pennsylvanians, and as long as that's happening, I'm going to continue to look for ways to address this epidemic," Wolf said in the Capitol.


Wolf described the impact on individuals and families in the state, which experienced more than 4,600 fatal overdoses in 2016, an increase of more than one-third from the prior year. The state's rate of drug overdoses has been more than twice the national average, and preliminary data indicates the number of overdose deaths rose again last year.


Further Reading:

"Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half!"; http://sco.lt/8JwGcj ;

johnmacknewtown's insight:
An important barrier to formulating effective policies to address the rapid rise in U.S. fatal overdoses is that the specific drugs involved are frequently not identified on death certificates. Pennsylvania underestimates death due to opioids by more than half! That’s the worst record of any state. It’s a disgrace that Chuck Kiessling - the president of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association - can’t tell us how many opioid overdose deaths the 67 members of his association handled last year. According to Mr. Kiessling, that data "isn’t going to impact the living." I’m here to say that those deaths matter and do have an impact on the living, especially the families of the victims.
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Former Newtown Resident & Democrat Steve Bacher to Enter 8th District Congressional Primary Race

Former Newtown Resident & Democrat Steve Bacher to Enter 8th District Congressional Primary Race | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Progressive activist Steve Bacher will kick off his campaign to unseat Brian Fitzpatrick on Saturday at 10 a.m. at The Temperance House in Newtown, organizers announced Friday. He will face Rachel Reddick and a rumored third candidate in the Democratic Primary Election being held May 15. 


Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district includes Bucks County and part of Montgomery County, and Republican Brian Fitzpatrick has represented the district since 2017.


Bacher, 55, is former vice chair of the Newtown Democratic Club, and served on the Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council, and co-founded Bucks Environmental Action, a county-wide coalition of environmental and social justice groups. A longtime Newtown resident, Bacher, his wife, and two children currently reside in Lower Makefield.


We caught up with the candidate on Friday, and asked why he’s about to enter the race for Congress.


“It’s a combination of the daily outrages from President Trump and the daily silence from Brian Fitzpatrick and the Republican Congress,” Bacher explained.


The candidate says he was alarmed by local reports of hate speech following Trump’s election.


“I went to Fitzpatrick’s website to see what he was saying about hate speech, and there was nothing regarding racist incidents in our district,” recalled Bacher. “He seems to avoid serious issues, and remain silent, and we need to speak out.”


Bacher’s extensive background in environmental issues is readily evident, and priorities if elected would include addressing climate change.

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Former salesman accused of lying to FBI, IRS agents

Former salesman accused of lying to FBI, IRS agents | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Robert DeGoria is accused of trying to mislead investigators looking into an ongoing Lower Southampton corruption probe. 


A former salesman with a Delaware County billboard company faces felony charges for allegedly trying to mislead federal investigators about alleged bribes involving two former Lower Southampton public officials who are defendants in an ongoing corruption probe. 


Robert DeGoria, former vice president of asset development for Catalyst Outdoor Advertising LLC, is charged with one count of false statements for allegedly lying to special agents with the IRS and FBI about intended payments to a company that federal investigators contend was used for money laundering, according to a charging documents filed Wednesday with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Philadelphia.


Court documents allege that DeGoria engaged in discussions with former Lower Southampton District Judge John Waltman and former Lower Southampton Public Safety Director Robert P. Hoopes in November 2016 where the public officials agreed to accept concealed bribe payments through Raff’s Consulting from DeGoria and Southampton Outdoor LLC, a Catalyst subsidiary.


“Specifically in several of these discussions, defendant DeGoria proposed increasing payments to Raff’s Consulting in exchange for Waltman and Hoopes using their influence to lower (the company’s) annual lease payments to Lower Southampton,” according to the court filings.


In an emailed statement on Thursday, DeGoria’s attorney, Henry Hockeimer, stated that his client acknowledges that he was “not truthful” with “certain” answers he gave investigators in November 2016. “He also acknowledges that this was wrong and he will face the consequences of his conduct.” The lease agreement never came before Lower Southampton supervisors for a vote.

