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Updated: 1 hour 13 min ago

Independent Pharmacies Seek Greater Role in Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse

11 hours 46 min ago

As the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) gears up for another National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26, the group representing independent pharmacists says its members are eager to help their communities get rid of unwanted or expired drugs year-round.

According to the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), more than 200 tons of medications have been collected at more than 1,600 participating community pharmacies across the country since it created the voluntary Dispose My Meds program in 2009. Many of the medications being dropped off for safe disposal at community pharmacies come from excess mail-order prescriptions that are auto-shipped to patients, whether they want the medication or not.

“Our members are your mom-and-pop community drug store,” says Carolyn C. Ha, PharmD, NCPA’s Director of Professional Affairs and Long-Term Care. “More than half our members are from rural towns with populations of 20,000 or less. The pharmacists know their patients really well. The pharmacists are community leaders, they answer many healthcare questions and are committed to addressing prescription drug abuse.” Many people come into their local pharmacy asking what to do with their unused or expired medicines, often because they have teenagers and don’t want them poking around the medicine cabinet, or because they have grandchildren and don’t want them at risk of accidental poisoning.

People in small towns also want a safe place to dispose of medications, because of concerns they could end up in the water supply if they flushed them down the toilet, Ha noted.

Current DEA regulations do not allow pharmacies to accept unwanted or expired controlled substances including prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, stimulants such as Adderall or Ritalin, or benzodiazepines like Valium or Xanax. The agency is working to change those rules, and the NCPA supports those changes, according to Ha.

The DEA has proposed new regulations to give the public more options for disposing of unwanted prescription drugs, such as painkillers and sedatives. The new rules are designed to reduce the amount of highly-abused prescription drugs on the streets. The DEA proposes that law enforcement agencies and pharmacies serve as collection boxes for certain medications. The agency also recommends implementing mail-back programs to safely dispose of the drugs.

Under the proposed rules, for the first time, groups outside of law enforcement would be allowed to collect unused drugs for disposal. The proposal would also allow authorized retail pharmacies to voluntarily maintain collection boxes at long-term care facilities. The DEA also calls for continued use of prescription drug “take-back” events. No date has been set for the new regulations to be finalized.

“Pharmacies are a good place for people to drop off medications, because it gives people an opportunity to ask pharmacists questions, and some people may not be comfortable dropping them off at a police station,” Ha says.

If pharmacies are allowed to collect controlled medications such as opioids, the DEA rules will give specific guidance about security measures that need to be in place, to ensure the medications are not diverted. “Pharmacies are held to extremely tight regulatory controls regarding dispensing medications, so we think it’s a natural fit that we should be able to take them back as well,” observed Ha.

Many of the medications community pharmacies collect are the remains of 90-day supplies ordered from insurance companies. Some are expensive specialty drugs, such as inhalation solutions used in nebulizers by people with respiratory conditions, or diabetes drugs and supplies such as test strips and lancets used to test blood sugar levels. “Often, it’s cheaper for patients to order a 90-day supply, even if they don’t need it,” Ha says. The group has documented many cases in which patients or their families have brought in thousands of dollars of mail-order medication.

Some community pharmacies are barred from taking back any medications because of state or local regulations. Those pharmacies that do collect medications generally do so at no cost.

To find the community pharmacy nearest you that collects medications, visit www.disposemymeds.org, and click on the “Pharmacy Locator” tab on the top right side of the page.

Photo credit: National Community Pharmacists Association

Categories: Bup Feeds

FDA Panel Votes to Recommend Against Approving Morphine-Oxycodone Opioid

11 hours 47 min ago

An advisory panel of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted Tuesday against approving a combination morphine-oxycodone painkiller, NPR reports. The drug, Moxduo, would be the first medication to combine both opioids in one capsule.

Moxduo’s manufacturer, QRxPharma, says the drug is intended to provide faster relief from moderate to severe pain, with fewer side effects than currently available opioids.

The vote against recommending approval of the drug was unanimous. The panel also voted unanimously that QRxPharma had not proved the drug is less likely to cause potentially life-threatening respiratory suppression, compared with taking oxycodone or morphine alone.

