Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Drug Overdose Death Epidemic Near 80's H.I.V. Peak Death Level!

Drug Overdose Death Epidemic Near 80's H.I.V. Peak Death Level! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Deaths from drug overdoses have jumped in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.

Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of these deaths reached a new peak in 2014: 47,055 people, or the equivalent of about 125 Americans every day.

The death rate from drug overdoses is climbing at a much faster pace than other causes of death, jumping to an average of 15 per 100,000 in 2014 from nine per 100,000 in 2003.

The trend is now similar to that of the human immunodeficiency virus, or H.I.V., epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Robert Anderson, the C.D.C.’s chief of mortality statistics.

Pharma Guy's insight:

It's clear the so-called "War on Drugs" has been lost - except for municipalities collecting millions in fines and legal fees and federal funds to incarcerate people. At least one municipality - Goucester, MA - has a different approach. For more on that, read "Perfect Storm: Gloucester Police Targets #Pharma as Next Step Against 'War on Drugs'"; 

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Doctors Are the Primary Opium Pushers of the 21st Century: Gateway to Heroin

Doctors Are the Primary Opium Pushers of the 21st Century: Gateway to Heroin | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent -- an increase blamed on the use of addictive prescription painkillers.

According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine,7 while most opioid drug abusers obtain the drug from a friend or relative, (23 percent pay for them; 26 percent get them for free), individuals who are at greatest risk for drug abuse are just as likely to get theirs from a doctor's prescription.

Previous drug abuse prevention programs have primarily focused on those who get their hands on opioids without a prescription. You may recall ads from previous years promoting the safe storage and disposal of prescription medication.

But such efforts have completely missed those at greatest risk for a drug overdose, i.e. those who use such drugs per doctor's orders. Twenty-seven percent of the highest-risk users get their drugs from their doctor even when they're using the drug nonmedically for 200 or more days per year... CDC Director Tom Frieden M.D., M.P.H recently echoed the study's authors when he said that:

"Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs. Health care providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription drug monitoring programs. It's time we stop the source and treat the troubled."

Another JAMA study notes that, of the drug overdose deaths occurring in Tennessee between 2003 and 2010, more were caused by prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined. Incredibly, between 2007 and 2011, one-third of the population of Tennessee filled at least one prescription for an opioid each year... According to the authors:

"High-risk use of prescription opioids is frequent and increasing in Tennessee and is associated with increased overdose mortality. Use of prescription drug–monitoring program data to direct risk-reduction measures to the types of patients overrepresented among overdose deaths might reduce mortality associated with opioid abuse."

Pharma Guy's insight:

FDA is also part of the problem. For more on that, read: Why the FDA Approved Zohydro

Some highlights:

More than 40 consumer organizations, health care agencies, addiction treatment providers, and community-based drug and alcohol prevention programs called on the FDA to revoke its approval of Zohydro, "an opioid so powerful that a single dose could kill a child," according to Public Citizen (seehere).

In addition, "a group of more than 40 doctors is hoping to preempt its release by urging the FDA to reconsider its decision," reports Regulatory Focus (see "Docs v. Zohydro"). "According to the letter penned by the doctors, Zohydro is five to 10 times stronger than its nearest equivalent, Vicodin, and has the potential to cause a severe rise in overdose deaths."

Kacey Townsend's curator insight, April 6, 2016 10:55 AM

Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs. Twenty-seven percent of high-risk users get their drigs from their doctor even when they're using the drug nonmedically for 200 days or more. Heroin deaths have increased by 45 percent- an increase blamed on the use of addictive prescription painkillers.

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Here's a Good Example of Why #Pharma's Rep is So F**ked Up. But That's Free Enterprise, i.e., Capitalism!

Here's a Good Example of Why #Pharma's Rep is So F**ked Up. But That's Free Enterprise, i.e., Capitalism! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Price surges for naloxone could deter efforts to curb heroin overdoses.

The ongoing fight over Big Pharma’s pricing policies continues as congressional leaders shift their focus to a drug that police departments use to treat heroin overdoses. While law enforcement agencies have become more accepting of this approach to combat drug abuse, recent price spikes put the future of city and state distribution programs in jeopardy.

Earlier this week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) blasted Amphaster Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the drug naloxone, in a letter in which the duo questioned the rationale of increasing the price of the drug during a time when heroin overdose deaths have more than tripled within a three-year period.

“Over the past several months, police departments, law enforcement agencies, and public health officials across the country have warned about the increasing price of naloxone, which they use to combat the scourge of heroin abuse,” Sanders and Cummings wrote in their letter.

Naloxone, a generic drug that’s also known as Narcan, reverses the effects of potentially fatal opioid overdoses by relieving the depression of the nervous and respiratory systems and quelling symptoms of hypertension. Nearly half of U.S. states have passed laws granting wider access to naloxone, which can be administered in the bloodstream and through the nostrils. Doctors in those states can prescribe naloxone to friends and family members of opioid abusers. These measures also remove liability from people who dole out the drug, including police officers.

In April 2014, the Food and Drug Administration approved Evzio, a user-friendly naloxone injector to the satisfaction of public health officials and advocates. However, a sticker price of more than $400 keeps the tool out of the hands of many people who would prefer having the drug on hand in case a friend or family member overdoses. The price of the formula that can be injected nasally also doubled to the chagrin of law enforcement officials and heads of nonprofits, many of whom have turned to Amphaster — its sole producer — for answers.

“You’re being held at the whim of companies that can do what they want because they have a monopoly on a drug,” Eliza Wheeler, project manager for the Harm Reduction Coalition’s DOPE Program, told MedPage Today in November 2014. “The balance of our program rests on whether we can afford a product. That they can wantonly raise the price is terrifying.”

Pharma Guy's insight:

This year, police departments across the country, including in New York City, announced plans to stock up on a medication that reverses the effects of a heroin or opioid painkiller overdose.

The move signaled a shifting approach for officers more accustomed to fighting drug abuse with arrests than with a medical antidote.

But police and public health officials from New York to San Francisco are facing sticker shock: Prices for a popular form of the medication, naloxone, are spiking, in some cases by 50 percent or more.

What's going on is a spike across the board in generic dug prices. 

Historically costing pennies on the dollar compared with a brand-name drug, generic drugs have long been considered a vital weapon in the fight to contain soaring health-care costs. But in the past year, the price of many generics has disconcertingly moved in the wrong direction, drawing the attention of Congress and pinching the wallets of consumers as well as pharmacies and insurers.

“We are talking about the need of the American people to be able to afford the medicine that their doctors prescribe,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of a Senate health-care subcommittee, said at a hearing on the issue late last week. “There appears to be now a trend in the industry where a number of drugs are going up at extraordinary rates. We wanted to know if there was a rational economic reason as to why patients saw these price increases or whether it was simply a question of greed.”

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