Pradaxa Federal Court Trial Win: $1.25 million verdict-with punitives of $1 million in death case

Betty Erelene Knight (Deceased), Claude R. Knight   vs. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  Docket No. 3:15-cv-06424; Judge Robert C. Chambers (United States District Court-Southern District of West Virginia)

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) A federal jury has awarded the family of a deceased West Virginia woman $1.25 million after finding that Boehringer Ingelheim failed to warn of risks associated with its blood thinner Pradaxa, causing her to suffer gastrointestinal bleeding.

The federal trial in Huntington, WV, (US District Court Southern District of West Virginia) awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to the estate of Betty Erelene Knight and her husband Claude R. Knight, and added $1,000,000 more in punitive damages. The jury added the large punitive award after plaintiff counsel showed that Boehringer Ingelheim engaged in wanton and willful acts in handling of its blockbuster drug Pradaxa, primarily in failing to warn of the risks.

The October 17th plaintiffs’ verdict was the first trial win in the country against Boehringer Ingelheim the German drugmaker, showing that the blockbuster drug is dangerous. The Pradaxa defense team had won three earlier trials for the company, and this verdict on behalf of  the estate of Erelene Knight and her surviving spouse Claude, shows that juries can be convinced of the dangers including fatal risks related to Pradaxa. Mrs. Knight, who was in her 80’s passed away while taking Pradaxa.

She suffered from an irregular heartbeat, a condition that often leads to the development of blood clots, which can travel into the brain and cause a stroke. The plaintiff’s doctor stated that she was at “high risk of stroke.”

Prior to being prescribed Pradaxa, her doctors initially prescribed Coumadin, another prescription blood thinner. Because of the risk of uncontrolled bleeding with this particular drug, the victim required “frequent monitoring” which is what the Pradaxa marketing teams focused on, when meeting with doctors while marketing Pradaxa as a “safer alternative to Coumadin.”  Eventually, the victim grew weary of the inconvenience of such monitoring and learned about Pradaxa, which performs a similar function to Coumadin, from a television commercial.

Her doctor agreed to switch her to Pradaxa, and after about 18 months on the drug, she started to suffer from severe, uncontrolled internal bleeding. At one point she required surgery, which significantly weakened her and set into motion a decline in her health. Within several months of the surgery Erelene Knight passed away. Defense vigorously attempted to point the finger at other health conditions and place blame on anything besides Pradaxa, which failed as the punitive damage award of $1 million showed that the jury clearly saw that Boehringer Ingelheim knew the risks of Pradaxa, yet continued offering the drug without sufficient warnings.

The winning plaintiff trial team consisted of the Childers, Schlueter & Smith Firm and partner  Andy Childers, Neal Moskow of Ury & Moskow, LLC and Yvette Ferrer of Ferrer Poirot & Wansbrough. Congratulations to everyone, as the mass tort world looks forward to additional plaintiff verdicts in the many other Pradaxa cases pending in dockets around the country.

WHAT IS PRADAXA?

·        Pradaxa is an anticoagulant medication used to reduce the risk of stroke and blood clots in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of heart rhythm abnormality.

·        The safety and efficacy of Pradaxa were studied in a clinical trial comparing Pradaxa with the anticoagulant warfarin. In the trial, patients taking Pradaxa had fewer strokes than those who took warfarin.1

·        From approval in October 2010 through August 2012, a total of approximately 3.7 million Pradaxa prescriptions were dispensed, and approximately 725,000 patients received a dispensed prescription for Pradaxa from U.S. outpatient retail pharmacies.2

Rulings Prior to Trial

The estate’s lawsuit against Boehringer Ingelheim, focused on Pradaxa’s label, asserting claims that the company knew that “certain blood plasma concentrations of Pradaxa increased the risk of a major bleed without contributing any additional stroke prevention benefit.” This risk was actually disclosed on labels for Pradaxa in Europe, but not the United States at the time of the victim’s care. Boehringer also knew that patients should not take Pradaxa if they also use P-gp inhibitor drugs, which Erelene Knight did. And while the company later altered its label to include this information, it did not directly inform doctors of the risk.

Based on all this, the judge presiding over the case ruled the estate presented sufficient evidence to submit the question of liability for “failure to warn” to the jury. Defense protested that at the relevant time, Pradaxa contained a general warning that the drug “can cause serious and, sometimes, fatal bleeding.” But whether or not this was an “adequate” warning given what BI allegedly knew, but failed to disclose on the original U.S. label, will be for the jury to decide.

How the favorable verdict predicts future trial outcomes in not only Pradaxa cases currently pending around the country, but in the more than 25,000 Xarelto blood thinner cases that are filed in the Xarelto MDL 2592 litigation, see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase XARELTO-(rivaroxaban)-MDL-2592-USDC-ED-Louisiana (Judge Eldon Fallon), and in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, see XARELTO-Case-No-2349-in-Philadephia-Court-of-Common-Pleas–Complex-Litigation-(PA-State-Court). There are several bellwether trials set for the Philadelphia Xarelto cases in 2019, where Laura Feldman and Rosemary Pinto of the Philadelphi firm of Feldman & Pinto, will be co-lead counsel for the trial team.

Michael Brady Lunch will speak on the Pradaxa litigation as well as the status of Xarelto and related issues at the upcoming Mass Tort Nexus “CLE Immersion Course”

November 9 -12, 2018 at The Riverside Hotel in Fort Lauderdale , FL.

For class attendance information please contact Jenny Levine at 954.520.4494 or Jenny@masstortnexus.com.

For the most up to date information on all MDL dockets and related mass torts visit  www.masstortnexus.com and review our mass tort briefcases and professional site MDL briefcases.

To obtain our free newsletters that contain real time mass tort updates, visit www.masstortnexus.com/news and sign up for free access.

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Why the New Opioid Infant Addicted-NAS MDL 2872 Was Filed At The Right Time -The Opioid Industry Model of “Profits Before Patients” Is Killing Children

How Will Opiate Big Pharma Address Thousands of Addicted Infants?

By Mark A. York (October 4, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase MDL-2872 Children-Born-Opioid-Dependent-(Infant NAS) Filed September 20, 2018 for related Infant/NAS case filing information

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA)  Tens of thousands of infants born in the U.S. each year now have NAS, and a recent  Centers for Disease Control report  said the rate of NAS deliveries at hospitals quadrupled during the past 15 years.  The period of hospitalization for NAS infants averages 16 days and hospital costs for a typical newborn with NAS are $159,000-$238,000 greater than those of healthy newborns, according to the attorneys representing the NAS (neonatal abstinence syndrome) babies.

With the filing of a New Motion to Consolidate Opiate Addicted Infant Case as MDL 2872 with the Joint Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, the fire may be lit to move the most vulnerable victims of the opioid crisis into the forefront of the litigation. Will this force Opiate Big Pharma to pay for 20 years of bad conduct in pushing opiate prescriptions on American commerce?  See MDL 2872 Motion to Consolidate Infant-NAS Addicted Opiate Litigation

In West Virginia, home of the highest overdose rates in the nation, the foster care population has increased by 42 percent since 2014.   Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, from 2013 and released in 2016, suggested West Virginia had the highest rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) of 21 states analyzed.

Later data collected by the state showed the state’s rate was higher than the CDC report indicated, said Christina Mullins, director of the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health.

The 2016 CDC report, which said NAS “occurs primarily among opioid-exposed infants,” showed that as of 2013, West Virginia’s NAS rate was 3.34 percent of all hospital births, a hair higher than Vermont’s 3.33 percent.

After those two states, the rate plummeted significantly, with Kentucky’s 1.5 percent being the next highest – although Maine, which had no data reported in 2013, did have a 3.04 percent rate in 2012, lower than Vermont’s then-No. 1 rate of 3.05 percent and higher than West Virginia’s then-No. 3 rate of 2.17 percent.

Mullins said the data previously came from hospital discharge data, and it’s not easily comparable across all states. She said that when the state began collecting real-time data in October 2016, it got a rate of about 5 percent of all births.

Mullins presented Monday to a legislative interim committee that heard several reports regarding likely impacts of the opioid crisis on kids and education.

The reports indicated that the state was No. 1 or No. 2 in the country in removing children from their homes; the number of youth in state custody increased 46 percent from October 2014 to October of last year; there’s been a 22 percent increase in accepted abuse/neglect referrals over three years; and 85 percent of open child abuse/neglect cases involve drugs.

The number of children in state or foster care hit a record low in Massachusetts earlier this decade. Since then, that number has risen by a quarter, and there are now more children in state care than ever before.

>States, Counties, Cities and others are suing opioid drug makers and distributor in both state and federal courts, see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase “Opioid Litigation Versus Opiate Prescription Industry MDL 2804, US District Court of Ohio”

 Opioid use by women in rural areas is driving the increasing numbers. Tennessee is part of a cluster of states, including Alabama and Kentucky, experiencing some of the highest rates of NAS births. In East Tennessee the problem is particularly acute: Sullivan County alone reported a rate of 50.5 cases of NAS per 1,000 births, the highest rate in the state for five years running.

In Canada, during the past decade, the number of babies exposed to opioids in the womb has increased 16-fold in Ontario. And according to Ontario’s Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health (PCMCH), more than 950 infants were born to opioid-addicted mothers last year. Just over half of them will live the toughest days of their lives in their first week outside the womb.

Until the governments at the federal, state and local levels can all agree on a long-term viable solution to the opioid crisis and the impact on school age children, infants born addicted and society as a whole, the opiate drug crisis will linger for generations long into the future.

In Ohio, the number of children in state custody has grown by 28 percent since 2015. Foster care populations are up more than 30 percent in Alabama, Alaska, California, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire since 2014. States like Illinois, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Jersey now adopting new approaches to help keep parents and children together, even as parents are receiving treatment for their addictions.

The opioid epidemic plaguing the nation is taking a catastrophic toll on our most vulnerable group, the children of the opiate addicts and those with substance use disorders. Many children are sent to live with grandparents or other family members, often due to a parent overdose or other addiction displays other problems but tragically, a growing number are being placed in the foster-care system, with many states unable to keep up with the demand from both a budget as well as staffing overload.

From 2013 to 2015, the number of children in foster care nationwide jumped almost 7 percent to nearly 429,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children and Families, the 2016 to 2018 numbers have moved that number closer to 550,000. Parental substance use was cited as a factor in about 32 percent of all foster placements. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died of an overdose, and currently 91 people a day die from opiate overdoses.

Unfortunately, many children, the indirect victims of the crisis, are not getting the care and services they need. “This is a neglected subpopulation,” says John Kelly, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the founder and director of the Massachusetts General Hospital. “Because we’re trying to put out the fire in terms of stopping overdose deaths, we haven’t really been attending to other casualties, including kids most importantly.”

To lessen the long-term effects on children, psychologists are treating children in the foster-care system in outpatient, inpatient and residential treatment programs and in school-based mental health programs.

“Treating Women Who Are Pregnant and Parenting for Opioid Use Disorder and the Concurrent Care of Their Infants and Children: Literature Review to Support National Guidance.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28406856

[STUDY OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) during pregnancy is increasing. Practical recommendations will help providers treat pregnant women with OUD and reduce potentially negative health consequences for mother, fetus, and child. This article summarizes the literature review conducted using the RAND/University of California, Los Angeles Appropriateness Method project completed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to obtain current evidence on treatment approaches for pregnant and parenting women with OUD and their infants and children]

Drug users’ children flooding to foster care

In Washington state, this number is alarming but not widely known, 10,000 high-school seniors said they used heroin or gotten high on opioid-derived painkillers in 2016, those numbers were about the same as two years prior, but foster care placements have surged.

 

Between 2011 and 2017, the state took children from drug-abusing parents nearly 14,000 times. Last year’s rate was the highest for drug-related causes since 2010 — up 16 percent over 2015 — while state hospitals report a steady increase in substance-exposed newborns.

Child-welfare workers hear complaints about increasingly severe problems in school — more physical violence toward peers, or kids who need to be taught separately — from students whose parents are staggering through addiction, said Jenna Kiser, who oversees intake at the state Children’s Administration.

Jenny Heddin, a state agency supervisor stated, “These numbers are very concerning, when children from these homes come into foster care, they can be very difficult to serve.”

This represent one corner of a national wave. More than 37 states report unprecedented numbers of kids entering foster care, many of them for reasons related to a parent’s substance abuse, according to the federal Department of Education.

Damaging children’s futures

By the time Child Protective Services is knocking on someone’s door, the problem is already severe. And so far efforts to respond might best be described as triage — focused more on addiction treatment than prevention, both in Washington and across the country.

As in many other states, political infighting prevents treatment, earlier this year Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed spending $20 million on a multipronged effort to combat opioid addiction. The bill never made it to the floor for a full vote, and it contained little funding for prevention. (But $1.7 million targeted for youth did get funding.)

Yet researchers warn that ignoring that aspect of the crisis virtually guarantees costly problems to come as the children of addicts grow into adulthood. Kevin Haggerty, a professor at the University of Washington who studies risk factors for drug abuse, authored one of the few peer-reviewed studies tracking life outcomes for these young people.

In the early 1990s, Professor Haggerty identified 151 elementary and middle-school children in Washington who were growing up with heroin-addicted parents. Fifteen years later, 33 percent had dropped out of high school. The vast majority were addicts themselves, and half had criminal records. Only 2 percent had made it through college. (Nationally, 33 percent of all kindergartners in 1992 grew up to earn a college degree.)

“The results are astounding at how poor the outcomes are, when having a drug-addicted parent,” said Caleb Banta-Green, principal research scientist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

“We need to be doing a lot more for kids being parented by opiate-addicted parents — and we’re not.”

“Families literally bring their problems to our door now to help them navigate their lives,” Harrington-Bacote said. “Public schools are doing things that fall way outside of regular academic education. But if they don’t, it’s not going to get addressed at all.”

OHIO EXAMPLES – HOW BIG PHARMA OPIOID MONEY DESTROYS LIVES

Way before social workers showed up in his living room this March, Matt McLaughlin, a 16-year-old with diabetes, had taken to a routine not of his doing, trying to scrounge up enough change for food while his mom, Kelly, went out to use heroin. On a good night, the high school junior would walk his neighborhood in Andover, Ohio to pick up frozen pizza from the dollar store, and on bad nights, he’d play video games to keep his mind off his hunger and unknown blood sugar levels.

When Matt was little, his mom Kelly was a Head Start caseworker who taught parents how to manage their autistic children and who hosted potlucks and played Barbie with Matt’s sister, Brianna. “Growing up, we were the house that everyone wanted to come to,” remembered Brianna, now 20. “I loved every minute of it.”

Kelly had neck surgery and got addicted to OxyContin, and by 2015, she was spending her days napping, disappearing for hours at a time, or going to her neighbor’s house, where she would exchange cash for packets of heroin. She started yelling at the kids, food became scarce, life changed for the worse, “It’s like her personality did a 180,” Brianna said. “I felt like I lost my mom to this pit that I couldn’t pull her out of.”

Ashtabula County Children Services answered a tip when someone called the police and urged them to check on the family.

She’d been to detox several times over the years, trying to rid herself of what felt like a demon that had taken over her brain. Last year, she managed to stay clean for 63 days, until a friend came over “and laid out a line—and that was all it took.” There are five heroin dealers within a five-mile radius and all are more than willing to provide an addict the opiate of choice, which is the norm for rural Ohio anymore.

Her kids were once again forced to pack their bags as Kelly would go to detox another time, they were lucky to have relatives nearby. The spiraling opioid epidemic has disrupted so many families that all the foster homes in Ashtabula County are full, with this story being repeated across the country every day.

The scourge of addiction to painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl sweeping the country has produced a flood of bewildered children who, having lost their parents to drug use or overdose, are now living with foster families or relatives. In Ashtabula County, in Ohio’s northeast corner, the number of children in court custody quadrupled from 69 in 2014 to 279 last year. “I can’t remember the last time I removed a kid and it didn’t have to do with drugs,” says a child services supervisor.  Her clients range from preschoolers who know to call 911 when a parent overdoses to steely teenagers who cook and clean while Mom and Dad spend all day in the bathroom. Often, the kids marvel at how quickly everything changed—how a loving mom could transform, as one teenager put it, into a “zombie.”