“I certainly wish that there was an opiate that could be counted on to decrease respiratory depression, and maybe one day there will be,” said panel member Gregory Terman of the University of Washington.

The panel questioned whether Moxduo offers any advantages over using oxycodone or morphine alone, the article notes. Panel members disagreed on whether studies conducted by the company showed Moxduo provides better pain relief, fewer side effects or lower risks of potentially fatal complications. Some experts said they were concerned the drug could be more easily abused than opioids such as Vicodin or Percocet.

The FDA is not required to follow its panels’ recommendations, but generally does so.

In a statement, QRxPharma Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer John Holaday said, “We are obviously disappointed in the outcome of today’s meeting, but remain confident in the advantages of Moxduo compared to morphine and oxycodone. This is a necessary therapy for patients with moderate to severe acute pain. We are committed to bringing to market safer therapies for pain, such as Moxduo, and preventing opioid abuse.”

Categories: Bup Feeds

Insurers Should Use Prescription Monitoring Databases to Reduce Overdoses: Report

11 hours 48 min ago

Health insurers should use state prescription monitoring databases to reduce overdoses from abuse of opioids and other prescription drugs, according to a new report.

Sharing data between prescription monitoring databases and insurers would allow the companies to better detect inappropriate prescribing and dispensing, according to the report by the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) Center of Excellence at Brandeis University.

Most health insurance programs, including Medicare, Medicaid and workers’ compensation programs, only see data about prescriptions for which their particular plans have paid, MedicalXpress reports. PDMPs provide a patient’s complete outpatient prescription history for controlled substances. Allowing insurers to see all of their enrollees’ activity, including prescriptions paid for by other insurers, would allow them to spot patients who are “doctor shopping,” or who are acting in collusion with a street dealer, the report noted.

“At a time when the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids has reached epidemic levels, it’s important that third party payers be able to use states’ prescription monitoring data to make sure these drugs are prescribed appropriately,” Peter Kreiner, Principal Investigator of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Center of Excellence, said in a news release.

“Opioid abuse is the most urgent issue in workers’ compensation,” said Bruce Wood, Director of Workers’ Compensation with the American Insurance Association. “Giving workers’ compensation payers access to PDMP information would permit them to see if an injured worker is getting opioids from multiple sources.”

The report is the result of a meeting of more than 75 medical insurers, federal agency leaders and state PDMP administrators. It was discussed this week at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Those in Recovery Should Speak Out, Give Hope to Others: Drug Policy Official

11 hours 48 min ago

People in recovery from substance abuse should speak out and give hope to others in similar situations, according to the Acting Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Michael Botticelli, speaking at a forum in New Haven, noted 23 million Americans are recovery. Only about one in nine people with a substance use disorder receive treatment, he said. Botticelli said stigma and denial about substance abuse are obstacles to treatment, the Associated Press reports.

Botticelli is in long-term recovery from addiction, celebrating more than 24 years of sobriety.

“We know that one of the biggest reasons people don’t ask for help is shame and denial,” he said. “We need to break that silence. We’ve done it with other diseases and we can do it with substance use and we can do it with recovery.”

Categories: Bup Feeds

Music Festival Organizers Plan Greater Security to Prevent Drug-Related Deaths

11 hours 49 min ago

Organizers of the Electric Zoo music festival say they are planning tighter security this year, after two drug-related deaths occurred at last summer’s event.

The three-day festival, held in New York City over Labor Day weekend, will include drug-sniffing dogs, extensive pat-downs, and undercover officers who have a background in narcotics investigations, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Last year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg canceled the last day of the festival after the deaths occurred.

The festival’s promoters, Mike Bindra and Laura DePalma, said they plan to hold the festival at the same location. They note they have not yet received a site permit from the Department of Parks and Recreation, but added that usually happens later in the year.

If the festival takes place, fans will be required to view an anti-drug public service announcement online in order for their festival wristbands to activate. The event will start later in the day, to reduce exposure to the sun. In addition, the organizers will scrutinize vendors more closely. The festival may place “amnesty bins” at the gates, so fans can drop off illicit substances before they are searched. These bins are used at music festivals in Europe. They were also used last year at a music festival outside Atlanta called TomorrowWorld, which attracted 50,000 fans.

