Opioid-Maker Insys Guilty of Bribing Doctors

Opioid-maker Insys admits guilt. OxyContin developer Purdue Pharma has worked for over a decade to reduce the opioid epidemic. The State of Hawai’i can’t balance their budget so they are currently suing Purdue Pharma — rather than Insys.

Purdue Pharma is frustrated. Chair Miller questions how states, cities and towns can turn to the courts, sue Purdue and other manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains, and claim they are responsible for damaging communities across the country.

Can Purdue Pharma be held responsible for the societal costs of this opioid crisis when it warned of the risks of addiction and is far from the only seller of prescription opioid pills? The federal government and many states deny alternatives to opioid medication. How then can they sue?

New York only authorized medical cannabis to combat the opioid epidemic in July 2018 as an alternative. New York state followed a trend of governmental actions substituting opioid use with medical cannabis. Illinois authorized the alternative in February 2019. Colorado followed in May 2019. Hawai’i still hasn’t taken this preventive step. The epidemic was in full bloom ten years ago. Who is the negligent party?

I have seven (7) certifications from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine training and warning about the opioid epidemic, dangers and risks of opioid addiction, and alternatives for pain management — one of which is medical cannabis. I chose medical cannabis.

Although the State of Hawai’i sues Purdue Pharma, alleging the company engaged in deceptive marketing, the state’s most prestigious corporation, Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI), demands employees rely on dangerous opioid medications.

They also have no written policy for employees or prospective candidates who might consider medical cannabis. Their Code of Conduct is confusing regarding the medical cannabis issue.

HEI: [1] failing to notify me of a prohibition on medical cannabis during my six months of successful work as a contract employee; and [2] failing to warn me of a prohibition on medical cannabis when I disclosed my patient status to HR rep Liz Deer on February 14, 2019, fired me for selecting the alternative pain medication. Would be employed had I used an opioid pain reliever for my long-term medical care.

Local Island news, KITV, considers HEI President and CEO Connie Lau to be Hawaii’s “remarkable woman.” Is it remarkable to fire an employee who uses legal medical cannabis rather than an opioid pain medication?

remarkable
KITV Remarkable Woman HEI CEO and President Constance Hee Lau

KITV points out it was the 1970 Punahou graduate’s father who urged her to be a lawyer and go to business school. She broke barriers from the beginning as part of only the second class of women at Yale.

“The then president had to promise the alumni that he would continue to graduate 1,000 male leaders a year. So there were a 1,000 male leaders and 125 of us.”
Constance Hee Lau

I broke barriers for choosing medical cannabis rather than opioids. KITV honors CEO Connie Lau. Connie Lau’s policies led to my termination.

Her husband, Russell Lau is President, Chair and CEO of Finance Factors. Together they have raised a daughter and two sons. If her daughter or one of their two sons needed medical cannabis, would they deny their child the medication? How would they feel if Punahou prohibited the child from attending school due the choice of medication?

“You’ve got to be willing to work hard. It doesn’t matter how smart you are or how capable you are, if you aren’t willing to work hard it’s not going to happen.”
Constance Hee Lau

Was willing to work hard in my IT position at Hawaiian Electric. My manager and team recognized I was smart and capable. They admired my work ethic. I made things happen. Coworker wrote to me after he learned of the termination.

I personally never saw any evidence of you being impaired. Quite the contrary in fact. I would say sharp, expedient, professional, technical, humble, the whole package really.

But I did notice you had a limp, so I suspected you were in pain, but you never mentioned anything, and I never bothered to ask. Our conversations were always about getting things done, and you delivered in times when we had to deliver and get things done.


Are We Really This Stupid?

Stanford researchers initially found reduced opioid-related deaths in states with medical cannabis between 1999 to 2010. When they reexamined data through 2017, they discovered the opposite: 22.7 percent increase (1999 to 2017) in opioid-related deaths in states where medical cannabis was legal.

Due to Stanford’s research, medical experts around the nation sounded an alarm:

endorse2

endorse1

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It is IMPOSSIBLE to be this fucking stupid! 

Two addiction experts — Keith Humphreys, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, and Richard Saitz, MD, professor and chair of the department of community health sciences, Boston University School of Public Health — argue “substituting cannabis for opioid addiction treatments is potentially harmful. ” OMG!!!

#1: Between 1999 and 2010 there were ZERO total overdose deaths due to medical cannabis. As shown in Figure 3 below, there were an estimated 13,000 opioid deaths per year in this period.

#2: Between 1999 and 2017 there were ZERO total overdose deaths due to medical cannabis. As shown in Figure 3 below, there were an estimated 28,000 opioid deaths per year in this period.

deaths_average

#3: If no patients used opioid medications and all patients used medical cannabis, there would be ZERO overdose deaths total. ZERO. Are we really this stupid?

If no patients used opioid medications and all patients used medical cannabis, there would be ZERO overdose deaths total. ZERO. Are we really this stupid?

Stanford then found there was a 22.7 percent increase (1999 to 2017) in opioid-related deaths in states where medical cannabis was legal. They had discovered a decrease in opioid-related deaths in states where medical cannabis was legal between 1999 and 2010. I don’t have Stanford’s data, but let me give you a quick explanation.

Let’s assume in 2010 there were 20 legal medical cannabis states. One state (black), which was part of the group of states that did not have legal cannabis, had a high number of opioid deaths. Stanford concluded states with legal medical cannabis had fewer opioid deaths.

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States With High Number of Opioid Deaths Changed from Illegal to Legal Cannabis

When Stanford looked at the data in 2017, this high-opioid-overdose state (black) had legalized medical cannabis. There were about 30 legal medical cannabis states in 2017. Now, states with legal medical cannabis had about 22.7 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths. Stanford suggests medical cannabis had something to do with this.