The pattern mirrors a national trend: Largely because of the opioid epidemic, there were 30,000 more children in foster care in 2015 than there were in 2012—an 8 percent increase. In 14 states, from New Hampshire to North Dakota, the number of foster kids rose by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2015, according to data amassed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In Texas, Florida, Oregon, and elsewhere, kids have been forced to sleep in state buildings because there were no foster homes available, says advocacy group Children’s Rights. Federal child welfare money has been dwindling for years, leaving state and local funding to fill in the gaps. But Ashtabula County is one of the poorest counties in Ohio, and despite a recent boost in funding, the state contributes the lowest share toward children’s services of any state in the country. 

More Broken Families, Less Funding

 Ohio also has one of the nation’s highest overdose rates. In 2016, at least 4,149 Ohioans died of drug overdose—a 36 percent jump from the year before, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In 2015, 1 in 9 US heroin deaths occurred in Ohio.

It’s hard to overstate just how pervasive the epidemic feels here. Detective Taylor Cleveland, who investigates drug cases in Ashtabula, told me, “I’m dealing with ruined homes two and three times a day.” Cleveland, who coaches youth soccer and recently adopted a 17-year-old player whose mom overdosed, leads a task force that responds to every overdose in the county. Once, he arrived at an overdose scene only to realize that the victim slouched over in the motel room was his cousin, whose young daughter had called 911. “Every OD that happens, I get a text. I’ve gotten two texts while we’ve been talking.” We’d been talking for less than an hour.

Given the scale of the crisis, it’s not hard to understand why, when Donald Trump promised Ohioans on the campaign trail to “spend the money” to confront the opioid crisis and build a wall so drugs would stop flowing in, locals in this historically blue county took notice. In late October, Trump became the first presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy to visit Ashtabula County. He promised to bring back jobs, to open the long-shuttered steel plants, to build the wall. Twelve days later, Ashtabula residents voted for a Republican president for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

WHITE HOUSE PROMISED ON OPIOIDS BUT DIDN’T DELIVER

But since he took office, Trump’s plans to tackle the epidemic head-on have fizzled. Republicans’ recent effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would slash funding for Medicaid, which is the country’s largest payer for addiction services—and which covers nearly half of Ohio’s prescriptions for the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine. The bill would enable insurers in some states to get out of the Obamacare requirement to cover substance abuse treatment. A memo leaked in May revealed Trump’s plans to effectively eliminate the White House’s drug policy office, cutting its budget by 95 percent. (The administration has since backpedaled on the plans, following bipartisan criticism.) Trump’s 2018 budget proposes substantial cuts to the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

“I think some people felt as though nothing else is working,” said one Ashtabula resident when I asked why so many in a Medicaid-dependent area would vote for Trump. Now, she says, “I’m really, really scared. You don’t get it until you live in a small town and you see people die every day.”

Like so many other Midwest Rust Belt counties, Ashtabula, Ohio has seen better days. Locals proudly tell me that the Port of Ashtabula used to be one of the biggest in the world, where barges unloaded iron mined from Minnesota’s Mesabi Range onto trains headed for the steel mills of the Ohio River Valley. Today, once-bustling streets have given way to vacant storefronts and fast-food chains; the surrounding countryside is made up of farm fields, trailer parks, and junkyards. One in three kids now live below the federal poverty line, less than half of adults have a high school education. The financial downturn accelerated in the ’90s when manufacturing jobs started disappearing.

Then Opiate Big Pharma and their marketing campaigns introduced newer “less addictive” painkillers like OxyContin and others like Vicodin were liberally prescribed in communities wrestling with dwindling economic opportunity and rife with workplace injuries common to mines, lumberyards, and factories. As authorities started to tighten the rules on prescribing drugs like OxyContin, the use of heroin, which is chemically nearly identical to opioid painkillers, crept up. But the tipping point, for Ohio and the country, came over the past couple of years, when illicit fentanyl, an opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, started making its way into the heroin supply. Since then, says Dr. Thomas Gilson, the medical examiner for nearby Cuyahoga County, the deaths have been coming “like a tidal wave.”

About five years ago, Ohio noticed a major uptick in the number of parents using heroin. More recently, elected officials have learned more about the parasitic way that opioids co-opt the brain and the complex pull of addictions attitudes have softened, with most realizing there is no good guy or bad guy, once addiction takes hold. The long-term problems are often multiplied many times over by lack of short-term treatment.

Gov. John Kasich, a notorious budget hawk, made national news when he pushed Medicaid expansion through Ohio’s conservative Legislature. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter,” he told one lawmaker, “he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.” He made news yet again last week, when he signed a 2018 budget that will, for the first time in years, increase the state’s funding for children’s services. Yet the $30 million boost in funding over two years, which will pay foster parents and provide counseling for the kids, won’t make up for the $55 million increase in child placement costs over the past three years. Other than county pilot programs, “No policy or state investment has focused specifically on the children flooding into county agency custody as a result of the opioid epidemic,” concluded a report by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio this spring.

Meanwhile, federal funding for children’s services decreased by 16 percent between 2004 and 2014. That’s due in part to an arcane law stipulating that the largest pot of federal money for children’s services applies only to kids from below a certain income threshold. In many states, that threshold is about half the poverty level—in Ohio, it’s roughly $14,000 per year for a family of four. But the opioid epidemic has afflicted families of all stripes. “A few years ago, I was constantly just in homes that were clearly in poverty,” says Mongenel. Now she’s struck by her new clients’ well-kept houses: “You pull up to it and it’s like, ‘Really?’”

The director of one Ohio county stated “that more caseworkers are quitting than ever before, unable to reconcile the overwhelming caseload with the paltry salary, which starts at $28,500..’”

CPS and affiliated social services agencies across the United States are now becoming much more familiar with the latest addiction research on ACEs and impacts on young children. They know that a child with four or more ACEs is twice as likely as other kids to develop cancer and ten times more likely to inject drugs themselves. When they encounter someone like Lisa, they are torn between mitigating one ACE, exposure to parental substance abuse, and catalyzing another: separating a child from her parents, which is what makes these conversations so heart-wrenching.

For county and state professionalsone of the most difficult things about managing opioid cases is how unpredictable they can be, never knowing how a client’s drug-addicted parent will do after detox. Some thrive and are quickly reunited with their families. Others can’t pull themselves out of the black hole of addiction.

Every 19 minutes, an opioid addicted baby is born in America, while many of us are well aware of the repercussions of addiction in adults, but very little is understood about the impact it has on infants. After months of being fed opioids through the mother, these babies suffer through excruciating pain.

Imagine, then, how it feels for a baby. Infants who have been exposed to opioid painkillers like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone treatment or street drugs such as heroin while in utero are literally cut off from the drugs when they are born. Within their first 72 hours of life, about half of the babies who have been exposed begin having withdrawal symptoms.

The medical term for this is neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, and rates of babies born with it are rising along with the exponential increase of painkiller use and abuse.

A recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that nearly six out of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. are now diagnosed with NAS. However, experts say that rate is likely higher, as not all states regularly collect such data.

In Tennessee which is currently the only state in the country that equates substance abuse while pregnant with aggravated assault, the penalty is punishable by a 15-year prison sentence. Eighteen other states consider it to be child abuse, and three say its grounds for civil commitment. Four states require drug testing of mothers and 18 require that healthcare professionals report when drug abuse is suspected. There are also 19 states that have created funding for targeted drug treatment programs for pregnant women.

Opponents of the punishment philosophy claim that punishing addicted pregnant women will not stop them from abusing drugs – instead it will stop them from seeking prenatal care. Many also claim that these policies would unfairly punish mothers for drug use compared to fathers. Organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have encouraged a treatment over punishment approach for pregnant mothers with drug addictions.

For the most up to date information on all MDL dockets and related mass torts visit www.masstortnexus.com and review our mass tort briefcases and professional site MDL briefcases.

To obtain our free newsletters that contain real time mass tort updates, visit www.masstortnexus.com/news and sign up for free access.  

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Why Isn’t Medical Cannabis Used to Treat Opioid and Substance Abuse Disorders More Often? 

Will Medical Marijuana Become A Viable Addiction Treatment Option?

By Mark A. York (September 28, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) More and more medical treatment professionals, politicians and others have joined in the quickly emerging role of medical marijuana to help in treatment by patients struggling with opioid addiction. Now, two studies are reflecting this emerging treatment to be viable.

Will medical marijuana become a viable option in the long term treatment programs that may be coming out of the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804 and the many state court opioid based lawsuits filed across the country? See Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase Re: National-Prescription-Litigation-MDL-2804-USDC-ND-Ohio, where the various opioid litigation dockets and court rulings are provided.

Recent studies, published journal JAMA Internal Medicine, compared opioid prescription patterns in states that have enacted medical cannabis laws with those that have not. One of the studies looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2015, while the other looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016.

Additionally, three states have approved Medical Cannabis for alternative treatments related to both pain management and substance abuse disorders, where cannabis has been determined as an appropriate treatment. Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Illinois are at the forefront of using changes to state laws regarding medical cannabis in the most effective clinical settings when possible.

PENNSYLVANIA CANNABIS BASED OPIOID ADDICTION TREATMENT

The Pennsylvania Department of Health approved major changes to the state’s medical marijuana program, when the  health department added opioid addiction to the list of conditions eligible for treatment with medicinal cannabis. With that decision, Pennsylvania joins New Jersey and Illinois as the only states that have done so.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine told local media that marijuana won’t be the first treatment for addiction to opioids. Instead, doctors will try more traditional therapies first.

“It’s important to note that medical marijuana is not a substitute for proven treatments for opioid use disorder,” Dr. Levine said. “In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana will be available to patients if all other treatment fails, or if a physician recommends that it be used in conjunction with traditional therapies.”

A related positive note by Pennsylvania is the Department of Health has approved cannabis research licenses for five Philadelphia area medical schools on Monday. With one topic of research at the institutions being the potential role of cannabis in addiction treatment as a normal treatment protocol.

The schools that received approval to study cannabis are Drexel University College of Medicine, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

JAMA STUDY RESULTS

The researchers found that states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year under Medicare Part D, compared with those states without medical cannabis laws. Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies.

“This study adds one more brick in the wall in the argument that cannabis clearly has medical applications,” said David Bradford, professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia and a lead author of the Medicare study.

“And for pain patients in particular, our work adds to the argument that cannabis can be effective.”

Medicare Part D, the optional prescription drug benefit plan for those enrolled in Medicare, covers more than 42 million Americans, including those 65 or older. Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 73 million low-income individuals in the US, according to the program’s website.

“Medicare and Medicaid publishes this data, and we’re free to use it, and anyone who’s interested can download the data,” Bradford said. “But that means that we don’t know what’s going on with the privately insured and the uninsured population, and for that, I’m afraid the data sets are proprietary and expensive.”

Republicans Support Legalizing Medical Cannabis

Earlier this year, the National Academy of Sciences, in a 395-page report, refuted the official US Department of Justice position that cannabis is a “gateway drug” and that using marijuana can lead to opioid addiction and instead found evidence of cannabis having therapeutic and health benefits. Joe Schrank, a social worker who worked at various detox centers and clean houses, is now practicing the report’s findings at High Sobriety treatment center in Los Angeles, where he offers clients medical and therapeutic sessions, and daily doses of marijuana to treat a variety of addictions.

The Opioid Crisis Is Here

The new research comes as the United States remains entangled in the worst opioid epidemic the world has ever seen. Opioid overdose has risen dramatically over the past 15 years and has been implicated in over 500,000 deaths since 2000 — more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.

“As somebody who treats patients with opioid use disorders, this crisis is very real. These patients die every day, and it’s quite shocking in many ways,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, an addiction psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the new studies.

“We have had overuse of certain prescription opioids over the years, and it’s certainly contributed to the opioid crisis that we’re feeling,” he added. “I don’t think that’s the only reason, but certainly, it was too easy at many points to get prescriptions for opioids.”

Today, more than 90 Americans a day die from opioid overdose, resulting in more than 42,000 deaths per year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid overdose recently overtook vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States, the CDC says.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doctors must lead us out of our opioid abuse epidemic

Like opioids, marijuana has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain as well as other conditions such as seizures, multiple sclerosis and certain mental disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research suggests that the cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems rely on common signaling pathways in the brain, including the dopamine reward system that is central to drug tolerance, dependence and addiction.

“All drugs of abuse operate using some shared pathways. For example, cannabinoid receptors and opioid receptors coincidentally happen to be located very close by in many places in the brain,” Hill said. “So it stands to reason that a medication that affects one system might affect the other.”

But unlike opioids, marijuana has little addiction potential, and virtually no deaths from marijuana overdose have been reported in the United States, according to Bradford.

“No one has ever died of cannabis, so it has many safety advantages over opiates,” Bradford said. “And to the extent that we’re trying to manage the opiate crisis, cannabis is a potential tool.”

Comparing states with and without medical marijuana laws

  • Researchers compared prescription patterns in states with and without medical cannabis laws
  • States with medical marijuana had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year
  • Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws

In order to evaluate whether medical marijuana could function as an effective and safe alternative to opioids, the two teams of researchers looked at whether opioid prescriptions were lower in states that had active medical cannabis laws and whether those states that enacted these laws during the study period saw reductions in opioid prescriptions.

Both teams, in fact, did find that opioid prescriptions were significantly lower in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws. The team that looked at Medicaid patients also found that the four states that switched from medical use only to recreational use — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — saw further reductions in opioid prescriptions, according to Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky and a lead author on the Medicaid study.

“We saw a 9% or 10% reduction (in opioid prescriptions) in Colorado and Oregon,” Wen said. “And in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant.”

Cannabis legalization by the numbers

The first state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medicinal use was California, in 1996. Since then, 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved some form of legalized cannabis. All of these states include chronic pain — either directly or indirectly — in the list of approved medical conditions for marijuana use, according to Bradford.

The details of the medical cannabis laws were found to have a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns, the researchers found. States that permitted recreational use, for example, saw an additional 6.38% reduction in opioid prescriptions under Medicaid compared with those states that permitted marijuana only for medical use, according to Wen.

The method of procurement also had a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns. States that permitted medical dispensaries — regulated shops that people can visit to purchase cannabis products — had 3.742 million fewer opioid prescriptions filled per year under Medicare Part D, while those that allowed only home cultivation had 1.792 million fewer opioid prescriptions per year.

“We found that there was about a 14.5% reduction in any opiate use when dispensaries were turned on — and that was statistically significant — and about a 7% reduction in any opiate use when home cultivation only was turned on,” Bradford said. “So dispensaries are much more powerful in terms of shifting people away from the use of opiates.”

The impact of these laws also differed based on the class of opioid prescribed. Specifically, states with medical cannabis laws saw 20.7% fewer morphine prescriptions and 17.4% fewer hydrocodone prescriptions compared with states that did not have these laws, according to Bradford.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is fentanyl: A visual guide

Fentanyl prescriptions under Medicare Part D also dropped by 8.5% in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws, though the difference was not statistically significant, Bradford said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, like heroin, that can be prescribed legally by physicians. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and even a small amount can be fatal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“I know that many people, including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, are skeptical of cannabis,” Bradford said. “But, you know, the attorney general needs to be terrified of fentanyl.”

MAKING CANNABIS AVAILABLE

This is not the first time researchers have found a link between marijuana legalization and decreased opioid use. A 2014 study showed that states with medical cannabis laws had 24.8% fewer opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010. A study in 2017 also found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 reversed the state’s upward trend in opioid-related deaths.

“There is a growing body of scientific literature suggesting that legal access to marijuana can reduce the use of opioids as well as opioid-related overdose deaths,” said Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “In states with medical marijuana laws, we have already seen decreased admissions for opioid-related treatment and dramatically reduced rates of opioid overdoses.”