“We don’t want to be finger-wagging,” Mr. Bindra said. “‘Just say no to drugs,’ we can all agree, has been ineffective in the past.”

Last year’s Electric Zoo festival included safety measures such as on-site emergency treatment centers, free bottled water, and periodic safety announcements. After the event, the promoters brought together an advisory board of doctors, security consultants and DJs to prevent future drug-related deaths.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Approval of Powdered Alcohol Labels was a Mistake, Government Agency Says

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 11:02am

The approval of labels for a powdered alcohol product called “Palcohol” was a mistake, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) said Monday. Palcohol gained widespread publicity in recent days after it was reported the government agency approved the labels.

A representative for the agency told the Associated Press the approvals for Palcohol’s labels were issued in error. Palcohol’s parent company, Lipsmark, said on its website, “We have been in touch with the TTB and there seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag. There was a mutual agreement for us to surrender the labels. This doesn’t mean that Palcohol isn’t approved. It just means that these labels aren’t approved. We will re-submit labels. We don’t have an expected approval date as label approval can vary widely.”

The company says it plans to offer powdered alcohol in six varieties, including rum, vodka, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, Powderita and Lemon Drop. According to the company, a package of Palcohol weighs about an ounce and can fit into a pocket. It warns people not to snort the powder.

Palcohol, when used as directed, by adding five ounces of liquid to it, is equal to a standard mixed drink, according to the company. It will be sold anywhere liquor can be sold, and the buyer must be of legal drinking age to purchase it. “It will be available both in the United States and abroad and it can also be bought online,” the company states on its website.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Children Often Prescribed Potentially Dangerous Codeine in the ER: Study

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 11:00am

Children treated in the emergency room for pain or coughs are often prescribed codeine, a potentially dangerous opioid, a new study finds.

Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Chest Physicians recommend against using codeine for coughs or upper respiratory infections in children, according to Reuters.

While codeine prescription rates decreased from 3.7 percent to 2.9 percent between 2001 and 2010, many children still received the drug. Between 559,000 and 877,000 children were prescribed codeine in the emergency room each year during that time, the researchers report in Pediatrics. Codeine can be dangerous because it slows breathing. Up to one-third of people break down the drug much faster than usual, which can lead to an overdose, the article notes. About one-third of children who take codeine have no relief from symptoms, while one in 12 can accumulate toxic amounts of the drug, causing slowed breathing and possible death.

Dr. Alan D. Woolf, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital who wrote an editorial that accompanied the study, told Reuters that parents whose children are prescribed codeine can ask the doctor if there is an alternative treatment. “At Boston’s Children Hospital, we’ve taken it off the formulary so you can no longer easily prescribe it,” he said.

Study author Dr. Sunitha Kaiser of the University of California, San Francisco said codeine prescriptions for children are an issue outside of the ER. “Despite strong evidence against the use of codeine in children, the drug continues to be prescribed to large numbers of them each year,” she said in a news release. “It can be prescribed in any clinical setting, so it is important to decrease codeine prescription to children in other settings such as clinics and hospitals, in addition to emergency rooms.”

She noted ibuprofen is equal to or better than codeine for treating injury pain.

Categories: Bup Feeds

New Clemency Rules Aimed at Inmates Serving Time for Nonviolent Drug Offenses

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:58am

The Justice Department on Monday announced new clemency criteria, aimed at inmates who are serving time for nonviolent drug offenses. The goal is to reduce the nation’s federal prison population, the Associated Press reports.

Attorney General Eric Holder described the new criteria for evaluating clemency petitions in a video message. The new rules are expected to result in thousands of new clemency applications, he said. Clemency applications take into account the seriousness of the crime, whether the person accepts responsibility for the crime, and their behavior since they were convicted. The Justice Department also considers input from the prosecuting office.

Traditionally, most requests for pardons and sentence commutations have not been granted. President Obama only commuted one sentence during his first term. That would change under the new criteria.

