This Week's News in Substance Use: 10/20/17

The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA , The Washington Post

“For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.

“The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies, according to internal agency and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge in a soon-to-be-published law review article. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.”

Tom Marino, Trump's Pick as Drug Czar, Withdraws After Damaging Opioid Report , WBUR

“Marino was a main backer of the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act; among other things, the measure changed the standard for identifying dangers to local communities, from ‘imminent’ threats to ‘immediate’ threats. That change cramped the DEA's authority to go after drug companies that didn't report suspicious — and often very large — orders for narcotics.

“After the Post and 60 Minutes report, several members of Congress called for the White House to pull Marino's nomination as drug czar.”

The Secretive Family Making Billions from The Opioid Crisis , Esquire

The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: the first is selling OxyContin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.

Trump Says He'll Declare Opioid Crisis a National Emergency. Here's What That Could Mean , USA Today

“An emergency declaration would be a powerful rhetorical tool in focusing national attention on an epidemic that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, claims 91 lives every day.

“But the impact of an emergency wouldn't just be symbolic. It would give the Trump administration novel and untested powers: broad authority to waive patient privacy laws, divert funds and give immunity to medical professionals and first responders.”


After Losing a Son to Opioids, An Oral Surgeon Fights to Change How His Profession Deals with Addiction , STAT News

“On Oct. 2, 2014, however, [the opioid] crisis hit home. His 21-year-old son, Adam, died after overdosing on a mixture of drugs including heroin — a path that Abubaker suspects started after a surgeon prescribed his son opioids after a shoulder procedure. “I had been consumed with keeping him alive without attempting to know more about addiction,” Abubaker recalled. Grief drove him on a search for answers, ultimately making him “more and more aware of how naïve” he was about substance use disorders.”

Cherokee Nation, Grappling with Opioid Crisis, Takes Legal Action , CBS News

“The complaint accuses the companies of ‘regularly fulfilling suspicious orders’ and ‘ignoring 'red flags'’ which ‘allowed massive amounts of opioid pills to be diverted from legitimate channels of distribution into the illicit black market.’

The lawsuit asks for billions in damages.

‘My goal is to change the behavior of these corporations and the way you do that is you hit them in the pocketbook,’ Hembree said.”

Where The Opioids Go , The Atlantic

The rate of death from opioid overdoses in the United States has more than doubled over the past decade. Amid a deluge of reports on the national crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that in much of the world many people die in preventable pain, without access to morphine for end-of-life care.

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