Sessions: DOJ looking at ‘rational’ marijuana policy

Some skeptics, though, argue that marijuana legalization could actually worsen the opioid epidemic. Another 2017 study, for example, showed a positive association between illicit cannabis use and opioid use disorders in the United States. But there may be an important difference between illicit cannabis use and legalized cannabis use, according to Hill.

“As we have all of these states implementing these policies, it’s imperative that we do more research,” Hill said. “We need to study the effects of these policies, and we really haven’t done it to the degree that we should.”

The two recent studies looked only at patients enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare Part D, meaning the results may not be generalizable to the entire US population.

But both Hill and Moore agree that as more states debate the merits of legalizing marijuana in the coming months and years, more research will be needed to create consistency between cannabis science and cannabis policy.

“There is a great deal of movement in the Northeast, with New Hampshire and New Jersey being well-positioned to legalize adult use,” Moore said. “I believe there are also ballot measures to legalize marijuana in Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota as well that voters will decide on in Fall 2018.”

Hill called the new research “a call to action” and added, “we should be studying these policies. But unfortunately, the policies have far outpaced the science at this point.”

There are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved painkillers derived from marijuana, but companies such as Axim Biotechnologies Inc, Nemus Bioscience Inc and Intec Pharma Ltd have drugs in various stages of development.

The companies are targeting the more than 100 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain, and are dependent on opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, or addicted to street opiates including heroin.

Opioid overdoses, which have claimed the lives of celebrities including Prince and Heath Ledger as victims, contributed to more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A New Opiate MDL Was Requested For Benefit of Opioid Addicted Babies On September 20, 2018

THE JPML HAS BEEN REQUESTED TO CONSOLIDATE A NEW ADDICTED INFANT MULTIDISTRICT LITIGATION

By Mark A. York (September 21, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have the most vunerable plaintiffs in the opiate litigation been underserved by firms primarily focused on representing governmental entities in Opiate MDL 2804 and state court consolidations? What about the epidemic of NAS affected babies who have been born addicted to prescription opiates?

Link to Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase Re: OPIOIDS-Children-Born-Opioid-Dependent-(NAS)-JPML-MDL-(PENDING)

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) Lawyers representing addicted infants in the opiate litigation have now filed a Motion for Transfer and Consolidation of Children Born Opioid Dependent with the JPML on September 21, 2018. To read the entire JPML Motion and Brief in Support, see our briefcase Re: masstortnexus.com/News/4335/Motion-for-New-Infant-NAS-Opioid-Dependant-MDL-Filed-With-JPML-September-20-2018.

Plaintiffs lawyers have also filed class actions in nine states on behalf of infants, and other “individuals” affected by opiate use and subsequent addiction, with very limited input into the federal litigation process. On May 21, 2018 a coalition of nine law firms filed court papers asking MDL 2804 Judge Dan Polster (USDC ND Ohio) for permission to request a separate discovery and litigation track for the baby cases, which was summarily denied without comment by the court on June 28, 2018.

Lawyers and public health officials have estimated that there could be more than 1 million babies diagnosed with “neonatal abstinence syndrome,” which occurs when infants are born to mothers who used opioids. There is a request seeking a trust of more than $1 billion to help pay for medical monitoring of the children over the next few decades.

“There has been no large-scale attempt to find out what happens to these children, and there are thousands at this time, perhaps over 1 million, progressing now through the school system and growing up,” said Scott Bickford, a principal at Martzell, Bickford & Centola in New Orleans. “Theoretically, these kids are born addicted and may stay addicts for life.”

Treatment and Prognosis for Opioid Addicted Newborns

The course of treatment will be determined by factors such as:

  • Baby’s gestational age, medical history, and health
  • Severity of the disorder and expectation of the effects it will have
  • Baby’s tolerance of the therapies, procedures, or medications
  • Parents’ preference

Immediate treatment for withdrawal effects focuses on comfort and thriving. Babies suffering from opioid withdrawal often have trouble resting and eating, so treatment involves:

  • Swaddling for comfort
  • Adding extra calories to account for energy used through restlessness and increased activity
  • Intravenous fluids for dehydration
  • Medication to relieve discomfort and eliminate symptoms like seizures

Long-term treatment involves treating physical and behavioral effects and can involve:

  • Monitoring and treating vision and hearing impairments
  • Therapy for behavioral problems
  • Language therapy
  • Treatment for chronic ear infections
  • Interventions for cognitive deficits
  • Treatment for sleep disturbance

Babies are the latest segment of the opioid epidemic to attempt to get a front-row seat in the legal case against manufacturers and distributors. More than 1,000 lawsuits have been coordinated in multidistrict litigation in Cleveland before U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio, who has allowed a limited amount of discovery to go forward, (see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase OPIOID-National-Prescription-Litigation-MDL-2804-USDC-Northern-District-of-Ohio) for case docket information.

The vast majority of plaintiffs are cities and counties seeking to recoup the costs of medical treatment and law enforcement, but Native American tribes, hospitals and others have elbowed into the case. New plaintiffs are emerging, such as class actions—including eight filed this week—filed on behalf of individuals alleging the opioid epidemic caused their health insurance premiums to skyrocket.

At least 11 cases have been brought on behalf of babies, many of whom suffer from addiction and learning disabilities. Bickford said the cases are in states that have medical monitoring laws, which include New York and California. According to the case filed in New York Supreme Court for Niagara County, for instance, lifetime medical costs could include treatment of developmental, psychiatric, emotional or behavioral disorders associated with addiction.

THIS IS A MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM

Dr. Shawn Hollinger, neonatologist at Niswonger Children’s Hospital, cradled baby Jayden’s head in an effort to comfort him. After 35 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, Jayden was ready to go home.

The number of children needing intensive treatment for NAS has become so overwhelming that the hospital opened a new ward this year just to care for them. Since 2009, hospital staff have treated over 1,800 babies with NAS. In the past 12 months, Hollinger has seen 351 infants with NAS come through the NICU.

After birth, children exposed to drugs in the womb experience a multitude of symptoms, including tremors and seizures. Even after being released from the hospital, some children may still have to be treated with medication and physical therapy. It can cost upwards of $60,000 to treat one baby.

“The intent would be to construct a trust that would deliver financial assistance directly to the custodians of these children,” he said. Custodians could include other family members, foster parents or birth parents who have kicked the habit, he said.

The defendants in all the baby cases include opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions and Teva Pharmaceuticals, as well as distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. The New York complaint also named Insys Therapeutics Inc.

Johnson & Johnson spokeswoman Wanda Moebius wrote in an email: “Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible. The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated. In fact, our medications have some of the lowest rates of abuse among this class of medications.”

Endo spokeswoman Heather Zoumas Lubeski said, “We deny the allegations contained in these lawsuits and intend to vigorously defend the company.”

Representatives of the other defendants either did not respond or declined to comment.

It’s not the first time the coalition of law firms tried to get Polster to create a separate “baby track.” On June 28, the judge denied an earlier request.

“We’ve asked the court to reconsider our motion for a separate baby track for babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome,” Bickford said. “We don’t think the present MDL and the people in it who essentially represent state and local governments really have the children’s interests at heart.”

The plaintiffs’ executive committee in charge of the opioid MDL has refused to provide information about discovery and depositions, he said. His request described the discovery process as operating under a “cloak of secrecy” and included an attached email exchange in which executive committee member Jayne Conroy of Simmons Hanly Conroy called his request to monitor depositions “not necessary” and “burdensome.”

Conroy said in a statement: “All our legal efforts are directed at the companies who caused the opioid epidemic.  Any success will benefit all victims.”

Earlier this summer, the Judge charged with control over the federal MDL involving government entities’ claims against opioid manufacturers and distributors rejected a request for the inclusion of NAS baby cases within a special litigation track. The request would create a nationwide medical monitoring trust fund for NAS babies within the existing MDL litigation regarding prescription opioid

On May 31, 2018 counsel for the baby/NAS addicted plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to Establish a Separate Track for Opioid Baby Claims, with the court denying the request via text order entry below.

06/28/2018 Order [non-document] denying Motion for leave to File Motion for Order to Establish Separate Track for Opioid Baby Claims filed by Melissa Ambrosio, Darren Flanagan, Elena Flanagan, Ceonda Rees, Deric Rees, Virginia Salmons, Walter Salmons, Roxie Whitley, Rache l Wood(Related Doc # 540 ). Judge Dan Aaron Polster (MDL 2804) on 6/28/18.(P,R) (Entered: 06
Court Response to Previous Attempt to Get a Baby Track in Opiate MDL 2804

 Tens of thousands of infants born in the U.S. each year now have NAS, and a recent Centers for Disease Control report said the rate of NAS deliveries at hospitals quadrupled during the past 15 years.

The period of hospitalization for NAS infants averages 16 days and hospital costs for a typical newborn with NAS are $159,000$238,000 greater than those of healthy newborns, according to the attorneys representing the NAS babies.

Dr. Kanwaljeet J. S. “Sunny” Anand, the nation’s foremost expert on opioids in infants and a Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, is a medical expert to the legal team. “There is an unprecedented epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping across the U.S.,” said Dr. Anand. “Newborn babies are the most vulnerable citizens, their lives and developmental potential are disrupted by NAS, but arrangements for their short-term and long-term care have been ignored until now. These babies need strong advocacy and legal action to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they urgently receive essential medical care and rehabilitation. On average, one infant with NAS is hospitalized every hour in the U.S.”

Named as defendants in the class actions are an array of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers, all of whom netted billions of dollars due to unfair and deceptive trade practices that preyed on all Americans, including the unborn, say the attorneys.

“A medical monitoring fund would document and address the medical problems these children will have to face for a lifetime,” said Mr. Bickford. The filing today objects to current settlement negotiations engaged by the opioid MDL which ignore the NAS babies’ interests.

“Legal precedent recognizes the difference between present and future claims in negotiations of this magnitude,” said Mr. Bickford. “Without being at the table, the legal representatives of NAS babies and children will not be heard and the due process rights of these infants and children will be denied.”

The filing says only government, hospital and third-party payors are at the table in negotiating a settlement through the MDL, though no agreement has yet been reached. The attorneys representing the NAS babies have raised concerns that outcomes similar to the Tobacco MDL settlement, where money was diverted to state budget deficits instead of the intended victims, might happen here.

 Born to women addicted to drugs, newborns suffer through withdrawal

Babies suffering through opioid withdrawal have a distinct way of crying: a short, anguished, high-pitched wail, repeated over and over. It echoes through the neonatal therapeutic unit of Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. A week-old girl has been at it, inconsolably, since six o’clock this morning. At 10 o’clock Sara Murray, the unit’s soft-spoken, no-nonsense nurse manager, sighs. “This may be a frustrating day,” she says.

The opioid epidemic in the United States is painfully evident in hospital newborn units across the country. In 2012 nearly 22,000 babies were born drug dependent, one every 25 minutes, according to the most recent federal data. As the opioid crisis has escalated dramatically over the past five years, those numbers have surely climbed.

West Virginia, at two and a half times the national average, has the highest rate of deaths from drug overdose—mostly from opioids. Cabell County, which averaged about 130 overdose calls to 911 annually until 2012, received 1,476 calls last year and is on pace to reach around 2,000 this year. Emergency workers saved many of those people, including an 11-year-old, but inpatient treatment programs have long waiting lists. At Cabell Huntington Hospital, one in five newborns has been exposed to opioids in the womb.

“What you’re seeing here is the tip of the iceberg of substance use,” says neonatologist Sean Loudin, the unit’s medical director.

In 2012 the neonatal intensive care unit became so overwhelmed by drug-dependent babies that it had to turn away newborns with other medical needs. The hospital opened this specialized unit to treat withdrawal. It typically has 18 babies. On this day there are 23.

The babies shake, sweat, vomit, and hold their bodies stiff as planks. They eat and sleep fitfully. Swaddled, they lie in bassinets or in the arms of nurses, parents, or volunteers. The place doesn’t have the hustle or beeping machinery of an ICU. Instead there are dim lights and hushed conversations because the babies need calm and quiet. Many also need methadone or other medication to relieve their symptoms. They are weaned from it over days or weeks.

“OK,” Murray whispers to a bleating 41-day-old boy. She gently lifts him to her chest, cradles him firmly, and places a green pacifier in his mouth. He sucks it fast and hard, like a piston.

Opioids pass readily from a pregnant woman’s bloodstream through the placenta and across the fetal blood-brain barrier. When birth abruptly shuts down the flow of the drug, the baby’s nervous system can trigger the agitating symptoms of withdrawal. Studies show that 55 percent to 94 percent of newborns exposed to opioids develop symptoms. Prenatal exposure to other widely used drugs, including benzodiazepines and certain antidepressants, also can lead to withdrawal shortly after birth.

The condition is called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Experts don’t consider it to be addiction, which, by definition, means a person persists in compulsive drug use despite terrible consequences. By the same logic, NAS is also a misnomer—abstaining, or just saying no, is different from experiencing the physical anguish of withdrawal. But medical experts have come to accept the NAS label because it’s less fraught with stigma than words like “addiction” and “withdrawal.”

In some cases the mothers themselves are in recovery. They didn’t misuse opioids during pregnancy but took methadone or buprenorphine, the frontline medications for treating opioid addiction. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends their use during pregnancy despite the risk of NAS, for the obvious reason that sobriety is safer and healthier for a woman than shooting heroin or popping painkillers or trying to go cold turkey on her own. It’s also much better for her child. But encouraging as it is, the growing use of medication-assisted addiction treatment means that even when the opioid crisis eases, hospitals like Cabell Huntington will continue to be swamped with babies in withdrawal.

To manage the condition, most hospitals use an assessment tool developed at the height of the heroin outbreak in the 1970s. Babies are rated every four hours on the severity of 31 symptoms, including excessive crying, sweating, tremors, and frequent yawning. The scores help doctors determine whether to put babies on methadone or other medication. In most cases the scores support drug therapy. Now some researchers are challenging that approach.

“It’s archaic,” says Elisha Wachman, a neonatologist at Boston Medical Center and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “What ends up happening is that babies get overmedicated.” Too often, she says, they experience withdrawal from their treatment, which prolongs their misery and their hospital stay.

A handful of researchers around the country are revamping NAS treatment to rely less on medication and more on parental bonding. Wachman has abandoned the old score sheet for assessing the babies. “I couldn’t care less how many times they yawn,” she says. Instead, she evaluates them on just three measures: eating, sleeping, and being consoled. Rather than transfer babies to an ICU or a specialty unit, Boston Medical Center keeps them with their moms throughout their stay. Wachman encourages the women to breastfeed and clutch their babies skin to skin. One hundred fifty volunteers—most of them medical students and hospital employees—put in two-hour shifts as cuddlers. The waiting list to hold babies has 200 names.

Before the hospital changed its approach, 86 percent of the babies with NAS it treated received medication. Now it’s 30 percent. The babies generally spend nine days in the hospital, down from 19 days under the old protocol. The average cost of a hospital stay for a baby with NAS is $19,655 at Boston Medical Center, compared to a national average of $67,000.

Wachman says sound treatment for the babies must go hand in hand with compassionate, comprehensive care for their mothers. The medical center runs a prenatal clinic for women with addiction. The obstetricians prescribe buprenorphine and prepare women for the possibility that their babies will have NAS. The clinic also offers counseling, social services, psychiatric help, peer support, and education about infant care. “When the moms come in to deliver, they’re in the best shape they can be,” Wachman says. In July the medical center opened a clinic that provides pediatric care for babies born with NAS and addiction services for their mothers.

It’s not clear how opioid exposure affects long-term brain development. Surprisingly little research has been done, and most of it predates the current crisis and the widespread use of highly potent synthetics, such as fentanyl. Some studies show subtle cognitive and behavioral differences among children who were exposed to opioids before birth, but the problems are less severe than the intellectual and attention deficits associated with fetal alcohol exposure. The studies don’t answer a key question: Do the neurodevelopment issues stem from drug exposure or poverty or other chronic stresses? Some researchers believe that social factors and a stable environment are bigger influences on a child’s future than NAS.