“The White House has indicated it wants to consider additional clemency applications, to restore a degree of justice, fairness and proportionality for deserving individuals who do not pose a threat to public safety,” Holder said. “The Justice Department is committed to recommending as many qualified applicants as possible for reduced sentences.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises federal judges, recommended shorter prison sentences for most federal drug trafficking offenders. Up to 70 percent of these offenders would receive shorter prison sentences if the commission’s recommendations are not opposed by Congress.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Poll Finds Marijuana is Only Drug Majority of Americans Wants Legalized

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 10:56am

A new poll finds while a majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, most do not favor legalizing other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll found more than 51 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing marijuana, UPI reports. However, only 11 percent want cocaine to be legalized, while 9 percent support the legalization of drugs such as MDMA, crack and heroin. Only 8 percent support legalizing LSD and methamphetamine.

The poll results suggest that marijuana legalization may not necessarily lead to support of legalizing other drugs, the article notes.

While more Democrats than Republicans support legalizing marijuana (62 percent versus 32 percent), the idea of legalizing other drugs drew little support from voters of either party. People under age 65 are much more likely than people over 65 to support legalizing marijuana, but younger Americans were only slightly more likely than people over 65 to favor legalizing other drugs.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Surge in Heroin and Prescription Opioid Use Has Deadly Consequences, Police Say

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 11:41am

The surge in the use of heroin and prescription opioids is resulting in more deaths than violent crimes and car crashes in many communities, law enforcement officials said this week. They met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the problem and possible solutions.

Many overdose deaths are due to heroin, which is easily available and potent, USA Today reports. Heroin costs between $4 and $20 per bag, depending on the location—much less expensive than prescription opioids.

In 2012, there were 730 drug overdose deaths in New York City—nearly double the number of homicides, the article notes. A government report called the National Drug Threat Assessment found between 2009 and 2013, heroin seizures increased 87 percent. The average size of the seizures increased 81 percent during that period.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told law enforcement officials, “The consciousness of the nation has not really focused on the problem. People saw this more as a state and local problem. …This is truly a national problem. Standing by itself, the heroin problem is worthy of our national attention.”

Other meeting participants included FBI Director James Comey, Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Michele Leonhart and Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, as well as small-town police officials.

Many police officials said they are hindered in their efforts to fight overdoses by the lack of current data, according to NBC News. Some local police are trying creative solutions. In Washington, D.C., police have started mapping locations where the drug overdose antidote naloxone is used by firefighters and emergency medical technicians, in order to pinpoint areas of high-drug use. New York City is trying to create similar data.

Categories: Bup Feeds

E-Cigarette Injury Reports on the Rise

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 11:40am

The number of injury complaints associated with the use of e-cigarettes has risen in the past year, Reuters reports. E-cigarette users have filed complaints with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about injuries including burns, nicotine toxicity, heart problems and breathing difficulties.

More than 50 complaints about e-cigarettes were filed between March 2013 and March 2014, Reuters found. That is similar to the combined number of complaints filed during the previous five years. The article notes the health problems reported were not necessarily caused by e-cigarettes. Problems reported in the last year also included headache, cough, dizziness, nose bleeds, chest pain, allergic reactions and sore throat.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report that found poison control centers are reporting an increase in the number of calls they are receiving for nicotine poisoning from e-cigarettes. This February, centers received 215 calls, compared with about one per month in 2010. About half of calls related to nicotine poisoning from e-cigarettes involved children ages 5 or younger.

The FDA is soon expected to announce regulations for e-cigarettes. While some health experts say the devices can help people stop using regular cigarettes, others are concerned they will encourage young people to take up smoking.

Most e-cigarettes are made in China, and their quality is inconsistent, making it difficult to assess their possible role in health problems.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Introverts With Few Positive Feelings at Higher Risk of Drug Abuse: Study

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 11:40am

Introverts who tend to have fewer positive feelings, or to not be attracted to rewards in life, are more likely to abuse drugs than more extroverted people with positive emotions, a new study suggests.