Further Reading: 

“Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Paid Kickback to Lower Southhampton Solicitor. The Same Company Made Two Pitches to the Newtown BOS in 2016”; http://sco.lt/7zzZJZ

johnmacknewtown's insight:
See DeGoria's pitch made to Newtown Board of Supervisors on October 17, 2016. Nothing came of it. http://newtownpa.swagit.com/play/10182016-1806
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Unfortunately, You Cannot Prepay Your 2018 Newtown Township Property Taxes

Unfortunately, You Cannot Prepay Your 2018 Newtown Township Property Taxes | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The Township has had several residents calling to inquire about prepaying their 2018 township property taxes.  Unfortunately, the Township cannot accept those payments.  The tax duplicates that are created by the County, upon which taxes are based, are not issued until right before they are to be sent out on an annual basis

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Bucks County commissioners vote to raise taxes for 2018 to pay for fight against opioid epidemic

Bucks County property taxes will go up 5.4 percent in 2018 to cover a $10 million budget deficit. It’s the first time in six years county taxes have risen. 


Bucks County commissioners voted Wednesday morning to raise property taxes by 5.4 percent for 2018. The unanimous vote will generate the revenue needed to close a $10 million budget deficit, according to Chief Operating Officer Brian Hessenthaler, and leave a surplus of about $94,000. 


The $423.9 million budget calls for a tax hike of 1.25 mills, increasing total county property taxes from 23.2 to 24.45 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of a property’s tax assessed value. A tax bill can be calculated by dividing a property’s assessed value by $1,000 and multiplying by the millage rate. According to Hessenthaler, the average homeowner in Bucks County will see an additional $45 on their county taxes this year.


All three commissioners chalked up much of the expenditure increases to the ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic. Increased drug use in the county has led to rising costs for the district attorney, coroner and corrections. According to information provided by the commissioners’ office, the number of opioid-related arrests have gone up 29.3 percent in the last two years, autopsies performed over the last two years increased by 141.4 percent, drug-related deaths have increased by 37.1 percent since 2015 and the average number of inmates outsourced to other counties has increased by 258.5 percent for the last two years, all attributed by the county to the opioid crisis.

johnmacknewtown's insight:
It seems like much of the funds used to "fight the opioid epidemic" is actually going to law enforcement. The DA's new Drug Task Force - including hiring more detectives - must be costing an arm and a leg. Meanwhile, autopsies might be increasing, but did you know that Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half? Read more about that here: http://sco.lt/8JwGcj ;
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In Search of Leadership: Appointments by Elected Officials Should Be Open to the Public Says Courier Times OpEd

In Search of Leadership: Appointments by Elected Officials Should Be Open to the Public Says Courier Times OpEd | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it
Look, the real issue here from our perspective is the process elected officials use to make appointments - lawyers, engineers, managers, department heads, etc. If the process is open to the public - and it usually isn't - elected officials are apt to base their selections on the strength of professional experience and personal convictions, not political history and personal relationships. In Lower Southampton, there's been too little of the former and too much of the latter. Citizens should demand an end to it.
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Newtown Supervisors approve preliminary $12.87M budget for 2018; contains slight property tax hike to reduce projected deficit

Newtown Supervisors approve preliminary $12.87M budget for 2018; contains slight property tax hike to reduce projected deficit | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

After nearly an hour of heated debate, the board of supervisors approved the $12,216,757 preliminary general fund operating budget for the 2018 fiscal year beginning Jan. 1. 


The proposed package, which was approved in a 3-1 vote at the Nov. 21 meeting, includes a slight property tax hike of one mill to help pare down a projected $1,350,000 deficit by the end of the next fiscal year. 


 Voting to formerly advertise the 2018 preliminary budget were: Chairman Kyle Davis, along with Supervisors Jennifer Dix and Phil Calabro. Supervisor Gerry Couch voted against the budget because it contained the tax hike. Supervisor Ryan Gallagher did not attend the meeting. 


 The board’s action now allows the preliminary budget to be advertised for the 20-day minimum, as required under state law, so that a final package can be approved on at the supervisors’ Dec. 23 meeting. Of that proposed one mill property tax hike, .55 mill would be expressly assigned to the Newtown Ambulance Squad and raise about $150,000 for the non-profit group. Originally, $120,000 was earmarked for the squad from the general fund. The remaining .45 mill would bring in roughly $185,000 and be dedicated for fire hydrant maintenance in the township. 


Such millage assignments for certain municipal services are allowed under state law. 