I’m in Hawai’i. We have legal medical cannabis. As I pointed out, if I use medical cannabis, I get fired. Therefore, patients like me continue to use opioid pain medications. Only Nevada has protected employees who use medical cannabis. For most patients, it is still a risky proposition.

The key point to remember is there have been ZERO overdose deaths from medical cannabis.

The key point to remember is there have been ZERO overdose deaths from medical cannabis. There have been over 28,000 overdose deaths annual on average from opioid pain medications since 1999. There were over 70,000+ overdose deaths just last year.

Only a totally stupid person or company would fire an employee for choosing medical cannabis over an opioid medication. Only an incredibly stupid society would discourage the use of medical cannabis as an alternative to an opioid medication.


Insys Therapeutics and Fentanyl Sublingual Spray

Opioid manufacturer, Insys Therapeutics, agreed to pay $225 million to settle the federal government’s criminal and civil investigations into the company’s marketing practices.

Insys Therapeutics admitted bribing doctors to prescribe its opioid painkiller.

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Insys Therapeutics Admits Bribing Doctors to Prescribe its Opioid Painkiller

As reported by NPR, a federal jury in Boston found five top Insys Therapeutics executives guilty of racketeering conspiracy for these practices.

“For years, Insys engaged in prolonged, illegal conduct that prioritized its profits over the health of the thousands of patients who relied on it.”
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling

In the agreement with the federal government, the drugmaker admitted orchestrating a nationwide scheme in which it set up a sham “speaker program.” Participating doctors were not paid to give speeches, but to write prescriptions of Insys Therapeutics’ fentanyl-based medication, Subsys. The painkiller was often prescribed to patients who did not need it.


Indivior and Suboxone Film

UK-based pharmaceutical company Indivior (formerly Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals until 2014), maker of Suboxone (buprenorphine/naloxone), was indicted by a federal grand jury in April 2019 for its manipulations of commerce to ensure the company kept market share for their product.

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The federal Department of Justice (DOJ) claimed Indivior illicitly schemed to increase prescriptions of its Suboxone Film by deceiving prescribers and insurance companies into thinking it was safer than other drugs, including its own tablets, which were about to lose patent protection.


Purdue Pharma, OxyContin, Buprenorphine, Narcan

Richard Sackler, MD, whose family owns Purdue Pharma, earned a patent for a new formulation of buprenorphine in September 2018. Hawai’i has sued Purdue Pharma.

In May 2019, a North Dakota court dismissed all the state’s claims against Purdue. The court ruled the state’s theory depended on an “extremely attenuated, multi-step and remote causal chain,” and that the state “completely fails” to show how Purdue’s marketing caused the financial damage claimed by the state.

Even at OxyContin’s peak in 2003, the Purdue-made drug accounted for only 4% of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. That share had dropped to 1.3% by 2018.

The court noted “holding Purdue solely responsible for the entire opioid epidemic in North Dakota is difficult to comprehend, especially given Purdue’s small share of the overall market for lawful opioids.”

Even at OxyContin’s peak in 2003, the Purdue-made drug accounted for only 4% of all opioid prescriptions in the U.S. That share had dropped to 1.3% by 2018.

Although the FDA had approved a new formulation of buprenorphine — a treatment for opioid dependence — in tablet form. Purdue Pharma won a patent for a wafer-like form of buprenorphine that dissolves faster than other existing forms and limits the risk for diversion.

Purdue Pharma donated $3.4 million in September 2018 to the nonprofit drug company Harm Reduction Therapeutics to develop a cheaper opioid overdose antidote. The company’s donation will accelerate the creation of a generic naloxone spray by about a year. Purdue will not receive any revenue or royalties from the drug.

Patients suffering from the effects of abuse need real help, not scapegoats.

 

CEO Michael Hufford stated the product will cost “a fraction” of the $125 price for a two-pack of Narcan. Naloxone (Narcan, Evzio) is a quick-acting and highly effective opioid overdose reversal medication.

“As the opioid epidemic has unfolded, the price of naloxone, despite it being a generic drug, has continued to go up. There has to be another way.”
Michael Hufford, CEO, Harm Reduction Therapeutics


#NOpioid Ad Campaign Promotes Medical Cannabis

Cresco Labs is atttracting Top-Tier talent due to its innovative work. The medical cannabis company placed pop-up style vending machines in Chicago September 2018 to increase awareness of alternative pain relief options due to the opioid epidemic.

NObituaries
Consider Cannabis Over Opioid Prescriptions for Pain Management

“Top talent we’ve been able to attract includes people with the experience, passion and entrepreneurial mindset that will help us continue to achieve fast-paced growth in this fast-moving industry”

“They come from banking, tech, pharmaceutical, legal and other industries, where they’ve established themselves as high performers and leaders.”
Charlie Bachtell, CEO Cresco Labs

The campaign, developed by Tom, Dick & Harry Creative Co., dispensed prescription bottles filled with information about Cresco Labs’ Opioid Prescription Exchange program. The program encourages patients to consider cannabis over opioid prescriptions for pain management.

“The creativity and attention-getting tactics behind our COPE campaign will help build awareness about using medical cannabis as an alternative to prescription opioids in a very untraditional way.”
Charlie Bachtell, CEO of Cresco Labs

Behind the vending machine sat a 20-foot-long “NoBituaries” board, highlighting stories of people who overcame opioid addiction by switching to medical cannabis.

The ad agency also included a social media campaign with the hashtag #NOpioids to encourage people to share their experiences with medical cannabis.


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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”

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