Studying personality may help scientists better understand and treat substance use problems, according to the researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Researcher Dr. Sergi Ferré said people who are extroverted and have more positive emotions may be more open to rewards other than good feelings that come from using a drug. For instance, they may feel rewarded by certain social situations such as winning a game or receiving a promotion.

In contrast, people who are introverted and have fewer positive feelings may have less interest in these rewards, and instead be more influenced by pleasant sensations that come from using drugs.

The researchers found having a tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anxiety or depressed mood, is associated with substance use disorder. Having a difficult time stopping a behavior or action once it is started is also linked with an increased risk of substance abuse, The Huffington Post reports.

The researchers noted the likelihood a person will abuse drugs involves many factors, including genes, personality, environment and past drug use. The findings appear in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Commission Asks For Shorter Drug Trafficking Sentences

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 11:40am

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which advises federal judges, is recommending shorter prison sentences for most federal drug trafficking offenders, according to Reuters. Up to 70 percent of these offenders would receive shorter prison sentences if the commission’s recommendations are not opposed by Congress.

“This modest reduction in drug penalties is an important step toward reducing the problem of prison overcrowding at the federal level in a proportionate and fair manner,” Commission Chair Judge Patti B. Saris said in a news release. “Reducing the federal prison population has become urgent, with that population almost three times where it was in 1991.”

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder testified in favor of changing federal guidelines to reduce the average sentence for drug dealers. He told the Sentencing Commission the Obama Administration supports changing guidelines to reduce the average drug sentence by about one year, from 62 months to 51 months. The proposed changes would reduce the federal prison population by about 6,550 inmates over the next five years, the article notes. Currently, half of the 215,000 inmates in the federal prison system are serving time for drug crimes.

The new rules will go into effect on November 1, unless Congress votes to stop the sentencing guidelines, the article notes. Drug traffickers with the greatest quantities of drugs would not receive reduced sentences.

Reducing sentences could result in less leverage for prosecutors, warned Scott Burns, Executive Director of the National District Attorneys Association. He said district attorneys often use the threat of long sentences to convince drug offenders who have witnessed larger crimes to cooperate. “They can use the leverage of the threat of harsher punishment in order to solve murder cases and prosecute drug kingpins,” he said.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Commentary: Cigarettes and Pharmacies Don’t Mix

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:34am

By now, almost everyone has heard the big announcement from CVS/pharmacy that their stores will become tobacco-free by October 1. This is a significant milestone, and yet it’s just the latest chapter of a long story.

Have you heard about Fred Mayer? He is the Marin County, California pharmacist who made the courageous choice — decades ago — to rid his pharmacy of tobacco. Fred proclaimed “enough is enough,” gathered up the cigarettes one day, and had a bonfire out back. No corporate hand-wringing about “revenue loss” and “customer choice.” Just a good local decision from an upright pharmacist whose primary interest was the health of his customers and his community.

And do you know about Terence (Terry) Gerace? For the last few years, Terry has been showing up in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle, staging a one-man silent protest. His sign is simple and to the point: “CVS Sells Poison.” Tough words, but right on. Doesn’t he deserve a tweet from Michelle Obama, too?

In 2008, when San Francisco passed the first tobacco-free pharmacy ordinance in the United States, it wasn’t easy. With the ordinance came a three-pack of lawsuits: from Philip Morris, Walgreens, and Safeway. Law briefs from these organizations are a fascinating part of our tobacco-control history, documenting corporate fear of change, mixed with disdain for the health of the people.

Happily, San Francisco just celebrated its fifth anniversary of tobacco-free pharmacies, and the light is green to any community that is ready to pass a similar policy. Over 75 communities in Massachusetts have done just this too.

Safeway: With your slogan “Ingredients for Life”, and your pharmacies at the back of the store, will you continue to sell and propel Marlboros into our neighborhoods?

Walgreens: With your slogan “The Pharmacy America Trusts” will you continue to do the tobacco industry’s bidding by pushing e-cigarettes, Swisher Sweets, Newports and chew into our young, people of color, LGBT, low-income and other vulnerable communities?

Your local pharmacist knows best: Cigarettes and Pharmacies don’t mix.