 Like the rescue squad, the fire hydrant funding was to have come from the general fund before the board had opted to designate them to a specific millage rates. With funding for both resources now coming from property taxes, it frees up money in the general fund for other township items. More...http://bit.ly/2AwoEmK ;

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FDA to Determine if Oxymorphone, Produced by KVK Tech in Newtown, is More Likely to Be Abused Than Other Opioids

FDA to Determine if Oxymorphone, Produced by KVK Tech in Newtown, is More Likely to Be Abused Than Other Opioids | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

[Oxymorphone is KVK Tech's a best-selling generic drug. If it is piulled from the market, it may spell trouble for the company and its employees.]


Collegium, which makes abuse-deterrent opioids, convinced top health insurers to cover only its product Xtampza — and not Purdue's infamous OxyContin.


Collegium also stands to benefit from FDA actions cracking down on certain opioids. 


 Over the summer, Endo International agreed to comply with the FDA’s request that it pull from the market long-acting Opana, the painkiller blamed for prompting an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana in 2015 when people addicted to opioids began injecting the drug. Since then, 7 percent of patients forced to find a replacement have switched over to Xtampza, according to Collegium. 


 And there may be more to come: Earlier this month, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb announced that the agency is conducting a study of long-acting generic products containing oxymorphone, the same active ingredient that was in long-acting Opana. 


Gottlieb said (http://bit.ly/2mSWr3c): "FDA previously commissioned a study to formally evaluate whether oxymorphone, an active ingredient in certain opioid drugs, has qualities that make it more likely to be abused than other Schedule II opioids, including through illicit routes of administration such as snorting and injection. I’m announcing that study for the first time. If the scientific results of this study demonstrate that this ingredient has qualities that make it more likely to be abused, FDA would consider taking regulatory actions that could limit patient exposure to oxymorphone."

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"Abuse-Deterrent" Drugs Are Not the "Holy Grail" Pharma, i.e., Purdue, Claims It to Be

"Abuse-Deterrent" Drugs Are Not the "Holy Grail" Pharma, i.e., Purdue, Claims It to Be | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The pharmaceutical industry was listed as one of the “Contributors to the Current Crisis” in the final report of President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The report cites decades of aggressive marketing and industry-sponsored physician “conferences” aimed at expanding opioid use by minimizing the dangers of addiction. Lawsuits by state attorneys general, counties and local jurisdictions allege that the industry fostered the epidemic by overpromoting its products, while raking in billions as Americans became addicted and overdosed. “To this day,” the commission says, “the opioid pharmaceutical industry influences the nation’s response to the crisis.”

 

It sure does. In its response to an epidemic that now kills 50,000 Americans a year, the Trump administration wants to spend tens of millions of dollars in part to help the industry responsible sell ostensibly nonaddictive pain medications and “abuse deterrent” opioids that are as addictive as the original opioids.

 

Purdue executives call abuse-deterrent opioids, along with highly effective non-opioid pain products, the “holy grail” for the pharmaceutical industry.

 

“Abuse-deterrent is a marketing term used to mislead,” says Dr. Adriane Fugh-Berman, a pharmacology and physiology professor at Georgetown University who directs PharmedOut, a group that monitors pharmaceutical industry marketing efforts. “At least half of prescribers think that abuse-deterrent means less addictive.” It does not; abuse-deterrent pills are simply harder to crush or alter for injection or snorting. “It doesn’t prevent you from swallowing them, which is the most common way of abusing opioids,” Dr. Fugh-Berman said.

 

The N.I.H. began its public-private initiative this summer with a series of closed-door meetings with pharmaceutical companies and academics. An N.I.H. spokeswoman, Renate Myles, said the research would include work on non-pharmacological approaches, but “we need to develop new nonaddictive medications for pain. These medications can only be brought to market with the active participation of the pharmaceutical industry.”

 

Purdue participated in the N.I.H. initiative. In June, in response to a call for public comments, J. David Haddox, the company’s vice president for policy, sent a letter to the commission outlining Purdue’s proposed “policy options,” including recommending that the F.D.A. “convert” the opioid market to predominately abuse-deterrent formulations.

 

The commission’s report includes important recommendations like expanding Medicaid coverage for inpatient treatment; expanding treatment with buprenorphine, methadone and other medications, including some still being developed; establishing a national curriculum and standards for opioid prescribers; and expanding an alternative system of drug courts that encourage treatment. Those should be the immediate priorities, not channeling money for more meds to drug companies, from the pockets of Americans whose pain was the industry’s gain.