“We keep hearing about the babies, and that it is important, but there needs to be much more of a focus on women and making sure they’re taken care of well,” says Uma Reddy, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Mass Tort Nexus will provide updates on the Infant NAS MDL request to the JPML as well the Opiate Prescription MDL 2804 on a daily basis.

For the most up to date information on all MDL dockets and related mass torts visit www.masstortnexus.com and review our mass tort briefcases and professional site MDL briefcases.

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How Rudy Giuliani Was Able To Let Purdue Pharma (OxyContin) Slip Out Of A 2006 Criminal Indictment By DC Back Office Maneuvering

How was Purdue able to slip through the 2006 criminal indictment noose and continue to market, sell and prescribe Oxycontin for another 10 years? Guiliani and GW Bush DoJ lawyers agreed to have Purdue Pharma parent “Purdue Fredrick Company” take the guilty plea, thereby permitting Purdue Pharma to continue selling Oxycontin and furthering the current opioid crisis. See the Purdue Frederick Co. (not Purdue Pharma) Criminal Guilty Plea Outline May 9, 2007 (USDC Virginia)

By Mark A. York (August 21, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The US government secured a criminal conviction against Purdue Pharma in the mid-2000s but failed to curb sales of the drug after Rudy Giuliani reached a deal to avoid a ban on Purdue doing business including the federal government. The George W. Bush administration opted to settle the case instead, with the executives and the company paying $634.5 million in fines in 2007. How Rudy Guiliani slipped a fast legal maneuver past everyone is explained below.

That year, Purdue also reached a $19.5 million settlement with 26 states, including Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. But Healey’s office alleges Purdue continued deceptively marketing opioids after 2007. These settlement by various states are being used as ammunition in the current wave of opiate lawsuits versus Purdue Pharma.

2018 CONGRESS INQUIRIES INTO 2007 PLEA IGNORED

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Cummings Request Subpoena for Internal DOJ Report Indicating Purdue Pharma Concealed Knowledge of OxyContin Abuses

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier  and Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee Elijah E. Cummings sent a letter requesting that Chairman Trey Gowdy issue a subpoena to compel the Department of Justice (DOJ) to produce documents it is withholding related to an internal 2006 report that Purdue Pharma knew of significant abuses of its drug OxyContin shortly after it was brought to market in 1996.

“If this report is accurate, Purdue’s actions demonstrate a stunning disregard for human life and the law.  While Purdue Pharma made billions of dollars from OxyContin, thousands of Americans succumbed to addiction and its consequences,” the Members wrote.

The 120-page report, obtained by the New York Times, reportedly indicates that Purdue Pharma knew OxyContin was highly addictive, but the company concealed this information and vehemently denied that it had knowledge of the growing illicit use until years after it had been on the market.  Despite this deception, Purdue’s top executives managed to effectively avoid any responsibility.

According to the New York Times, the 2006 DOJ report recommended the indictment of “three of Purdue’s top executives on felony charges, including conspiracy to defraud. However, the political appointees at the Department of Justice under then-President George W. Bush reportedly overturned the prosecutors’ recommendations.

On June 12, 2018, DeSaulnier and Cummings sent a letter to DOJ requesting that it produce this report by June 25, 2018. DOJ did not respond to this request.

A full copy of the letter to Chairman Gowdy can be found here.

PURDUE PHARMA KNEW OF OXYCONTIN ABUSES

According to the New York Times’ report on the DOJ document, Purdue’s general counsel wrote in early 1999, “We have in fact picked up references to abuse of our opioid products on the internet.”

That same year, an OxyContin sales representative wrote in an email, “I feel like we have a credibility problem with our product,” after a doctor in Florida was arrested for illegally prescribing the drug. Sales representatives were discouraged by Purdue from raising concerns about abuse, with one saying his manager told him that “his job was to sell drugs, not to determine if a ‘doctor was a drug pusher.’”

PURDUE OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LAWSUITS IN 2018  

Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma is facing a wave of civil lawsuits as more than 25 states including New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois and other states have joined a growing number actions against Purdue Pharma, with Massachusetts filing a lawsuit naming not only Purdue Pharma, but Purdue executives and the Sackler family members who’ve profited from Oxycntin sales. Here is the June 12, 2018 Massachusetts complaint naming the Sackler family as defendants, State of Massachusetts Complaint vs. Purdue Pharma and the Individual Sackler Family Members.

More than 600 opiate based lawsuits are now filed against Purdue Pharma and other opiate drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies. However the primary target in every lawsuit filed is always Purdue Pharma.  These states, counties and local governments have independently sued opioid drugmakers in both state and federal courts across the country, (see OPIOID-CRISIS-BRIEFCASE-MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION by Mass Tort Nexus) with claims alleging the opiate drug makers, distributors and now the pharmacies engaged in fraudulent marketing to sell the powerful painkillers. They also failed to monitor and report the massive increases in opioid prescriptions flooding the US marketplace. Which has now resulted in fueling the nationwide epidemic, that’s reported to have killed over a quarter million people. The now organized approach steps up those efforts as officials sift evidence and are now holding not only the companies, but the executives and owners culpable in the designing the opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma is facing a legal assault on many fronts, as cities, counties and states have either filed suit or are probing the company for an alleged role in the United States’ opioid and addiction epidemic.

The US government missed the opportunity to curb sales of the drug that kickstarted the opioid epidemic when it secured the only criminal conviction against the maker of OxyContin a decade ago.

Purdue Pharma hired Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor and now Donald Trump’s lawyer, to head off a federal investigation in the mid-2000s into the company’s marketing of the powerful prescription painkiller at the center  of an epidemic estimated to have claimed at least 300,000 lives.

While Giuliani was not able to prevent the criminal conviction over Purdue’s fraudulent claims for OxyContin’s safety and effectiveness, he was able to reach a deal to avoid a bar on Purdue doing business with the federal government which would have killed a large part of the multibillion-dollar market for the drug.

The former New York mayor also secured an agreement that greatly restricted further prosecution of the pharmaceutical company and kept its senior executives out of prison.

The US attorney who led the investigation, John Brownlee, has defended the compromise but also expressed surprise that Purdue did not face stronger action from federal regulators and further criminal investigation given its central role in the rise of the epidemic.

Connecticut-based Purdue is now facing a wave of civil lawsuits as New York, Texas and five other states have joined a growing number actions against the company. But Brownlee was the first, and so far only, prosecutor to secure a criminal conviction against the drug maker.

Brownlee launched his investigation shortly after being appointed US attorney for the western district of Virginia as the region struggled with escalating overdoses and deaths from opioids in the early 2000s. When he looked at the source of the epidemic he found OxyContin, a drug several times more powerful than any other prescription painkiller on the market at the time.

HOW OXYCONTIN FUELED THE OPIOID CRISIS

Almost 100 people are dying every day across America from opioid overdoses – more than car crashes and shootings combined. The majority of these fatalities reveal widespread addiction to powerful prescription painkillers. The crisis unfolded in the mid-90s when the US pharmaceutical industry began marketing legal narcotics, particularly OxyContin, to treat everyday pain. This slow-release opioid was vigorously promoted to doctors and, amid lax regulation and slick sales tactics, people were assured it was safe. But the drug was akin to luxury morphine, doled out like super aspirin, and highly addictive. What resulted was a commercial triumph and a public health tragedy. Belated efforts to rein in distribution fueled a resurgence of heroin and the emergence of a deadly, black market version of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The crisis is so deep because it affects all races, regions and incomes

Purdue turned OxyContin into a multibillion-dollar drug after its launch in 1996 with an unprecedented campaign marketing the painkiller to doctors. OxyContin contained a much higher dose of narcotic than other painkillers because it was designed to bleed slowly into a patient’s system over 12 hours and save having to take lower dosage pills more regularly. Purdue told doctors that not only was this more effective at subduing pain but it was less likely to cause addiction and more resistant to abuse by people hooked on drugs.

These were important selling points to a medical profession still wary of opioids because of concerns about addiction, and demand for OxyContin quickly surged. But it almost as swiftly became apparent to prosecutors that neither claim was true as doctors reported increasing numbers of people becoming addicted to the high dosage, and that those already hooked on opioids found it easy to extract the narcotic by crushing the pills.

OxyContin became the go-to drug for people looking for an instant high by snorting or injecting.

“This was the magic pill, right? This was a long-acting pill that the addicts wouldn’t like and you couldn’t get dependent on, and that is the magic bullet. The reality is it just wasn’t true,” said Brownlee. “It was highly deceptive and then they trained their sales force to go out and to push that deception on physicians.”

Investigators waded through several million of Purdue’s internal memos, marketing documents and notes from sales representatives. Brownlee’s office discovered training videos in which reps acted out selling the drug using the false claims. “This was pushed by the company to be marketed in an illegal way, pushed from the highest levels of the company, that in my view made them a criminal enterprise that needed to be dealt with,” said Brownlee.

When Purdue discovered it was under investigation it dispatched Giuliani, fresh from his term as mayor of New York during the 9/11 attacks, in the twin roles of heavyweight lawyer to confront the young prosecutor while also working his powerful connections in Washington. Giuliani met repeatedly with Brownlee. At first the Purdue lawyer tried to persuade the prosecutor that he had got it all wrong.

“It was basically, you need to look at the company differently. All we do is make a product and we give it to doctors and doctors ultimately make the choice,” said Brownlee.

The prosecutor heard Giuliani out but regarded his attempts to load responsibility on to doctors as missing the point. “What were the doctors being told? That was the real rub. To me the biggest evidence were the videos of the training sessions. When I saw that, you now know that this is what the corporation wants the doctors to know, and it just wasn’t true,” said Brownlee.

The US attorney had six meetings with Giuliani. They moved from how to interpret the evidence and questions around discovery to negotiations over the final settlement.

HOW GUILIANI WORKED BACK OFFICE DC CONNECTIONS

But Giuliani and his team seemed to be also working their Washington contacts. The Purdue lawyers complained to the office of the then deputy attorney general, James Comey, whose tenure as head of the FBI lay ahead of him, that Brownlee was exceeding his legal authority in pursuit of documents from the company.

“The defense lawyers contacted Mr Comey unbeknownst to us and said those guys down there are crazy,” said Brownlee. The US attorney went to Washington to explain to Comey in person. Purdue was not instantly recognizable as a pharmaceutical company to most people in DC. The name was easily mistaken for Perdue Farms, a regional chicken producer well known for its television ads featuring the owner, Frank Perdue. “Mr Comey said, why are you prosecuting the chicken guy?” said Brownlee.

Once that misunderstanding was cleared up, Comey signed off on Brownlee’s actions and Purdue was forced to hand over the documents. Brownlee set the drug maker a deadline in October 2006 to agree to the plea deal or face a trial. Hours before it expired, the federal prosecutor received a call at home from a senior justice department official, Michael Elston, chief of staff to the new deputy attorney general, Paul McNulty.

Elston asked why the case was being pushed along so rapidly and pressed for a delay. The prosecutor again saw the influence of Purdue’s lawyers at work and cut the call short. It wasn’t unusual for corporate lawyers to try to get leverage with senior justice department officials but Elston’s call, just as Purdue had its back to the wall, seemed to the then prosecutor unusually interventionist because he had shown no interest in the case before. Elston’s lawyer has since claimed that his client called Brownlee on instructions from above.

Within hours of Brownlee hanging up on Elston, Purdue accepted a plea deal admitting to criminal charges of mis-selling OxyContin with “intent to defraud or mislead”. In 2007, after a court hearing confirming the conviction, Brownlee hailed it as a “crushing defeat” for the drug maker.

But Giuliani won an important concession for Purdue. Corporations with criminal convictions are mostly barred from doing business with the federal government. If Purdue Pharma’s name was on the conviction it would probably have forced OxyContin from public health programs such as Medicaid and Medicare and the Veterans Administration health system. That in turn was likely to diminish its prescribing in the private health system.

Brownlee said he did not want to be responsible for taking OxyContin off the market and so agreed with Giuliani to target the prosecution at the parent company, Purdue Frederick. That left Purdue Pharma, cleaved out as a separate painkiller manufacturer in 1991, to continue selling the painkiller without restriction even though opioid deaths were escalating.

“I didn’t feel as a lawyer I could be in a position to bar anyone from getting OxyContin. Faced with that decision, I was just simply not prepared to take it off the market. I didn’t feel like that was my role. My role was to address prior criminal conduct. Hold them accountable. Fine them. Make sure the public knew what they did. ” said Brownlee.

Brownlee said he expected federal regulators, particularly the Food and Drug Administration, and other agencies to use the criminal conviction to look more closely at Purdue and its drug. But there was no follow-up and OxyContin went on being widely prescribed.

Purdue was fined $640m, a fraction of its total profits from OxyContin. Three Purdue executives pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and were fined a total of $34.5m between them, a reflection of their earnings from the drug.

Giuliani also won a second concession that immunized Purdue from further prosecution even though its criminal conduct continued after the period covered by the plea agreement. The prosecution covered its crimes committed up until 2001, but the mis-selling went on for years afterwards. Giuliani negotiated an agreement which immunized the company from further prosecution for its actions up to 2007 when the guilty plea was finalized in court.

Critics of the deal, such as the watchdog Public Citizen, said the company sold nearly $5bn worth of OxyContin between the two dates.

A decade later, with tens of thousands more lives claimed by the epidemic kickstarted by OxyContin, Brownlee said he does not regret his handling of the case but said he had expected other prosecutors and federal regulators to pick up the baton to rein in the spread of OxyContin.

“I think convicting the company, the fines and all of that had its impact. I guess as I sit here now, I’m a little surprised that it’s the only one of its kind. That with the nature of the abuse and the nature of the problem, that as we sit here that there’s no other out there,” he said.

PURDUE PHARMA FIRES ENTIRE SALES FORCE

As of June 20, 2018 in what is either an amazing coincidence or a look at corporate political maneuvering, just more than a week after the Sacklers and company executives were named individually in the latest Purdue Pharma opiate lawsuit, the OxyContin maker laid off its entire sales force.  This puts an end to an era for Purdue that at one point, was the top-selling opioid drug in the country, and became synonymous with the nation’s opioid crisis, while the Sacklers collected billions in profits from Oxycontin sales.

Purdue, had already laid off half of its 600 sales reps in February 2018, as part of the corporate political maneuvering to curry favor with the numerous state and federal investigation that were taking place, when it announced that it would no longer be promoting OxyContin to doctors. On July 19, 2018 six days after the State of Massachusetts filed a complaint naming the company, the founding Sackler family and the executive suite as defendants in a an opioid litigation complaint,  Purdue Pharma confirmed that they had terminated the the remaining 220 employees in its sales force.

While Purdue still manufactures Oxycontin, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the company’s, they will be shifting its focus away from the highly lucrative opiate painkiller market, according to company sources.

WHY DIDN’T THE DEA, DRUG DISTRIBUTORS AND PHARMACIES TAKE NOTICE BEFORE THE OXYCONTIN AND OPIOID CRISIS SPREAD ACROSS THE COUNTRY LIKE WILDFIRE? WAS IT BECAUSE OF THE BILLIONS IN PROFITS, QUARTERLY BONUSES AND DIVIDENDS? STOCK OPTIONS CASHED IN BY BOARDROOMS AT EVERY OPIOID BIG PHARMA COMPANY?  STAY TUNED FOR HOW “PROFITS BEFORE PATIENTS” BECAME THE NORM

(article excerpts and quotes have been taken from publicly available media sources and court records)

 

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State of New York Sues Purdue Pharma Over Oxycontin Sales and Years of Marketing Abuses

Purdue Avoided Prosecution in 2007 By Paying $600 Million Over Oxycontin Bad Marketing

Purdue Pharma Criminal Plea Agreement US Department of Justice May 10, 2007

Mark A. York (August 15, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The state of New York has joined in the opiate litigation being filed against Purdue Pharma claiming that Purdue misled doctors and patients about the risks and benefits of its opioids, including its multi-billion dollar per year seller OxyContin. The complaint states that Purdue continued to deceptively market its products after pleading guilty to criminal conduct in 2007 and agreeing to cease the misleading marketing per the 2015 agreement with the New York state Attorney General’s Office.