Bob Gordon is the winner of Legacy’s 2013 Community Activist Award. For the majority of his career, Mr. Gordon has been a leader in addressing tobacco-related harms within the LGBT community. His leadership has been pivotal in bringing the LGBT community together to take a stand against the tobacco industry, while championing smoking-cessation classes geared specifically to LGBT and HIV-positive smokers. He currently serves as Project Director for the California LGBT Tobacco Education Partnership in San Francisco, California. To learn more about Bob Gordon and his work, visit the Legacy website.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Google Isn’t Doing Enough to Stop Illegal Drug Sales Online, Some Attorneys General Say

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:34am

Google is not doing enough to stop online sales of illegal drugs and fake prescription medicines, according to a group of state attorneys general. The company says it disabled 4.6 million pharmaceutical or health supplement ads last year.

Last December, 24 attorneys general sent a letter to Google outlining their concerns, The Washington Post reports. The letter led to private meetings with Google executives. Some attorneys general say they are satisfied with the company’s response, while others are not, the article notes.

The company says since it toughened its advertising policy in 2010, the number of ads placed by unlicensed pharmacies has decreased by 99.9 percent. In 2011, Google agreed to pay $500 million to avoid being prosecuted for aiding illegal online pharmaceutical sales. In the settlement, the company acknowledged it had improperly and knowingly assisted online pharmacy advertisers, allegedly based in Canada, to run ads for illegal pharmacy sales that targeted American customers.

Company emails, disclosed as part of a shareholder lawsuit, indicate the company knew of the risks of illegal pharmacy ads long before they stopped allowing them, the newspaper reports.

Google says it will hire 120 people this year to look for rogue ads and videos, and will eliminate 1,200 predicted search phrases, including “how to become a drug dealer,” which have led people to illegal web sites. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says he will pursue legal action if the company does not also remove sites that sell illicit drugs and other illegal products from its search results.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Occasional Marijuana Use May Change Structure of Young People’s Brains: Study

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:33am

Occasional marijuana use may change the brain structure in young adults, a new study suggests. Marijuana may cause changes related to motivation, emotion and reward. The changes occurred in the areas of the brain involved in processing emotion and forming long-term memories, and in reward and addiction, HealthDay reports.

The study included 40 college students ages 18 to 25. Half said they used marijuana at least weekly, and were not considered drug-dependent. The other half of the participants did not use marijuana. The participants underwent MRI brain scans. In marijuana smokers, the amygdala and nucleus accumbens regions of the brains were abnormally shaped, and the nucleus accumbens was larger. The more a person used marijuana, the more pronounced the brain changes.

Low-level marijuana use may make a person more vulnerable to addiction, or to changing their emotions or thought processes, according to the researchers. “These are two brain regions you do not want to mess around with,” said study co-author Dr. Hans Breiter of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “All parts of the brain are important, but some, like these, are more fundamental. It raises a very serious issue, given that we saw these changes in casual marijuana users.”

While previous studies have indicated similar changes in brain structure in people who were heavy marijuana users, this is the first study to indicate that even casual marijuana use can change a person’s brain, said study lead author Jodi Gilman of the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Addiction Medicine. “We were interested in looking at these young adults who aren’t addicted,” she said. “They aren’t reporting any problems from marijuana, and yet we still see these brain changes.”

The study will appear in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Private Equity Firm Hopes for Profits From Substance Treatment Facilities

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:33am

The private equity firm Bain Capital recently took over the largest chain of substance treatment facilities in Massachusetts, The Boston Globe reports. Bain, which usually makes investments in brand-name companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts, sees treating addiction as big business.

Bain paid $58 million for Habit OPCO Inc., which has 13 locations in Massachusetts. It made the purchase through another company it owns, CRC Health, the largest provider of substance abuse treatment and behavioral health services in the nation.

Substance abuse treatment is a $7.7 billion industry, and is growing at a rate of about 2 percent annually, the article notes. A growing number of people addicted to opioids are middle- and upper-middle class, according to Deni Carise, Deputy Chief Clinical Officer for CRC Health.