Via Pharma Guy
johnmacknewtown's insight:
Pharmaceutical companies that produce and market opioids need to step up with funding for solutions to the opioid addiction crisis they "contributed to". I have some ideas regarding local programs that can benefit from such funding.
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After Being Fined Over $500 Million for Being Corrupt, TEVA #Pharma is Laying Off 200-plus Workers in It's North Wales PA Home Base

After Being Fined Over $500 Million for Being Corrupt, TEVA #Pharma is Laying Off 200-plus Workers in It's North Wales PA Home Base | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Teva’s far-reaching cost cuts are hitting close to home—not just in Israel, but at its North American headquarters, too.

The embattled company is laying off more than 200 workers in and around its North Wales, Pennsylvania, home base, it said in a WARN notice filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. Those layoffs are effective Friday.

Specifically, the generics giant has pink-slipped 65 employees across three buildings in Horsham, Pennsylvania, and North Wales, 96 across sites in Fraser and Great Valley, Pennsylvania, and 47 more at a West Chester, Pennsylvania, location.

The layoffs come as part of new Teva CEO Kåre Schult's plan to squeeze $3 billion from the company’s annual costs as it struggles under some serious dealmaking debt. In December, the company said it would pare down its workforce by 25%, shedding thousands more jobs than industry watchers expected.


Further Reading: 

“Teva, Which Recently Became a PhRMA Member, Among 6 Drug Firms Being Sued by 20 States!”; http://sco.lt/4nFwPZ

“TEVA #Pharma Is Not "Worker Centric" - Fires Union Workers to Save Money”: http://sco.lt/8Ikr9l ;

“Only 20% of Teva's Illegal Pay-to-Delay Profits Goes to US Treasury”: http://sco.lt/5eDXyz

johnmacknewtown's insight:
In December, 2017, Teva agreed to pay nearly $520 million to the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The criminal fine to the DOJ totaled more than $283 million, while Teva ponied up $236 million to the SEC.
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Four Newtown Area Docs Are Approved to Prescribe Medical Marijuana

Four Newtown Area Docs Are Approved to Prescribe Medical Marijuana | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has updated its list of physicians approved to certify patients to participate in the state's Medical Marijuana Program. There are now 24 doctors in Bucks County that have been approved to participate.


Patients who want to access medical marijuana must obtain a physician's certification from an approved doctor proving that they suffer from one of 17 serious medical conditions. A registration process is then required for patients to receive a medical marijuana card, allowing them access to state-licensed dispensaries.


Pennsylvania's first medical marijuana dispensary opened Wednesday morning in Bethlehem. Others are planned across the state, including one in Bristol, Bucks County.


As of Jan. 16, the following Newtown area physicians are approved to certify patients for the program: 

 1. Ronald Fields, Langhorne 

 2. Fredric Goldberg, Langhorne

 3. Bruce Goodman, Newtown 

 4. Catherine Spratt Turner, Newtown 


 Further Reading: “Is There a Role for Medical Cannabis in Combating the Opioid Epidemic?”; http://bit.ly/PA-MedicalMarijuana   

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Verizon's All Out Legal Battle Against Falls Attemp to Protect the Online Privacy of Its Residents

Verizon's All Out Legal Battle Against Falls Attemp to Protect the Online Privacy of Its Residents | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

As reported in the January 14, 2018, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times, Verizon is "suing Falls in County court over an ordinance supervisors passed in October to safeguard township residents' online privacy.


“Verizon's attorneys made clear this online privacy case against Falls might not be its last,” notes the Courier Times article. “The company wrote it might amend its complaint and return to county court if a judge rejects its challenge to Falls' ordinance. Verizon also ‘expressly reserves the right to pursue federal claims’ against the township, its attorneys wrote, arguing that the township ordinance violates federal law and constitutional provisions, though they did not specify which ones in the complaint.”


Even though local governments like Falls are likely to win the legal battle against Verizon to protect the privacy of citizens, officials of other towns like Lower Makefield and Newown might be dissuaded from enacting protections because of the legal bills they would have to pay. Verizon has made it clear it will sue no matter what and it has deep pockets.


Not only that, but townships make money from Verizon in franchise fees. At the April 26, 2017, Board of Supervisors meeting, for example, Newtown Township Manager, Kurt Ferguson, pointed out that Newtown collects about $516,000 in franchise fees from Verizon and Comcast. Every decade Newtown and other local municipalities must negotiate franchise contracts with the cable companies. The township is currently in negotiation with Verizon (read “Protecting Your Online Privacy is an Important Local Issue!”).  


What do you think? Should Newtown introduce a similar ordinance? Take the poll here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TDBRMR9

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Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half!

Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half! | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

An important barrier to formulating effective policies to address the rapid rise in U.S. fatal overdoses is that the specific drugs involved are frequently not identified on death certificates.

Current death certificate data are problematic for understanding the drug poisoning epidemic, with a particular issue being the frequency with which no specific drug is identified. This results in an underestimate of the involvement of specific drugs in fatal overdoses (but not in the overall number of drug fatalities), which is sometimes substantial. For instance, mortality rates calculated using imputed data on specific drugs where such information was lacking on death certificates suggest that in 2014 opioid and heroin involved death rates were understated by more than half in Pennsylvania (8.5 vs 17.8 per 100,000 for opioids and 3.9 vs. 8.1 per 100,000 for heroin).


Via Pharma Guy
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John Mack Meets Steve Bacher at the Launch of His Campaign for U.S. Congress in Newtown

John Mack Meets Steve Bacher at the Launch of His Campaign for U.S. Congress in Newtown | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The Democratic primary election race for congress got a little more crowded on Saturday morning when Lower Makefield resident Steve Bacher announced his candidacy. 


Bacher, a self-described lifetime progressive Democrat, announced his candidacy in the community room at the historic Temperance House in Newtown Borough as more than 50 people gathered to hear the announcement speech.


“I think it is appropriate that we are gathered in a place where colonists gathered to plan a new nation,” said Newtown Democratic activist Steve Cickay while introducing Bacher to the crowd.


Bacher has had been involved in public service as a career and in his volunteer efforts. These experiences have given Bacher the experience of seeing problems that plague real people from close up, he said.


Throughout the course of his announcement, Bacher touched on important policy positions and his top priorities. Health insurance for all, jobs jobs that pay a fair wage and climate change are Bacher’s biggest priorities moving forward if he could only choose three, he explained.


While discussing the opioid epidemic in the district, Bacher acknowledged the good Fitzpatrick has done by raising awareness. The budget put forth by congress, however, does more harm in cuts than the awareness campaign can do good, he said.


Further Reading: 

“Former Newtown Resident & Democrat Steve Bacher to Enter 8th District Congressional Primary Race”; http://sco.lt/8rQsOP

johnmacknewtown's insight:
I like his views on the environment and the opioid crisis. I hope to interview him soon.
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The Bucks County Department of Health inspected 16 Newtown Establishments in December: Here's the List

The Bucks County Department of Health inspected 16 Newtown Establishments in December: Here's the List | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The Bucks County Department of Health inspected 16 Newtown establishments in December. Here's what they found. 


Aaron's Fresh Meats - 1 violation, inspection date: Dec. 15 

Birchwood Farm - 0 violations, inspection date: Dec. 19 

Dominick's Pizza - 5 violations, inspection date: Dec. 5 

Dragon of Newtown - 10 violations, inspection dates: Dec. 20, Dec. 29 

Hilton - Homewood Suites Newtown - 2 violations, inspection date: Dec. 20 

Jake's Eatery - 0 violations, inspection date: Dec. 29 

Joey G's - 3 violations, inspection date: Dec. 27 

KO Restaurant - 3 violations, inspection date: Dec. 27 

Marco's Pizza - 4 violations, inspection date: Dec. 22 

McCaffrey's Market - Newtown - 4 violations, inspection date: Dec. 6 

Meglio Wood Fired Pizzeria - 3 violations, inspection date: Dec. 7 

Newtown Chocolate Shoppe - 0 violations, inspection date: Dec. 12 

Ota-Ya Japanese Restaurant - 2 violations, inspection date: Dec. 22 

Primo Hoagies - 1 violation, inspection date: Dec. 7 

State Street Kitchen - 4 violations, inspection date: Dec. 12 

The Temperance House - 3 violations, inspection date: Dec. 20

johnmacknewtown's insight:
I eat or order food from many of these establishments, so I keep a watch on these inspections to see if problems are addressed.
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Warminster Interviewing Candidates for Township Solicitor in Public Forum!

Warminster supervisors will publicly screen almost a dozen candidates over the next two weeks to find a permanent township solicitor, officials announced Tuesday night. 


The search for new legal representation started in early December after former solicitor Michael Savona resigned from Doylestown law firm Eastburn & Gray. His resignation followed the release of a supplemental indictment against Lower Southampton officials accused of municipal corruption. 