“Our investigation found a pattern of deception and reckless disregard for New Yorkers’ health and well-being — as Purdue lined its own pockets by deliberately exploiting our communities and fueling an opioid epidemic that’s destroyed families across the state,” New York state Attorney Gen. Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “We’re now holding Purdue to account for this reprehensible and illegal conduct.

According to the complaint filed in the state supreme court in Suffolk County, this enabled privately held Purdue to boost prescriptions and profits, at the cost of lost lives and “devastation” in communities now “awash” with the painkillers

Since the beginning of May, the attorneys general of Florida, Nevada, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia have also filed lawsuits against the company.

New York City previously filed a $500 million suit  a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies that make or distribute prescription opioids, on Tuesday the complaint was filed in New York state court, Superior Court of Manhattan, which is a break from other Opioid lawsuits filed by cities, who filed into federal court, see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase,  OPIOID-CRISIS: MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION. The primary claims state that the opiate drug companies fueled the deadly epidemic now afflicting the most populous U.S. city, joining Chicago, Seattle, Milwaukee and other major cities across the country in holding Big Pharma drug makers accountable for the opioid crisis. The case docket information is: City of New York v Purdue Pharma LP et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 450133/2018.

Major US Cities Filing Suit Against Opioid Big Pharma-New York, Seattle, Chicago Join MDL 2804

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement “The opioid epidemic was manufactured by unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors who developed a $400 billion industry pumping human misery into our communities”.

The suit comes three months after Underwood first announced her intention to sue the pharma giant, joining several other states that have already targeted Purdue for its alleged role in the epidemic that saw more than 3,000 New Yorkers die of opioid overdoses in 2016. Daniel Raymond, deputy director of the Harm Reduction Coalition, said that the cities and states are forced to file suits now, after realizing initially that the opioid overdose rates “were primarily driven by prescription painkillers — they weren’t concentrated in urban areas.”

“But the recent rises in prescription overdoses, which in turn has accelerated a major increase in heroin overdoses, and particularly fentanyl, and the latter seems particularly prevalent in urban drug markets,” said Raymond, whose organization is based in New York City. “That’s certainly true in places like Ohio and Philadelphia, which are seeing a lot of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths. That doesn’t mean the problems have waned in smaller cities and rural areas, which are also seeing fentanyl, but we are seeing increasing vulnerability in major urban centers.”

The only bright spot — and it’s a dim one at that — was that the CDC found decreases in opioid overdoses in states like West Virginia, New Hampshire and Kentucky that have been leading the nation in the category.

“We hope this is a positive sign,” said Schuchat, who credited leadership, particularly in West Virginia, with taking bold steps to combat the crisis. “But we have to be cautious in the areas that have reported decreases.”

Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of Public Health for West Virginia has been at the forefront of addressing the opioid crisis in not only West Virginia but across the country, he stated “Sometimes places that have had such high rates have no place to go” but down, she added, with West Virginia being one of the states to address the issues pro-actively in all areas.

The same affects are in New York and other major metropolitan  areas now based on the ongoing marketing abuses by Purdue Pharma and other opiate industry drug makers and distributors.

The new CDC “Vital Signs” report was released a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a “statement of interest” in support of local governments that are suing the big pharmaceutical makers and distributors, accusing them of swamping many states with prescription painkillers and turning millions of Americans into junkies.

The new CDC numbers come from analysis of emergency room data from 16 states, including some hardest hit by the plague — Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Dozens of states, counties and local governments have independently sued opioid drugmakers in both state and federal courts across the country, (see OPIOID-CRISIS-BRIEFCASE-MDL-2804-OPIATE-PRESCRIPTION-LITIGATION by Mass Tort Nexus) with claims alleging all opiate drug makers, distributors and now the pharmacies engaged in fraudulent marketing to sell the powerful painkillers. They also failed to monitor and report the massive increases in opioid prescriptions flooding the US marketplace. Which has now resulted in fueling the nationwide epidemic, that’s reported to have killed over a quarter million people. The now organized approach steps up those efforts as officials sift evidence and are now holding not only the companies, but the executives and owners culpable in the designing the opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma is facing a legal assault on many fronts, as cities, counties and states have either filed suit or are probing the company for an alleged role in the United States’ opioid and addiction epidemic. Now, a lawsuit from Massachusetts’ attorney general Maura Healey is the first to bring the company’s current and former execs into the mix, including the billionaire family with sole ownership of Purdue.

At a news conference this week, Healey said she’s filing suit against the drugmaker, plus current and former executives and board members, “for their role in creating and profiting from this epidemic that has killed so many.” The suit alleges Purdue downplayed risks and overstated benefits of opioid painkillers, including OxyContin. It seeks to link the deaths of 670 Massachusetts residents to actions at the company.

A Purdue spokesman said the company shares concern about the opioid crisis. Purdue is “disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” he said.

Purdue is no stranger to litigation, in 2007 Purdue agreed to pay $19.5million in civil penalties, but did not admit wrongdoing, to settle lawsuits with 26 states – including Massachusetts – and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction. This is a consistent pattern, including the 2007 criminal indictment and plea of senior Purdue Pharma executives, where they agreed to pay over $600 million and plead guilty to a greatly reduced charge of “mislabelling drugs” which seems to have set the stage for the Purdue legal strategy of throwing money at all claim of abuse, thereby setting the Purdue Pharma marketing model loose on the US consumers and the healthcare industry, see USA vs. Purdue Criminal Plea “Oxycontin” usdc.virginia.gov/OPINIONS July 2007

In a statement, Purdue said it “vigorously” denies the allegations laid out in the state’s suit.

“The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve. We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA,” the statement reads

In a statement, Purdue denied New York’s allegations but said it shared the state’s concerns about the “opioid crisis.”

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “continues to approve” of scientific and medical information it has provided to doctors.

New York is seeking to impose civil fines, recoup profits and obtain other damages, including for creating an alleged “criminal nuisance.”

Purdue sold $1.74 billion of OxyContin in 2017, according to Symphony Health Solutions.

Opioid makers and distributors face hundreds of lawsuits by U.S. states, counties and cities accusing them of using deceptive marketing to sell the painkillers.

New York joined at least 26 other U.S. states and Puerto Rico in filing lawsuits against Purdue Pharma over opioids and there is a 41-state coalition investigating the opioid industry.

Opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, played a role in a record 42,249 U.S. deaths in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This included at least 3,086 deaths in New York state and more than 1,100 in New York City.

In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to mis-branding OxyContin and agreed to pay $634.5 million to resolve a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, in the US District Court of Virginia, see Purdue Pharma Criminal Plea Agreement US Department of Justice May 10, 2007.

As Purdue Pharma comes to grips with the fact that they are being designated as the primary litigation targets of states, counties and cities across the country for being the Opiate Big Pharma leader in creating the current opioid crisis in the United States, they may need to determine how they will pay the billions of dollars in jury verdicts and affiliated legal settlements resulting from the lawsuits that now number close to one thousand in state and federal courts.

 

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Opioid Addiction In 2016: Employer Costs Pass $2.6 Billion Per Year With 50% Used to Cover Children

Employer Costs Pass $2.6 Billion Per Year With 50% Used to Cover Children

By Mark A. York (August 3, 2018)

  • Employers spent $2.6 billion on opioid addiction in 2016

  • $1.5 billion+ was spent on children with opiate addiction issues

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) The now commonly known costs associated with employers treating opioid addiction and the affiliated issues have increased eight hundred percent  since 2004 to an eye-watering $2.6 billion in 2016, a new report reveals.

The latest analysis shows that half of the cost was spent covering employees’ children.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found that prescription use of addictive painkillers among people with employer offered health coverage is now at the lowest levels in 10 years.

This comes shortly after a CDC study revealed there was been a nearly 30 percent increase in overdoses between 2015 and 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record.

With 40 percent of those deaths involving a prescription opioid such as Oxycontin and Vicodin and other widely prescribed opiates. This has also resulted in the multi-billion lawsuits filed against Opioid Big Pharma drug makers and distributors by cities, counties and states across the country, see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase “Opioid Litigation Versus Opiate Prescription Industry MDL 2804, US District Court of Ohio” with the drug makers and distributors scrambling to defend the opiate marketing strategies that have caused billions and billions of dollars in costs, medical damages and loss of productivity annually in the United States.  

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the $2.6 billion spending cost companies and workers about $26 per enrollee in 2016, which now appears to be a “man-made” healthcare cost increase associated with the widely accepted Opiate Big Pharma marketing practices over the last 20 years. This include telling doctors and the healthcare industry that “opiates are not as addictive as they used to be” and “we’ve altered the drug compound to control opiate release” which was the widely used Purdue Pharma marketing strategy.

Employers have been limiting insurance coverage of opioids because of concerns about addiction. The report found that spending on opioid prescriptions falling 27 percent from a peak in 2009 – when 17.3 percent of large employer plan enrollees had at least one opioid prescription during that year.  However, by 2016, that number dropped to 13.6 percent.

These drugs relieve pain by attaching to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found on nerve cells in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs in the body. When they attach to these receptors, they reduce the perception of pain.

RESIDUAL ISSUE OF FOSTER CARE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPIOID USE DISORDER IN PREGNANT WOMEN:

  • “Treating Women Who Are Pregnant and Parenting for Opioid Use Disorder and the Concurrent Care of Their Infants and Children: Literature Review to Support National Guidance.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28406856
  • [STUDY OBJECTIVES:The prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) during pregnancy is increasing. Practical recommendations will help providers treat pregnant women with OUD and reduce potentially negative health consequences for mother, fetus, and child. This article summarizes the literature review conducted using the RAND/University of California, Los Angeles Appropriateness Method project completed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to obtain current evidence on treatment approaches for pregnant and parenting women with OUD and their infants and children]

Prescription opioids and illicit drugs have become incredibly pervasive throughout the US, and things are only getting worse.

In the early 2000s, the FDA and CDC started to notice a steady increase in cases of opioid addiction and overdose. In 2013, they issued guidelines to curb addiction.

However, that same year – now regarded as the year the epidemic took hold – a CDC report revealed an unprecedented surge in rates of opioid addiction.

Overdose deaths are now the leading cause of death among young Americans – killing more in a year than were ever killed annually by HIV, gun violence or car crashes.

Preliminary CDC data published by the New York Times shows US drug overdose deaths surged 19 percent to at least 59,000 in 2016.

That is up from 52,404 in 2015, and double the death rate a decade ago.

It means that for the first time drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 years old.

The data lays bare the bleak state of America’s opioid addiction crisis fueled by deadly manufactured drugs like fentanyl.

These drugs also effect the brain regions involved in reward, so it can also produce a sense of pleasure by triggering the same processes that make people feel good when they are having fun or sex.

Experts say many people’s first contact with opioids is through some form of social contact: either a friend who was sent home with Oxycontin after a surgical procedure or a relative who received an opioid prescription for chronic pain.

‘Opioids are not infectious in terms of [being] an agent,’ Columbia University epidemiologist Dr Guohua Li previously told Daily Mail Online.

‘Opioids, are not a bacteria virus, but the drug, in this case, spreads through social networks…even in some ways a virus, like HIV, is spread to a great degree through social networks,’ he added.

Due to the link between hospitals and the opioid crisis, doctors have been coming up with innovative ways to curb the epidemic.

However, hospitals have been doing their part in trying to curb the opioid epidemic.

For instance, the ER department at St. Joseph University Medical Center in New Jersey managed to halve the rate of opioid prescriptions by using dry needles and laughing gas to treat chronic pain.

In 2016, the department launched an Alternative to Opiates program that uses trigger point injections and a local anesthetics in lieu of opioids to relieve pain. Other alternative pain relieving methods they used was warm compressors and  music – they have a harpist roam the halls playing tunes to soothe the patients.

Dr Mark Rosenberg, chair of emergency medicine, said he and his colleagues founded the program after they realized chronic pain was one of the reasons most patients came to their emergency department.

‘We wanted to develop an aggressive acute pain management program that focused on evidence based principles but avoided opioids,’ Dr Rosenberg said.

St. Joseph University Medical Center isn’t the only hospital to implement this program, Kaiser Permanente has implemented an Integrated Pain Service, an eight-week course designed to educate high-risk opioid patients about pain management.

Some experts have stated that  the beginning of the end of the epidemic may be near due to tightened regulations on opioid prescription monitoring, local-level efforts to make naloxone, an anti-overdose drug, and drug-assisted rehabilitation more accessible to high-risk populations. Then there are many more “experts” who state that the opioid crisis and the future affiliated issues are going to be on the healthcare, insurance and socio-economic forefront of America for at least the next generation.

Broken Families, Less Funding

The patterns of parent addiction that overflows into child addiction is something that wasn’t part of the opiate equation until fairly recently, where employer issues now mirror a national trend of multiple generations being addicted to opiates. Largely because of the opioid epidemic, there were 30,000 more children in foster care in 2015 than there were in 2012—an 8 percent increase. In 14 states, from New Hampshire to North Dakota, the number of foster kids rose by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2015, according to data amassed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In Texas, Florida, Oregon, and elsewhere, kids have been forced to sleep in state buildings because there were no foster homes available, says advocacy group Children’s Rights. Federal child welfare money has been dwindling for years, leaving state and local funding to fill in the gaps. But Ashtabula County is one of the poorest counties in Ohio, and despite a recent boost in funding, the state contributes the lowest share toward children’s services of any state in the country. 

In the USA, Opioid use by women in rural areas is driving the increasing numbers. Tennessee is part of a cluster of states, including Alabama and Kentucky, experiencing some of the highest rates of NAS births. In East Tennessee the problem is particularly acute: Sullivan County alone reported a rate of 50.5 cases of NAS per 1,000 births, the highest rate in the state for five years running.

Tennessee is currently the only state in the country that equates substance abuse while pregnant with aggravated assault, punishable by a 15-year prison sentence. Eighteen other states consider it to be child abuse, and three say its grounds for civil commitment. Four states require drug testing of mothers and 18 require that healthcare professionals report when drug abuse is suspected. There are also 19 states that have created funding for targeted drug treatment programs for pregnant women.

Opponents of the punishment philosophy claim that punishing addicted pregnant women will not stop them from abusing drugs – instead it will stop them from seeking prenatal care. Many also claim that these policies would unfairly punish mothers for drug use compared to fathers. Organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have encouraged a treatment over punishment approach for pregnant mothers with drug addictions

Local efforts are now seen as the primary way to address the opioid crisis in children- the attempt to secure federal intervention and support to help curb the opioid crisis has not been a priority of the Trump Administration..

WHITE HOUSE PROMISED ON OPIOIDS BUT DIDN’T DELIVER

But since he took office, Trump’s plans to tackle the epidemic head-on have fizzled. Republicans’ recent effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would slash funding for Medicaid, which is the country’s largest payer for addiction services—and which covers nearly half of Ohio’s prescriptions for the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine. The bill would enable insurers in some states to get out of the Obamacare requirement to cover substance abuse treatment. A memo leaked in May revealed Trump’s plans to effectively eliminate the White House’s drug policy office, cutting its budget by 95 percent. (The administration has since backpedaled on the plans, following bipartisan criticism.) Trump’s 2018 budget proposes substantial cuts to the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Until the governments at the federal, state and local levels can all agree on a long term viable solution to the opioid crisis and the impact on school age children, infants born addicted and society as a whole, the opiate drug crisis will linger for generations long into the future.

 

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Why Does the FDA Ignore “Off-Label” Drug Marketing?

“BY REMOVING FDA OVERSIGHT BIG PHARMA RUNS AMOK”

By Mark A. York (August 1, 2018)

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA)  In 2017 and continuing into 2018, Big Pharma has been fighting major legal battles related to off-label marketing of drugs for unintended uses. They also engaged in a parallel strategy, where they were influencing the FDA and other policy making agencies behind the scenes in Washington DC. Big Pharma was paying millions to lobbyists, making campaign donations and generally buying influence as they always have. It was a foregone conclusion that with the Trump administration view of , “no regulatory oversight required” that there would be some loosening of the FDA regulatory shackles.