At Habit OPCO facilities, patients are charged $135 a week for methadone treatment, including daily doses of liquid methadone, access to healthcare professionals, and other services. While some patients have private insurance, others are covered through Medicaid or pay cash.

Dr. Kevin P. Hill, director of the Substance Abuse Consultation Service at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, says he is concerned about the care that some for-profit methadone clinics provide. “The problem I find with some of the for-profit clinics is the absolute minimum required by law becomes the absolute maximum they’re willing to do for their patients,” Hill said.

Habit OPCO and CRC staff say profits are not their main goal. “Frankly, the way to make a lot of money in this particular business is to do it badly,” CRC’s Carise said. “We’re just not going to do that.” She noted the Affordable Care Act, and a law that requires equal insurance coverage for mental health conditions, will give clinics more access to private health insurance. The new laws will help make treatment more affordable for people who previously had no insurance, she said.

Categories: Bup Feeds

Massachusetts Cannot Ban Zohydro, Federal Judge Says

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 11:32am

Massachusetts cannot ban the new pure hydrocodone drug Zohydro ER (extended release), a federal judge said Monday. The company that makes the drug, Zogenix, argued in a lawsuit that the ban is unconstitutional, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Last Month, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced Zohydro would be banned in the state. He cited a public health emergency stemming from opioid abuse.

The drug is a pure form of the painkiller hydrocodone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zohydro ER in October for patients with pain that requires daily, around-the-clock, long-term treatment that cannot be treated with other drugs. Drugs such as Vicodin contain a combination of hydrocodone and other painkillers such as acetaminophen. Zohydro is designed to be released over time, and can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high.

This week, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel issued a preliminary injunction on the ban. The judge said the state appears to have overstepped its authority in banning Zohydro. She noted Zogenix was likely to be successful in pursuing a court order to permanently lift the ban. In her ruling, Judge Zobel said the ban would “undermine the FDA’s ability to make drugs available to promote and protect the public health.”

“Today’s legal ruling was a positive step forward for Massachusetts patients,” Roger Hawley, Chief Executive Officer of Zogenix, said in a news release. “We invite concerned officials to engage with us to discuss fair and appropriate safeguards for pain medications like Zohydro ER rather than seeking to ban or restrict one specific treatment.”

Governor Patrick said he was disappointed in the ruling, the newspaper notes. “Addiction is a serious enough problem already in Massachusetts without having to deal with another addictive narcotic painkiller sold in a form that isn’t tamper proof,” he said in a statement. “We will turn our attention now to other means to address this public-health crisis.”

Categories: Bup Feeds

Almost One-Fourth of Pregnant Women on Medicaid Filled Opioid Prescriptions: Study

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 11:07am

Almost one-quarter of pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid in 2007 filled a prescription for opioids, a new study finds. The risks of opioids to a developing fetus are largely unknown, The New York Times reports.

An estimated 1.1 million pregnant women were enrolled in Medicaid in 2007. The program covers medical expenses for 45 percent of births in the United States, according to the newspaper. The study, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found the rate of opioid prescribing is on the rise—18.5 percent of pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid in 2000 filled opioid prescriptions, compared with 23 percent in 2007.

“To hear that there’s such a high use of narcotics in pregnancy when I see so many women who worry about a cup of coffee seems incongruous,” Dr. Joshua A. Copel, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine, told The New York Times.

The reason for the increase in opioid prescribing for pregnant women is unclear, but may be partly due to back pain.

An article published earlier this year in Anesthesiology, which included 500,000 privately insured women, found 14 percent were given opioid painkillers at least once during their pregnancy. Both studies found codeine and hydrocodone were the most commonly prescribed opioids during pregnancy. Most of the women took the drugs for a week or less.

The Medicaid study found stark regional differences in opioid prescribing. Among pregnant women in Utah, 41.6 percent were prescribed opioids, compared with 35.6 percent in Idaho, 9.6 percent in New York and 9.5 percent in Oregon. “The regional variation really concerned me the most,” said Dr. Pamela Flood, a professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at Stanford University. “It’s hard to imagine that pregnant women in the South have all that much more pain than pregnant women in the Northeast.”

Categories: Bup Feeds