Six attorneys will meet with the supervisors Thursday at the township’s administration building, starting at 5 p.m. Each interview is expected to last about 30 minutes, with the public invited to view the proceedings. The interviews will not be televised. The candidates coming in Thursday night include: 


 • Michael P. Clarke of Rudolph Clarke LLC, with offices in Bensalem 

 • Christen Pionzio of Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin P.C., in Lansdale 

 • Matt McHugh of Obermayer, Rebmann, Maxwell & Hippel LLP in Philadelphia (former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick is a partner in the firm) 

 • Frank Bartle of Dischell Bartle Dooley PC in Lansdale 

 • Richard Sokari of High Swartz, with offices in Doylestown Borough (former Warminster supervisor and current Bucks County Treasurer Tom Panzer is a partner) 

 • Mark Freed of Curtin & Heefner, with offices in Yardley, Doylestown Township and New Hope 


The remaining five interviews will be held Jan. 11 starting at 6:30 p.m. Those candidates include: 


 • Sean Kilkenny of Law Offices of Sean Kilkenny in Norristown 

 • David Onorato and Kathleen Thomas of Hladik, Onorato and Federman LLP in North Wales 

 • Randall C. Flager of Flager and Associates PC in Lower Southampton 

 • David Truelove of Hill Wallack, LP, with offices in Yardley 

 • Joseph Pizzo of Joseph Pizzo and Associates in Bensalem

johnmacknewtown's insight:
Perhaps this open process will become the norm for townships in the future.
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If You Can't Measure Opioid Overdoses, You Can't Improve the Response

If You Can't Measure Opioid Overdoses, You Can't Improve the Response | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

Chuck Kiessling - the current president of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association - can’t tell you how many opioid overdose deaths the 67 members of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association handled last year. 


It’s not because there are too many to count — but that’s probably true, too, he said. It’s because there’s not enough manpower to finalize the association’s annual report. His best estimate lies around 4,880 statewide for the whole year, almost 240 more than the federal Drug Enforcement Administration detailed in a July report fueled by coroners’ reports. 


 And that’s a problem, DEA officials say. 


“Our report, it quantifies what drug is responsible for deaths,” said Patrick Trainor, special agent for the DEA in Philadelphia. “In some counties, that drives a lot of our enforcement activities.” 


It took Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier to launch a study of county 911 calls to determine just how much the epidemic was impacting the community. Lozier was inspired by voters he met while campaigning door-to-door in 2015. Many begged him to do something about opioids. 


As elected officials in Pennsylvania, coroners are required to report a cause for every death. That is where the DEA is running into a brick wall trying to figure how what drugs are killing people. 


Trainor said some coroners say they’ve been told by the state coroners association not to release the information, but officials from the association say that isn’t true. 


“Some coroners are very, very cooperative in giving us data, and there are some that are not,” Trainor said. “Some we have had to serve with subpoenas to get stuff. Why? We don’t always get an explanation. Because they’re busy, some tell us.” 


Kiessling, a nurse and paramedic who has served as coroner of Lycoming County for 18 years and is the current president of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association, said that’s true. Most elected coroners are part time, at best, he said, and as more and more people die from opioid overdoses, the workload gets heavier. 


Kiessling said he doesn’t understand the emphasis on overdose death data. “The people that make it to my office, we can’t do anything for,” he said. “It isn’t going to impact the living.” 


But it is, Trainor said. The data helps law enforcement and public health officials understand what drugs are killing people and what areas need the most help. 


“It helps us to identify which areas are the hardest hit,” he said. “Which counties might need more Narcan than others, which counties are in need of more treatment resources. That report, it quantifies what drug is responsible for the deaths.” 


Further Reading: 

“Pennsylvania Underestimates Death Due to Opioids by More Than Half!”; http://sco.lt/8JwGcj ;


“The Other Cost of the Opioid Epidemic: Increased Taxes”; http://bit.ly/opiodsandtaxes

johnmacknewtown's insight:
It’s a disgrace that Mr. Kiessling does not see the benefits of accurately reporting drug overdoses and believes that such data “isn’t going to impact the living.” In a paper published in the Archives of Pathological & Laboratory Medicine, the authors conclude that “It is foreseeable that the public health role of medical examiners and coroners may continue to grow and that, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, public health impact will surpass criminal justice as the major focus of medicolegal death investigation in the United States.”
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Whistleblowers: DEA attorneys went easy on McKesson, the country's largest drug distributor

In October, we joined forces with the Washington Post and reported a disturbing story of Washington at its worst - about an act of Congress that crippled the DEA's ability to fight the worst drug crisis in American history - the opioid addiction crisis. Now, a new front of that joint investigation (read “How Congress Allied with Drug Company Lobbyists to Derail the DEA’s War on Opioids”; http://sco.lt/6j9dAn and “Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies”; http://bit.ly/2tEHoNT). It is also disturbing. It's the inside story of the biggest case the DEA ever built against a drug company: the McKesson Corporation, the country's largest drug distributor. It's also the story of a company too big to prosecute. 