Big Pharma was getting ready for freedom to sell, sell, sell their drugs in any way they could, including off-label marketing of the drugs for unintended use purposes. A corporate policy, that’s technically illegal, yet results in billions of dollars in profits every years for Big Pharma. Then the FDA rolled out an unexpected new proposed rule, in March 2017 cracking down on “off-label’ marketing of drugs. This new rule change wasn’t in Big Pharma’s bests interests, sending the drug industry into a furious lobbying scramble. Bring in the Trump camp and on January 12, 2018 Big Pharma and the army of lobbyists and elected officials that were recruited, seem to have succeeded in stopping the FDA rules change that would have tightened up “off label” marketing of drugs.

Trump stops FDA enforcement rule change: January 12, 2018 Food and Drug Administration Press Release: FDA Delays Change to “Off-Label” Drug Use Enforcement Rules

This seems to be further evidence of the Trump administration permitting private corporations to control what goes on behind the scenes in federal regulatory agencies these days. The same loosening of enforcement rules has been seen in the EPA as well as in Dept. of Energy oversight enforcement authority. Whatever else you might think about the ramped up Trump vs. Obama administration mindset, this rule delay is an example of the new FDA leadership doing what is in the best interests of those they are supposed to be regulating, the drug makers, and not in the interests of the US consumers.

To put this into perspective, consider the current “Opioid Crisis” gripping the entire country, where “off-label” marketing of opiates for the last 20 years by drug makers, has resulted in thousands of deaths each year, unknown financial losses and the related social impact felt in every state across the country. Another result is the Opiate Prescription Litigation MDL 2804, (see OPIOID CRISIS BRIEFCASE: MDL 2804 OPIATE PRESCRIPTION LITIGATION) where litigation started when hundreds of counties, states and cities and other entities impacted by the catastrophic expense related to combatting the opiate healthcare crisis fought back. The various parties have filed lawsuits against opioid drug makers and distributors, demanding repayment of the billions of dollars spent on addressing the massive costs related to opioid abuse, primarily due to opioid based prescription drugs flooding the country.

When the Obama administration ended on January 9, 2017, the FDA issued a Final Rule on “Clarification of When Products Made or Derived from Tobacco are Regulated as Drugs, Devices, or Combination Products; Amendments to Regulations Regarding ‘Intended Uses.’” That “clarification” was meant to enable additional enforcement and control over drug makers rampant “off -label” marketing of drugs for purposes that were never FDA approved. This was an attempt by the FDA to have the ability to punish off-label promotions, where previously the process was a two-step regulatory review, whereby off-label promotions are said to prove an indicated use not included in the label and, thus, not accompanied by adequate directions for use – making the product misbranded. These regulations have been around since the 1950s, but a recent series of court decisions invoking the First Amendment called into question the FDA’s interpretation of “intended use” and its efforts to shut down truthful medical-science communications about potential benefits from off-label use.

In a 2015 proposed rule, the FDA referred to striking the language from regulations permitting the FDA to consider a manufacturer’s mere knowledge of actual use as evidence of intended use, which would have further enabled Big Pharma drug marketing abuses to go unchecked. But then, the FDA’s January 9, 2017 proposal reversed course, stating that retained knowledge of off-label use as evidence of intended use, clarified that any relevant source of evidence, whether circumstantial or direct could demonstrate intended use, and ultimately invoked the dreaded “totality of the evidence” standard. This would have enable the FDA to begin oversight and enforcement of practices such as the blatant and wide open “off-label” marketing of opioid prescription drugs that started in the mid-1990’s and never stopped.

Instead of putting a check on Big Pharma abuses, we have the Trump administration placing a hold on new regulations, and delaying the “intended use” regulation change to March 19, 2018, so that comments could be received and considered, and thereby enabling the Big Pharma “lobby machine” to become fully engaged across all DC circles, ensuring that the FDA changes are effectively put to rest.

The bottom line is that the FDA is now proposing to “delay until further notice” the portions of the final rule amending the FDA’s existing regulations on “off-label” drug use, when describing the types of evidence that may be considered in determining a medical product’s intended uses.  The FDA will receive comments on this proposal through February 5, 2018.

Here is the official FDA publication of January 16, 2018:

The Federal Register:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/01/16/2018-00555/clarification-of-when-products-made-or-derived-from-tobacco-are-regulated-as-drugs-devices-or

WHAT IS “OFF-LABEL” MARKETING?

Global health care giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and its subsidiaries will pay more than $2.2 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability arising from allegations relating to the prescription drugs Risperdal, Invega and Natrecor, including promotion for uses not approved as safe and effective by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and payment of kickbacks to physicians and to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy provider.  The global resolution is one of the largest health care fraud settlements in U.S. history, including criminal fines and forfeiture totaling $485 million and civil settlements with the federal government and states totaling $1.72 billion.

“The conduct at issue in this case jeopardized the health and safety of patients and damaged the public trust,” stated Eric Holder, then US Attorney General, “This multibillion-dollar resolution demonstrates the Justice Department’s firm commitment to preventing and combating all forms of health care fraud.  And it proves our determination to hold accountable any corporation that breaks the law and enriches its bottom line at the expense of the American people” he added.

The resolution includes criminal fines and forfeiture for violations of the law and civil settlements based on the False Claims Act arising out of multiple investigations of the company and its subsidiaries.

“When companies put profit over patients’ health and misuse taxpayer dollars, we demand accountability,” said Associate Attorney General Tony West.  “In addition to significant monetary sanctions, we will ensure that non-monetary measures are in place to facilitate change in corporate behavior and help ensure the playing field is level for all market participants.”

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) protects the health and safety of the public by ensuring, among other things, that drugs intended for use in humans are safe and effective for their intended uses and that the labeling of such drugs bear true, complete and accurate information.  Under the FDCA, a pharmaceutical company must specify the intended uses of a drug in its new drug application to the FDA.  Before approval, the FDA must determine that the drug is safe and effective for those specified uses.  Once the drug is approved, if the company intends a different use and then introduces the drug into interstate commerce for that new, unapproved use, the drug becomes misbranded.  The unapproved use is also known as an “off-label” use because it is not included in the drug’s FDA-approved labeling.

“When pharmaceutical companies interfere with the FDA’s mission of ensuring that drugs are safe and effective for the American public, they undermine the doctor-patient relationship and put the health and safety of patients at risk,” said Director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations John Roth.  “Today’s settlement demonstrates the government’s continued focus on pharmaceutical companies that put profits ahead of the public’s health.  The FDA will continue to devote resources to criminal investigations targeting pharmaceutical companies that disregard the drug approval process and recklessly promote drugs for uses that have not been proven to be safe and effective.”

 J&J RISPERDAL MARKETING ABUSE

In a related civil complaint filed today in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the United States alleges that Janssen marketed Risperdal to control the behaviors and conduct of the nation’s most vulnerable patients: elderly nursing home residents, children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The government alleges that J&J and Janssen caused false claims to be submitted to federal health care programs by promoting Risperdal for off-label uses that federal health care programs did not cover, making false and misleading statements about the safety and efficacy of Risperdal and paying kickbacks to physicians to prescribe Risperdal.

“J&J’s promotion of Risperdal for unapproved uses threatened the most vulnerable populations of our society – children, the elderly and those with developmental disabilities,” said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Zane Memeger.  “This historic settlement sends the message that drug manufacturers who place profits over patient care will face severe criminal and civil penalties.”

In its complaint, the government alleges that the FDA repeatedly advised Janssen that marketing Risperdal as safe and effective for the elderly would be “misleading.”  The FDA cautioned Janssen that behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients were not necessarily manifestations of psychotic disorders and might even be “appropriate responses to the deplorable conditions under which some demented patients are housed, thus raising an ethical question regarding the use of an antipsychotic medication for inappropriate behavioral control.”

The complaint further alleges that J&J and Janssen were aware that Risperdal posed serious health risks for the elderly, including an increased risk of strokes, but that the companies downplayed these risks.  For example, when a J&J study of Risperdal showed a significant risk of strokes and other adverse events in elderly dementia patients, the complaint alleges that Janssen combined the study data with other studies to make it appear that there was a lower overall risk of adverse events.  A year after J&J had received the results of a second study confirming the increased safety risk for elderly patients taking Risperdal, but had not published the data, one physician who worked on the study cautioned Janssen that “[a]t this point, so long after [the study] has been completed … we must be concerned that this gives the strong appearance that Janssen is purposely withholding the findings.”

The complaint also alleges that Janssen knew that patients taking Risperdal had an increased risk of developing diabetes, but nonetheless promoted Risperdal as “uncompromised by safety concerns (does not cause diabetes).”  When Janssen received the initial results of studies indicating that Risperdal posed the same diabetes risk as other antipsychotics, the complaint alleges that the company retained outside consultants to re-analyze the study results and ultimately published articles stating that Risperdal was actually associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes.

The complaint alleges that, despite the FDA warnings and increased health risks, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen aggressively marketed Risperdal to control behavioral disturbances in dementia patients through an “ElderCare sales force” designed to target nursing homes and doctors who treated the elderly.  In business plans, Janssen’s goal was to “[m]aximize and grow RISPERDAL’s market leadership in geriatrics and long term care.”  The company touted Risperdal as having “proven efficacy” and “an excellent safety and tolerability profile” in geriatric patients.

In addition to promoting Risperdal for elderly dementia patients, from 1999 through 2005, Janssen allegedly promoted the antipsychotic drug for use in children and individuals with mental disabilities.  The complaint alleges that J&J and Janssen knew that Risperdal posed certain health risks to children, including the risk of elevated levels of prolactin, a hormone that can stimulate breast development and milk production.  Nonetheless, one of Janssen’s Key Base Business Goals was to grow and protect the drug’s market share with child/adolescent patients.  Janssen instructed its sales representatives to call on child psychiatrists, as well as mental health facilities that primarily treated children, and to market Risperdal as safe and effective for symptoms of various childhood disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and autism.  Until late 2006, Risperdal was not approved for use in children for any purpose, and the FDA repeatedly warned the company against promoting it for use in children.

The government’s complaint also contains allegations that Janssen paid speaker fees to doctors to influence them to write prescriptions for Risperdal.  Sales representatives allegedly told these doctors that if they wanted to receive payments for speaking, they needed to increase their Risperdal prescriptions.

In addition to allegations relating to Risperdal, today’s settlement also resolves allegations relating to Invega, a newer antipsychotic drug also sold by Janssen.  Although Invega was approved only for the treatment of schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder, the government alleges that, from 2006 through 2009, J&J and Janssen marketed the drug for off-label indications and made false and misleading statements about its safety and efficacy.

As part of the global resolution, J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay a total of $1.391 billion to resolve the false claims allegedly resulting from their off-label marketing and kickbacks for Risperdal and Invega.  This total includes $1.273 billion to be paid as part of the resolution announced today, as well as $118 million that J&J and Janssen paid to the state of Texas in March 2012 to resolve similar allegations relating to Risperdal.  Because Medicaid is a joint federal-state program, J&J’s conduct caused losses to both the federal and state governments.  The additional payment made by J&J as part of today’s settlement will be shared between the federal and state governments, with the federal government recovering $749 million, and the states recovering $524 million.  The federal government and Texas each received $59 million from the Texas settlement.

NURSING HOME PATIENT ABUSES BY J&J

The civil settlement also resolves allegations that, in furtherance of their efforts to target elderly dementia patients in nursing homes, J&J and Janssen paid kickbacks to Omnicare Inc., the nation’s largest pharmacy specializing in dispensing drugs to nursing home patients.  In a complaint filed in the District of Massachusetts in January 2010, the United States alleged that J&J paid millions of dollars in kickbacks to Omnicare under the guise of market share rebate payments, data-purchase agreements, “grants” and “educational funding.”  These kickbacks were intended to induce Omnicare and its hundreds of consultant pharmacists to engage in “active intervention programs” to promote the use of Risperdal and other J&J drugs in nursing homes.  Omnicare’s consultant pharmacists regularly reviewed nursing home patients’ medical charts and made recommendations to physicians on what drugs should be prescribed for those patients.  Although consultant pharmacists purported to provide “independent” recommendations based on their clinical judgment, J&J viewed the pharmacists as an “extension of [J&J’s] sales force.”

J&J and Janssen have agreed to pay $149 million to resolve the government’s contention that these kickbacks caused Omnicare to submit false claims to federal health care programs.  The federal share of this settlement is $132 million, and the five participating states’ total share is $17 million.  In 2009, Omnicare paid $98 million to resolve its civil liability for claims that it accepted kickbacks from J&J and Janssen, along with certain other conduct.

“Consultant pharmacists can play an important role in protecting nursing home residents from the use of antipsychotic drugs as chemical restraints,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Carmen Ortiz.  “This settlement is a reminder that the recommendations of consultant pharmacists should be based on their independent clinical judgment and should not be the product of money paid by drug companies.”

OFF-LABEL USE OF HEART DRUG NATRECOR

The civil settlement announced today also resolves allegations that J&J and another of its subsidiaries, Scios Inc., caused false and fraudulent claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for the heart failure drug Natrecor.  In August 2001, the FDA approved Natrecor to treat patients with acutely decompensated congestive heart failure who have shortness of breath at rest or with minimal activity.  This approval was based on a study involving hospitalized patients experiencing severe heart failure who received infusions of Natrecor over an average 36-hour period.

In a civil complaint filed in 2009 in the Northern District of California, the government alleged that, shortly after Natrecor was approved, Scios launched an aggressive campaign to market the drug for scheduled, serial outpatient infusions for patients with less severe heart failure – a use not included in the FDA-approved label and not covered by federal health care programs.  These infusions generally involved visits to an outpatient clinic or doctor’s office for four- to six-hour infusions one or two times per week for several weeks or months.

The government’s complaint alleged that Scios had no sound scientific evidence supporting the medical necessity of these outpatient infusions and misleadingly used a small pilot study to encourage the serial outpatient use of the drug.  Among other things, Scios sponsored an extensive speaker program through which doctors were paid to tout the purported benefits of serial outpatient use of Natrecor.  Scios also urged doctors and hospitals to set up outpatient clinics specifically to administer the serial outpatient infusions, in some cases providing funds to defray the costs of setting up the clinics, and supplied providers with extensive resources and support for billing Medicare for the outpatient infusions.

As part of today’s resolution, J&J and Scios have agreed to pay the federal government $184 million to resolve their civil liability for the alleged false claims to federal health care programs resulting from their off-label marketing of Natrecor.  In October 2011, Scios pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor FDCA violation and paid a criminal fine of $85 million for introducing Natrecor into interstate commerce for an off-label use.

“This case is an example of a drug company encouraging doctors to use a drug in a way that was unsupported by valid scientific evidence,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California Brian Stretch.  “We are committed to ensuring that federal health care programs do not pay for such inappropriate uses, and that pharmaceutical companies market their drugs only for uses that have been proven safe and effective.”

Non-Monetary Provisions of the Global Resolution and Corporate Integrity Agreement

In addition to the criminal and civil resolutions, J&J executed a five-year Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA) with the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  The CIA includes provisions requiring J&J to implement major changes to the way its pharmaceutical affiliates do business.  Among other things, the CIA requires J&J to change its executive compensation program to permit the company to recoup annual bonuses and other long-term incentives from covered executives if they, or their subordinates, engage in significant misconduct.  J&J may recoup monies from executives who are current employees and from those who have left the company.  The CIA also requires J&J’s pharmaceutical businesses to implement and maintain transparency regarding their research practices, publication policies and payments to physicians.  On an annual basis, management employees, including senior executives and certain members of J&J’s independent board of directors, must certify compliance with provisions of the CIA.  J&J must submit detailed annual reports to HHS-OIG about its compliance program and its business operations.

“OIG will work aggressively with our law enforcement partners to hold companies accountable for marketing and promotion that violate laws intended to protect the public,” said Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Daniel R. Levinson.  “Our compliance agreement with Johnson & Johnson increases individual accountability for board members, sales representatives, company executives and management.  The agreement also contains strong monitoring and reporting provisions to help ensure that the public is protected from future unlawful and potentially harmful off-label marketing.”

FEDERAL AND STATE JOINT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS

This resolution marks the culmination of an extensive, coordinated investigation by federal and state law enforcement partners that is the hallmark of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which fosters government collaborations to fight fraud.  Announced in May 2009 by Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the HEAT initiative has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.

The criminal cases against Janssen and Scios were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Northern District of California and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  The civil settlements were handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Northern District of California and the District of Massachusetts and the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch.  Assistance was provided by the HHS Office of Counsel to the Inspector General, Office of the General Counsel-CMS Division, the FDA’s Office of Chief Counsel and the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units.

This matter was investigated by HHS-OIG, the Department of Defense’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the Office of Personnel Management’s Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Labor, TRICARE Program Integrity, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Office of the Inspector General and the FBI.

One of the most powerful tools in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $16.7 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $11.9 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

The department enforces the FDCA by prosecuting those who illegally distribute unapproved, misbranded and adulterated drugs and medical devices in violation of the Act.  Since 2009, fines, penalties and forfeitures that have been imposed in connection with such FDCA violations have totaled more than $6 billion.

The civil settlements described above resolve multiple lawsuits filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower, provisions of the False Claims Act, which allow private citizens to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  From the federal government’s share of the civil settlements announced today, the whistleblowers in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania will receive $112 million, the whistleblowers in the District of Massachusetts will receive $27.7 million and the whistleblower in the Northern District of California will receive $28 million.  Except to the extent that J&J subsidiaries have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charges discussed above, the claims settled by the civil settlements are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability

With the Trump Administration still claiming that no regulatory oversight is needed to monitor the US drug industry, that they can self-regulate, it appears that there will be no letup in the rampant “off-label: and unintended use marketing of pharmaceutical drugs in the United States.  The one way that Big Pharma is held accountable is in the courtroom, although financial damages and penalties against the drug companies amounting to billions of dollars each year being awarded by juries, wont change FDA policy, it does provide a small amount of official recognition that there are ongoing abuses by the pharmaceutical industry in the USA.

 

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Opiate Rx Big Pharma And “Profits Before Patients” Have Taken A Toll On American Children – Now A Part Of Daily Life In The USA

Opioid Industry Model of “Profits Before Patients” and The Impact on American Children

By Mark A. York (July 5, 2018)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(MASS TORT NEXUS MEDIA) In West Virginia, home of the highest overdose rates in the nation, the foster population has increased by 42 percent since 2014. 

The number of children in state or foster care hit a record low in Massachusetts earlier this decade. Since then, that number has risen by a quarter, and there are now more children in state care than ever before.

In Ohio, the number of children in state custody has grown by 28 percent since 2015. Foster populations are up more than 30 percent in Alabama, Alaska, California, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire since 2014. states like Illinois, Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Colorado and New Jersey now adopting new approaches to help keep parents and children together, even as parents are receiving treatment for their addictions.

“We are now seeing major opioid related social issues in areas not previously seen, including white suburban communities, urban areas, rural areas, crossing gender lines, racial lines, economic disparity, this flew under the mainstream radar for 15 years”

>States, Counties, Cities and others are now suing opioid drug makers and distributor in both state and federal courts, see Mass Tort Nexus Briefcase “Opioid Litigation Versus Opiate Prescription Industry MDL 2804, US District Court of Ohio”

The opioid epidemic plaguing the nation is taking a catastrophic toll on our most  vulnerable group, the children of the opiate addicts and those with substance use disorders. Many children are sent to live with grandparents or other family members, often due to a parent overdose or other addiction displays other problems but tragically, a growing number are being placed in the foster-care system, with many states unable to keep up with the demand from both a budget as well as staffing is struggling to keep up with demand.

From 2013 to 2015, the number of children in foster care nationwide jumped almost 7 percent to nearly 429,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Children and Families, the 2016 to 2018 numbers have moved that number closer to 550,000. Parental substance use was cited as a factor in about 32 percent of all foster placements. From 2000 to 2015, more than half a million people died of an overdose, and currently 91 people a day die from opiate overdoses.

Unfortunately, many children, the indirect victims of the crisis, are not getting the care and services they need. “This is a neglected subpopulation,” says John Kelly, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School, and the founder and director of the at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Because we’re trying to put out the fire in terms of stopping overdose deaths, we haven’t really been attending to other casualties, including kids most importantly.”

To lessen the long-term effects on children, psychologists are treating children in the foster-care system in outpatient, inpatient and residential treatment programs and in school-based mental health programs.

“Treating Women Who Are Pregnant and Parenting for Opioid Use Disorder and the Concurrent Care of Their Infants and Children: Literature Review to Support National Guidance.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28406856

[STUDY OBJECTIVES: The prevalence of opioid use disorder (OUD) during pregnancy is increasing. Practical recommendations will help providers treat pregnant women with OUD and reduce potentially negative health consequences for mother, fetus, and child. This article summarizes the literature review conducted using the RAND/University of California, Los Angeles Appropriateness Method project completed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to obtain current evidence on treatment approaches for pregnant and parenting women with OUD and their infants and children]

Everett Washington Schools and Opioids

The front office at an elementary school was never intended as an intake center for drug-counseling and social-services referral hub.  For 31 year old Tiffany Smith and others in Everett, it has become just that for the last two years, as she attempts to end her heroin addiction while raising three children.

Smith often chats with the office staff and updates Principal Celia O’Connor-Weaver on her progress in treatment. The first time she ventured inside, Smith carried paperwork from Child Protective Services, and needed to tell the principal that her children, who taken into foster care months before might still get visits from state social workers, even now that the kids were returned home.

Explaining all of this to the principal meant describing what led to the boys’ removal, which meant confessing that she had been addicted to opiates, at times living in her car, the kids staying at her grandmother’s house, until her grandmother finally called state authorities.

“I was afraid of the judgment, that my kids would be affected at school , but it wasn’t that way at all. They said they have a lot of parents that have gone through opiate addictions and what can we do to help? It was not what I was expecting.”

In her six years as principal at the elementary school in Everett, an epicenter of the opioid crisis in Washington, 525 Snohomish County kids were removed from addicted parents just in 2017, in Seattle’s King County, more than 1,000 children were removed.

This problem is now prevalent across the United States where schools, social service agencies and public-health workers scramble to stem adult addictions, less visible have been the reverberations downstream, the children of opioid addicts. Educators and child-welfare workers have reported increased learning problems and behavioral outbursts from the kids of addicted parents. Research suggests dire life-outcomes for these students. Yet the potential for school-based interventions has been underutilized — even as public-health investigators say schools offer the most efficient hope for stemming a looming social crisis.

During the most mundane moments, like recess, teachers watch and 8-year-olds pretend to revive overdosed patients, or hearing how a parent confesses that they’ve relapsed.

The focus of schools should be learning and teaching kids, but often many kids’ minds are not focused on that, they’re worried about their parents, about their next meal and who’s going to be home to take care of them. When a parent becomes addicted or goes into rehab, it changes everything for a family.

Drug users’ children flooding to foster care

In Tiffany Smith’s case, three years of methadone treatment have helped her regain solid enough footing to secure housing and begin working toward a GED, in hopes of becoming a drug and alcohol counselor. But her children are still reeling. Smith’s 6-year-old cannot stand to be apart from his mother and struggles with speech, cognitive and learning delays.

“He was talking fine before foster care,” Smith said. “But when he came out, he couldn’t pronounce some words. They said it was due to the trauma.”

Her older son, now 7, was born prematurely and spent his first two days of life trembling from heroin withdrawal as his mother watched, devastated. “Seeing my baby shake from detoxing really hurt — I knew it was my fault,” she said.

In Washington state, this number is alarming, but not widely known, 10,000 high-school seniors said they’d used heroin or gotten high on opioid-derived painkillers in 2016, those numbers were about the same as two years prior, but foster care placements have surged.

Between 2011 and 2017, the state took children from drug-abusing parents nearly 14,000 times. Last year’s rate was the highest for drug-related causes since 2010 — up 16 percent over 2015 — while state hospitals report a steady increase in substance-exposed newborns.

Child-welfare workers hear complaints about increasingly severe problems in school — more physical violence toward peers, or kids who need to be taught separately — from students whose parents are staggering through addiction, said Jenna Kiser, who oversees intake at the state Children’s Administration.

Jenny Heddin, a state agency supervisor stated, “These numbers are very concerning, when children from these homes come into foster care, they can be very difficult to serve.”

This represent one corner of a national wave. More than 37 states report unprecedented numbers of kids entering foster care, many of them for reasons related to a parent’s substance abuse, according to the federal Department of Education.

Damaging children’s futures

By the time Child Protective Services is knocking on someone’s door, the problem is already severe. And so far, efforts to respond might best be described as triage — focused more on addiction treatment than prevention, both in Washington and across the country.

As in many other states political infighting prevents treatment, earlier this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee proposed spending $20 million on a multipronged effort to combat opioid addiction. The bill never made it to the floor for a full vote, and it contained little funding for prevention. (But $1.7 million targeted for youth did get funding.)

Yet researchers warn that ignoring that aspect of the crisis virtually guarantees costly problems to come as the children of addicts grow into adulthood. Kevin Haggerty, a professor at the University of Washington who studies risk factors for drug abuse, authored one of the few peer-reviewed studies tracking life outcomes for these young people.

In the early 1990s, he identified 151 elementary and middle-school children in Washington who were growing up with heroin-addicted parents. Fifteen years later, as young adults, 33 percent had dropped out of high school. The vast majority were addicts themselves, and half had criminal records. Only 2 percent had made it through college. (Nationally, 33 percent of all kindergartners in 1992 grew up to earn a college degree.)

“The results are astounding at how poor the outcomes are, having a drug-addicted parent,” said Caleb Banta-Green, principal research scientist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health.

“We need to be doing a lot more for kids being parented by opiate-addicted parents — and we’re not.”

“Families literally bring their problems to our door now to help them navigate their lives,” Harrington-Bacote said. “Public schools are doing things that fall way outside of regular academic education. But if they don’t, it’s not going to get addressed at all.”

OHIO EXAMPLES OF HOW BIG PHARMA OPIOID Rx MONEY DESTROYS LIVES

Way before social workers showed up in his living room this March, Matt McLaughlin, a 16-year-old with diabetes, had taken to a routine not of his doing, trying to scrounge up enough change for food while his mom, Kelly, went out to use heroin. On a good night, the high school junior would walk his neighborhood in Andover, Ohio to pick up frozen pizza from the dollar store, and on bad nights, he’d play video games to keep his mind off his hunger and unknown blood sugar levels.

When Matt was little, his mom Kelly was a Head Start caseworker who taught parents how to manage their autistic children, who hosted potlucks and played Barbie with Matt’s sister, Brianna. “Growing up, we were the house that everyone wanted to come to,” remembered Brianna, now 20. “I loved every minute of it.”

Kelly had neck surgery and got addicted to OxyContin, and by 2015, she was spending her days napping, disappearing for hours at a time, or going to her neighbor’s house, where she would exchange cash for packets of heroin. She started yelling at the kids, food became scarce, life changed for the worse, “It’s like her personality did a 180,” Brianna said. “I felt like I lost my mom to this pit that I couldn’t pull her out of.”

Ashtabula County Children Services a tip when someone called the police and urged them to check on the family.

She’d been to detox several times over the years, trying to rid herself of what felt like a demon that had taken over her brain. Last year, she managed to stay clean for 63 days, until a friend came over “and laid out a line—and that was all it took.” There are five heroin dealers within a five-mile radius and all more than willing to provide an addict the opiate of choice, which is the norm for rural Ohio anymore.

He kids were once again forced to pack their bags as Kelly would go to detox another time, they were lucky to have relatives nearby: The spiraling opioid epidemic has disrupted so many families that all the foster homes in Ashtabula County are full, this story is repeated across the country every day.

The scourge of addiction to painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl sweeping the country has produced a flood of bewildered children who, having lost their parents to drug use or overdose, are now living with foster families or relatives. In Ashtabula County, in Ohio’s northeast corner, the number of children in court custody quadrupled from 69 in 2014 to 279 last year. “I can’t remember the last time I removed a kid and it didn’t have to do with drugs,” says a child services supervisor.  Her clients range from preschoolers who know to call 911 when a parent overdoses to steely teenagers who cook and clean while Mom and Dad spend all day in the bathroom. Often, the kids marvel at how quickly everything changed—how a loving mom could transform, as one teenager put it, into a “zombie.”

The pattern mirrors a national trend: Largely because of the opioid epidemic, there were 30,000 more children in foster care in 2015 than there were in 2012—an 8 percent increase. In 14 states, from New Hampshire to North Dakota, the number of foster kids rose by more than a quarter between 2011 and 2015, according to data amassed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In Texas, Florida, Oregon, and elsewhere, kids have been forced to sleep in state buildings because there were no foster homes available, says advocacy group Children’s Rights. Federal child welfare money has been dwindling for years, leaving state and local funding to fill in the gaps. But Ashtabula County is one of the poorest counties in Ohio, and despite a recent boost in funding, the state contributes the lowest share toward children’s services of any state in the country. 

More Broken Families, Less Funding

Ohio also has one of the nation’s highest overdose rates. In 2016, at least 4,149 Ohioans died of drug overdose—a 36 percent jump from the year before, according to the Columbus Dispatch. In 2015, 1 in 9 US heroin deaths occurred in Ohio.

It’s hard to overstate just how pervasive the epidemic feels here. Detective Taylor Cleveland, who investigates drug cases in Ashtabula, told me, “I’m dealing with ruined homes two and three times a day.” Cleveland, who coaches youth soccer and recently adopted a 17-year-old player whose mom overdosed, leads a task force that responds to every overdose in the county. Once, he arrived at an overdose scene only to realize that the victim slouched over in the motel room was his cousin, whose young daughter had called 911. “Every OD that happens, I get a text. I’ve gotten two texts while we’ve been talking.” We’d been talking for less than an hour.

Given the scale of the crisis, it’s not hard to understand why, when Donald Trump promised Ohioans on the campaign trail to “spend the money” to confront the opioid crisis and build a wall so drugs would stop flowing in, locals in this historically blue county took notice. In late October, Trump became the first presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy to visit Ashtabula County. He promised to bring back jobs, to open the long-shuttered steel plants, to build the wall. Twelve days later, Ashtabula residents voted for a Republican president for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

WHITE HOUSE PROMISED ON OPIOIDS BUT DIDN’T DELIVER

But since he took office, Trump’s plans to tackle the epidemic head-on have fizzled. Republicans’ recent effort to repeal and replace Obamacare would slash funding for Medicaid, which is the country’s largest payer for addiction services—and which covers nearly half of Ohio’s prescriptions for the opioid addiction medication buprenorphine. The bill would enable insurers in some states to get out of the Obamacare requirement to cover substance abuse treatment. A memo leaked in May revealed Trump’s plans to effectively eliminate the White House’s drug policy office, cutting its budget by 95 percent. (The administration has since backpedaled on the plans, following bipartisan criticism.) Trump’s 2018 budget proposes substantial cuts to the Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

“I think some people felt as though nothing else is working,” said one Ashtabula resident when I asked why so many in a Medicaid-dependent area would vote for Trump. Now, she says, “I’m really, really scared. You don’t get it until you live in a small town and you see people die every day.”

Like so many other Midwest Rust Belt counties, Ashtabula, Ohio has seen better days. Locals proudly tell me that the Port of Ashtabula used to be one of the biggest in the world, where barges unloaded iron mined from Minnesota’s Mesabi Range onto trains headed for the steel mills of the Ohio River Valley. Today, once-bustling streets have given way to vacant storefronts and fast-food chains; the surrounding countryside is made up of farm fields, trailer parks, and junkyards. One in three kids now live below the federal poverty line, less than half of adults have a high school education. The financial downturn accelerated in the ’90s, when manufacturing jobs started disappearing.