In 2014, after two years of painstaking inquiry by nine DEA field divisions and 12 U.S. Attorneys, investigators built a powerful case against McKesson for the company's role in the opioid crisis. 


Our reporting turned up the leader of the DEA team, David Schiller, who tells for the first time how his investigators hit a brick wall in Washington when they tried to hold the powerful company accountable. 


David Schiller: This is the best case we've ever had against a major distributor in the history of the Drug Enforcement Administration. How do we not go after the number one organization? In the height of the epidemic, when people are dying everywhere, doesn't somebody have to be held accountable? McKesson needs to be held accountable. 


Holding McKesson accountable meant going after the 5th largest corporation in the country. Headquartered in San Francisco, McKesson has 76,000 employees and earns almost $200 billion a year in revenues, about the same as Exxon Mobil. Since the 1990s, McKesson has made billions from the distribution of addictive opioids. 


Sen. Maggie Hassan: The pharmaceutical industry is doing everything it can to keep this epidemic going.


Bill Whitaker: That's pretty strong. 


Sen. Maggie Hassan: Yeah. It is. 


New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan has been critical of Congress for not aggressively investigating industry's role in this epidemic. New Hampshire has the second highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country.


Bill Whitaker: What more is it going to take to convince Congress to act? 


Maggie Hassan: Well, one of the things we have to do is begin to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for this. And right now, when you see a fine for the McKesson Company of $150 million when they make a $100 million a week in profits, that isn't gonna do it. 


Bill Whitaker: What incentive do they have to change their behavior?  


Maggie Hassan: Well, right now, they don't have a lot of incentives and that's something that has to be changed. This in many ways reminds me of the situation with big tobacco-- and, you know, I think it's one of the reasons you see attorneys general around the country--beginning to file lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry--to hold them accountable for the cost of this terrible epidemic. 


41 state attorneys general have banded together to sue the opioid industry. While at McKesson, John Hammergren begins his 18th year as CEO. This year, the board awarded him an additional $1.1 million performance bonus. A bonus based on ethics and accountability. 


Reader Comment: I have been a retail pharmacist for over 30 years and I cannot believe what I see every day as far as opiate prescriptions that come through daily. McKesson might have some blame on the opiod epidemic, but THE biggest problem is the docs over-prescribing all the opiod and non-opiod pain killers. They put people on pain meds and leave them on them which usually leads to higher strengths and larger quantities as time goes on. I work in a rural setting and see hundreds to thousands of opiod tablets and capsules being dispensed daily. Most of the docs are general practitioners but there are a lot of "pain clinic" docs (which are a joke) also over-prescribing. The opiates are highly addictive and should be given in small quantities and short term use.

johnmacknewtown's insight:
Note: Newtown Twp drug company KVK Tech, whose #1 selling products are opioids, probably use distributors like McKesson, which makes this a local issue.
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Catalyst Outdoor Advertising Paid Kickback to Lower Southhampton Solicitor. The Same Company Made Two Pitches to the Newtown BOS in 2016

A former Lower Southampton solicitor has resigned from his prominent Doylestown Borough law firm one day after the release of the latest superseding federal grand jury indictment in the ongoing probe into allegations of corruption involving former Lower Southampton public officials. 


The Billboard Project 

The indictment also includes excerpts from text messages and telephone conversations between Waltman, Hoopes and “Solicitor 1” colluded to negotiate “consulting fees” that the sign company would pay Raff’s Consulting in exchange for the two officials’ assurances that the Board of Supervisors and other township officials would look favorably on the billboard proposal and lease agreement. Raff’s Consulting was a business owned by Bernard Rafferty that figures prominently in the federal government’s allegations of money laundering, according to the previous December and August indictments against the defendants.


Rafferty, 62, of Lower Southampton, is the former deputy state constable who worked out of Waltman’s district court. He is facing charges in the federal probe. 