Then Opiate Big Pharma and their marketing campaigns introduced newer “less addictive” painkillers like OxyContin and others like Vicodin were liberally prescribed in communities wrestling with dwindling economic opportunity and rife with workplace injuries common to mines, lumberyards, and factories. As authorities started to tighten the rules on prescribing drugs like OxyContin, the use of heroin, which is chemically nearly identical to opioid painkillers, crept up. But the tipping point, for Ohio and the country, came over the past couple of years, when illicit fentanyl, an opioid up to 100 times more powerful than morphine, started making its way into the heroin supply. Since then, says Dr. Thomas Gilson, the medical examiner for nearby Cuyahoga County, the deaths have been coming “like a tidal wave.”

About five years ago, Ohio noticed a major uptick in the number of parents using heroin. More recently, elected officials have learned more about the parasitic way that opioids co-opt the brain and the complex pull of addictions attitudes have softened, with most realizing, there is no good guy or bad guy, once addiction takes hold. The long term problems are often multiplied many times over by lack of short term treatment.

Gov. John Kasich, a notorious budget hawk, made national news when he pushed Medicaid expansion through Ohio’s conservative Legislature. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter,” he told one lawmaker, “he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.” He made news yet again last week, when he signed a 2018 budget that will, for the first time in years, increase the state’s funding for children’s services. Yet the $30 million boost in funding over two years, which will pay foster parents and provide counseling for the kids, won’t make up for the $55 million increase in child placement costs over the past three years. Other than county pilot programs, “No policy or state investment has focused specifically on the children flooding into county agency custody as a result of the opioid epidemic,” concluded a report by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio this spring.

Meanwhile, federal funding for children’s services decreased by 16 percent between 2004 and 2014. That’s due in part to an arcane law stipulating that the largest pot of federal money for children’s services applies only to kids from below a certain income threshold. In many states, that threshold is about half the poverty level—in Ohio, it’s roughly $14,000 per year for a family of four. But the opioid epidemic has afflicted families of all stripes. “A few years ago, I was constantly just in homes that were clearly in poverty,” says Mongenel. Now she’s struck by her new clients’ well-kept houses: “You pull up to it and it’s like, ‘Really?’”

The director of one Ohio county stated “that more caseworkers are quitting than ever before, unable to reconcile the overwhelming caseload with the paltry salary, which starts at $28,500..’”

Another addiction case is Amber, a 16-year-old whose mother, Emily, was in and out of rehab for a year, while Emily cycled in and out of rehab. In December, officials got the phone call that Emily had been found dead, slumped over in a motel bed, and a social services worker had to break the news to Amber that they had run out of chances, her mother had died.  Today, Amber lives in a what is her new home, a bustling house with nine other foster kids.

Then there is Jake, another 6-year-old with boy-band looks who lived for months in a motel over the 2017 winter with his two younger siblings, taking courses online and playing video games, while his mom went out to use. “He just wanted her to go into rehab and get right,” he told a reporter earlier this year, “If that could be my birthday present or my Christmas present, that’s what it would be.”

Lisa is a 10-year-old, introduced to Ohio social services for the first time in a conference room at her elementary school, the agency rep told her “We’re from children’s services have you ever heard of that before?” Lisa nodded and replied “they’re the people who go to her friend’s house once a month to make sure everything is okay,” in a matter of fact way.

Lisa was asked, “Do you have enough to eat?” and “Do you like where you’re staying?” and Do you know what drug use is?”  but it wasn’t mentioned that CPS had just visited Lisa’s house and found her father strung out on heroin in the bedroom they share. Lisa’s bed was a pink sleeping bag on a piece of foam surrounded by pill bottles.

Children in Lisa’s situation are subject to incredible psychological stress. There’s the immediate trauma of living with an unstable parent or being taken from family and sometimes from school and friends. But there’s also the long-term impact. Dozens of studies have found that kids who undergo traumatic events early in life are more likely to suffer mental and physical repercussions later on, be it substance abuse, depression, heart disease, or cancer. Among the 10 so-called Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs, are emotional abuse, physical abuse, separation from parents, and parental substance abuse.

“Every time a child gets into a scary or dangerous situation, it activates their stress response,” explains Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician and founder of the Center for Youth Wellness, which focuses on the developmental effects of childhood trauma. “The repeated activation of their stress response is what leads to the biological condition that we in pediatrics are now calling toxic stress.” Looking at the brains of kids of drug users, Burke Harris says, one would expect to see the signs associated with other types of trauma: an enlarged amygdala, the brain’s fear center; decreased functioning of the nucleus accumbens, the brain’s pleasure and rewards center; and less activity in the prefrontal cortex, which oversees a child’s ability to control impulses and pay attention.

CPS and affiliated social services agencies across the United States are now becoming much more familiar with the latest addiction research on ACEs and impacts on young children. They know that a child with four or more ACEs is twice as likely as other kids to develop cancer and ten times more likely to inject drugs themselves. When they encounter someone like Lisa, they are torn between mitigating one ACE, exposure to parental substance abuse, and catalyzing another: separating a child from her parents. Which is what makes these conversations so heart-wrenching.

For county and state professionals, one of the most difficult things about managing opioid cases is how unpredictable they can be, never knowing how a client’s drug-addicted parent will do after detox. Some thrive and are quickly reunited with their families. Others can’t pull themselves out of the black hole of addiction.

One positive outcome amid the many negatives, is the mother of Matt, the diabetic teenager, Kelly had sailed through detox and been sober for nearly a month, her daughter Brianna had moved back in to help her mom. In the fall Brianna is leaving for college—training to be a social worker, Kelly joked “I’m going to be her first case,” and added “When I was using, I would sleep half the day away” and wake up feeling sick from heroin cravings, she said. “Now I’ve been setting my alarm. I wake up early, enjoy my coffee, open the blinds, and let in the sunshine.” On her walks to town, she said, she crossed the street and looked straight ahead to avoid catching a glimpse of her dealer’s house, an ever-present temptation.  Brianna and Matt often visit Kelly at an addiction treatment center.

Every 19 minutes, an opioid addicted baby is born in America., while many of us are well aware of the repercussions of addiction in adults, but very little is understood about the impact it has on infants. After months of being fed opioids through the mother, these babies suffer through excruciating pain.

Imagine, then, how it feels for a baby. Infants who have been exposed to opioid painkillers like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone treatment or street drugs such as heroin while in utero are literally cut off from the drugs when they are born. Within their first 72 hours of life, about half of the babies who have been exposed begin having withdrawal symptoms.

The medical term for this is neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, and rates of babies born with it are rising along with the exponential increase of painkiller use and abuse.

A recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that nearly six out of every 1,000 infants born in the U.S. are now diagnosed with NAS. However, experts say that rate is likely higher, as not all states regularly collect such data.

In the USA, Opioid use by women in rural areas is driving the increasing numbers. Tennessee is part of a cluster of states, including Alabama and Kentucky, experiencing some of the highest rates of NAS births. In East Tennessee the problem is particularly acute: Sullivan County alone reported a rate of 50.5 cases of NAS per 1,000 births, the highest rate in the state for five years running.

Tennessee is currently the only state in the country that equates substance abuse while pregnant with aggravated assault, punishable by a 15-year prison sentence. Eighteen other states consider it to be child abuse, and three say its grounds for civil commitment. Four states require drug testing of mothers and 18 require that healthcare professionals report when drug abuse is suspected. There are also 19 states that have created funding for targeted drug treatment programs for pregnant women.

Opponents of the punishment philosophy claim that punishing addicted pregnant women will not stop them from abusing drugs – instead it will stop them from seeking prenatal care. Many also claim that these policies would unfairly punish mothers for drug use compared to fathers. Organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have encouraged a treatment over punishment approach for pregnant mothers with drug addictions.

Opioid use by women in rural areas is driving the increasing numbers. Tennessee is part of a cluster of states, including Alabama and Kentucky, experiencing some of the highest rates of NAS births. In East Tennessee the problem is particularly acute: Sullivan County alone reported a rate of 50.5 cases of NAS per 1,000 births, the highest rate in the state for five years running.

In Canada, in the past decade, the number of babies exposed to opioids in the womb has increased 16-fold in Ontario. And according to Ontario’s Provincial Council for Maternal and Child Health (PCMCH), more than 950 infants were born to opioid-addicted mothers last year. Just over half of them will live the toughest days of their lives in their first week outside the womb.

Until the governments at the federal, state and local levels can all agree on a long term viable solution to the opioid crisis and the impact on school age children, infants born addicted and society as a whole, the opiate drug crisis will linger for generations long into the future.

 

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INDIVIDUAL CLAIMS = INFANT “NAS”, RICO, WRONGFUL DEATH, NEGLIGENCE AND MORE…

Individual Opioid Injury Claim Types

 

A MASS TORT NEXUS OVERVIEW:

by John Ray

A great deal of media attention has focused on lawsuits filed by States, Counties and Cities against the manufacturers of opioids, yet less attention has been given to viable individual opioid patient claims against these same companies. This article is the second in a series published by Mass Tort Nexus to have you gain a better understanding of the vast number of opioid claims, which may be filed on behalf of individual victims of the opioid crisis. Please also read the first article in the series (link to the first article).

This article is intended to cover the major categories or types of potential opioid individual claims based on injury or adverse event type.

  1. Overdose resulting in death

  2. Overdose without death

  3. Opioid Addiction

  4. Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

  5. Birth Defects

  6. Heart attack

Attend the July 20-22, 2018 Mass Tort Nexus Opioid Crisis Summit to learn more about what your firm can do to help individual victims of the opioid epidemic.

In addition to providing information related to the types of claims that may be brought against the opioid defendants on behalf of individual plaintiffs, you will also receive information related to marketing to obtain these clients, as well as vital information related to the complex issues related to qualifying clients for each category of opioid injury.

To register for the Opioid Summit contact Jenny Levine at 954-530-9892 or email at jenny@masstortnexus.com. You may also register online at  https://www.opioidcrisissummit.com

Opioid Litigation Individual Claims

Given the publicity surrounding the opioid crisis gripping our nation, most of the country is aware that opioid addiction and overdose risk is far greater than the opioid litigation defendants, their Key Opinion Leaders and Front Groups led us to believe.

The researchers at Mass Tort Nexus estimate that there are approximately 250,000 individuals and families with viable claims against the opioid litigation defendants; however, yet few firms have engaged in an effort to retain these clients and provide the legal representation they desperately need and deserve. This fact is somewhat astounding given that many of these potential plaintiffs have been represented by your personal injury firm in the past.

Overdose Resulting in Death

  When an individual, often a juvenile, dies from an opioid overdose, family members are left behind to suffer the pain and costs.

Significant evidence exists to demonstrate that the opioid manufacturers negligently and wantonly deceived doctors and the public about the risks associated with opioids. They continued to do so, even after it was apparent that their deceptions were resulting in loss of life and other severe injuries caused by their products.

The potential number of wrongful death claims which could be brought against the opioid defendants, could exceed the total number of wrongful death claims brought for any other reason over the next decade.

 Overdose Deaths Soared as Big Pharma Reaped the Profits

According to the National Institute for Drug Abuse revised report from March 2018, despite the efforts to stem the opioid crisis, 115 people in the United States die from an Opioid overdose every day.

Overdose deaths, once rare, are now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing peak annual deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents, guns and HIV infection.

More Americans died from drug overdoses in 2016 than the number of American lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War, which totaled 58,200.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prescription opioid deaths account for the majority of the increase in overdose deaths since 1999. It is no coincidence that the astounding increase in drug over dose statics beginning in 1999 coincides with the opioid manufactures campaign (beginning in the late 1990s) to convince doctors, based on false information, that past concerns related to opioids were unwarranted.

The opioid manufacturers are accused of using big tobacco style techniques to increase the consumption (and their profits) from increased sales of opioids. The manufacturers are accused of taking a page from the big tobacco play book, using front groups and key opinion leaders in the health field to promote the narrative that the risk associated with opioids was not significant.  The false narrative promoted by the opioid manufacturers has been unveiled at the cost of an enormous loss of human life and suffering.

The link between the success of the opioid manufacturers deceptions, and the devasting effects caused by their fraudulent acts can be seen in a single chart. As the opioid manufacturers made billions of dollars, individual patients relying on these companies paid the price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overdose Without Death

Opioid overdose deaths are devasting to the family of the victim. Opioid overdoses that do not result in death can be equally or even more devasting.

Victims of opioid overdoses often suffer brain damage, heart damage and other adverse events that will impact their lives and their families permanently.

In many cases, the financial and other damages caused by an overdose not resulting in death will exceed those of overdose cases resulting in death.

Opioid Addiction

Despite the opioid litigation defendants attempts to blame the victims and their doctors, the blame for the meteoric rise in opioid addiction coincided with the opioid manufacturers fraudulent practices designed to deceive doctors and the public about the risk of opioid use.

According to the CDC, by 2016 2.1 million Americans suffered from opioid addiction (opioid use disorder) and 2.1 million more Americans received their first opioid prescription in the same year, guaranteeing the continuation of the Country’s opioid addiction epidemic.

 

Not every opioid addict will have a viable claim for damages against the opioid manufacturers.

Qualifying opioid addiction clients is complex. Attend the Mass Tort Nexus July 20 -22

Opioid Crisis Summit to learn more about qualifying clients with viable opioid addiction claims.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

 By 2012, the National Institute for Health had recognized a dramatic increase in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and the number of babies born with NAS has continued to increase since that time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAS occurs when a mother ingests opioids during pregnancy. Despite the risks associated with NAS and opioids, the opioid manufacturers are accused of aggressively promoting the use of opioids for pain commonly associated with pregnancy.

In addition to damage to the fetus before birth, opioid consumption during pregnancy often results in the infant being born addicted to opioids. The long term impact of NAS, often results in consequences that will plague the infant for the remainder of their lives.

Impaired cognitive abilities, severe behavioral issues, as well as an increased susceptibility to opioid use and addiction later in life are among a long list of complications associated with NAS.

Babies born with NAS and opioid related birth defects will often suffer from the day they are born until the day they die. The opioid defendant’s actions leading to the harm of infants should be a great source of shame for the opioid defendants; however, at this point, it appears that the opioid defendants have no shame.  They continue to blame others for what is clearly their fault.

Birth Defects

There is significant support in the medical literature demonstrating opioids cause numerous severe birth defects.

One of the types of birth defects potentially caused by maternal opioid use is Tetralogy of Fallot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tetraolgy of Fallot is a heart defect that presents with some or all of the following defects in the infants heart: Overriding Aorta, Pulmonary Stenosis, Ventricular Septal Defect and Right Ventrial Hypertrophy.

Any of the defects associated with Tetraolgy of Fallot can result in infant death or the need for multiple cardiac surgeries and a permeant decrease in quality of life.

Neural Tube Defects may also be caused by maternal opioid use. Neural Tube Defects include Spina Bifida, Anencephaly and Encephalocele. Any of these birth defects can result in infant death, the need for multiple corrective surgeries over numerous years, as well as a permanent decrease in quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above is only a partial list of birth defects which are associated with maternal opioid use. Given the increase in clinical interest and study surrounding opioid use, we expect to see additions to the medical literature demonstrating a large number of opioid associated birth defects, in the near future.

HEART ATTACK

      There is overwhelming support in the medical literature demonstrating an increased incident of heart attack and other coronary issues associated with opioid use.

Cardiac damage and heart attack are common secondary issues related to opioid overdose; however, these adverse events appear to occur at a high rate in all opioid users without regard to the occurrence of an overdose.  The increased risk appears to exist for patients that are predisposed to cardiac problems, as well as those who are not.

The conditions and adverse events associated with opioid use covered in this article do not include all the medical issues associated with opioid use.

Attend the July Mass Tort Nexus Opioid summit for a more through understanding of the medical conditions which may give rise to viable individual claims against the opioid defendants.

To register for the Opioid Summit contact Jenny Levine at 954-530-9892 or by email at jenny@masstortnexus.com.

You can also register online at https://www.opioidcrisissummit.com

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