The billboard company and its salesman were not identified in the Dec. 5 indictment, but Lower Southampton Board of Supervisor meeting minutes confirm that Savona was involved in negotiations last year with a subsidy of Catalyst Outdoor Advertising LLC of Malvern called Southampton Outdoor LLC. An attorney for Catalyst Outdoor confirmed Wednesday that the salesman identified in the indictment was former vice president of asset development Robert DeGoria. DeGoria is not criminally charged in the Lower Southampton probe. 


The company was seeking to place a two-sided advertising billboard in Russell Elliott Park. The agreement never came before the board of supervisors for a vote, according to township Manager John McMenamin. 


Minutes from last year corroborate the timeline outlined in the Dec. 5 indictment involving the billboard proposal and the alleged scheme to extort a payment for Waltman, Hoopes and Rafferty. 


The minutes show DeGoria, who recently was terminated from Catalyst and Southampton Outdoor, according to Catalyst’s attorney, appeared before the board of supervisors on April 27, 2016, to pitch the proposed LED billboard project. According to those minutes, DeGoria said it could generate revenue for the township as a place where local businesses could advertise. 


[Note: DeGoria appeared before the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors twice in 2016 - once in June and once in October - to pitch putting a billboard on the Newtown Bypass at Silver Lake Park. No action was taken on the billboard idea.]


DeGoria sent a term sheet to “Solicitor 1” in May 2016 offering the township $48,000 a year over 30 years for the right to erect a billboard in the park, according to the new indictment. Lower Southampton supervisor minutes from May 11, 2016, confirm the Savona told the board he received a proposal from Catalyst for a double-sided billboard at Russell Elliott Park offering $48,000 a year for 29 years and 11 months. It also promised a 10-percent increase in the annual payment every 60 months. 


“Mr. Savona said that Catalyst needs to come a long way to match” another company that operated a one-sided digital billboard in the township that paid the township an annual fee of $50,000 with a 2-percent increase annually, according to the May 11, 2016, supervisor minutes. 


The Dec. 5 indictment confirmed that “Solicitor 1” and the supervisors thought the offer was too low and wanted $68,000 a year, money it planned to use for capital improvements and the general fund. 


In early November 2016, DeGoria sent a revised term sheet to “Solicitor 1” offering $60,000 a year over 30 years, and afterward according to the Dec. 5 indictment. DeGoria, Waltman and Hoopes allegedly entered into an “unlawful arrangement” where the public officials allegedly agreed to solicit, accept and conceal bribes through “Raff’s Consulting.”


In return, the public officials agreed to “influence actions taken by, and on behalf of, LST’s Board of Supervisors, LST officers, and ‘Solicitor 1’ to accept the company’s lease offer for the billboard at Russell Elliott park,” according the latest indictment. 


The Dec. 5 indictment specifically noted that in early November 2016, DeGoria asked Hoopes if someone could “influence LST’s Board of Supervisors to take a favorable view” of the new lease offer. 


“Yeah, I can do that,” Hoopes said, according to the Dec. 5 indictment, adding, “I’ll make it happen.” 


johnmacknewtown's insight:
See DeGoria's pitch made to Newtown Board of Supervisors on October 17, 2016. Nothing came of it. http://newtownpa.swagit.com/play/10182016-1806
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Newtown Twp Board of Supervisors Accepting Resumes

Newtown Twp Board of Supervisors Accepting Resumes | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) is accepting resumes for consideration for Township boards, committees, and commissions. Resumes will be accepted until December 20, 2017. Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Olivia Kivenko,
Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940, by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or by fax at (215) 968-5368.

The following is a list of available committee openings:

Zoning Hearing Board
Planning Commission
Parks and Recreation Board
Newtown Joint Historic Commission
Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB)
Traffic Impact Advisory Committee
Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board
Environmental Advisory Council
Technology Committee
Economic Development Committee


More information about committees, including meeting times and committee goals, can be found here: http://bit.ly/2BhqAwC ;

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Support the Newtown Ambulance Squad

Support the Newtown Ambulance Squad | News of Interest to Newtown Residents | Scoop.it

I recently subscribed to the Newtown Ambulance Squad by making a household donation of $60. The 2018 subscription drive is on it's way to your mailbox!


Donations like this, which make up about 5% of the Squad's revenue, help cover the costs of the squad. But more is needed as costs keep rising and calls for drug overdoses balloon (read "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding"; http://bit.ly/2AWeJmA). 

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