Purdue Pharma, maker of controversial OxyContin, agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion, Justice Department officials announced last week. Charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws.
The settlement is the highest-profile action by the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country. Families and lives destroyed. We all know the pain from witnessing some 225,000+ COVID-19 deaths. More than twice this number have been lost to opioids. Similar to COVID-19, the battle is far from over.
In 2009 the University of New Mexico School of Medicine recruited me to become a warrior in the national effort to battle the opioid epidemic. After ten years of continued success, Hawaiian Electric CEO & President, Constance Hee Lau, and her team fired me in 2019 for my efforts to end opioid use, addiction and overdose death. Please pray for this poorly-educated and cruel corporate executive.
I began my public health career with the Department of Health teaming with professionals across the nation to deter kids and teens from initiating tobacco, alcohol and other illicit substances. The U.S. invested billions in this war to protect our youngsters.
For me, Purdue Pharma was much different from BigTobacco. Industry executives lied to Congress in the mid-90s about the addictive nature of nicotine and tobacco products. Purdue Pharma owners, members of the Sackler family, invented OxyContin for hospice patients suffering terminal illness. Everyone knew the medication was addictive and dangerous.
Initially approved in 1950. The FDA label warns OXYCONTIN “exposes users to risks of addictions, abuse and misuse, which can lead to overdose and death … serious, life-threatening, or fatal respiratory depression may occur … accidental ingestion of OXYCONTIN, especially in children, can result in fatal overdose … prolonged use of OXYCONTIN during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, which may be life-threatening if not recognized and treated.”
We were warned, but like many of you, I’ve had family members and friends in this forlorn and hopeless state. OxyContin was a blessing. Terminally-ill patients are generally forced to endure tremendous pain. They might spend their last three to six months of life unable to sleep, eat or perform basic life skills.
Intense pain causes them to be grumpy, short-tempered, frustrated and somewhat anti-social. Lack of sleep and nourishing food complicates their daily lives. This situation is not simply hard on the patient, it’s inhumane. The circumstances also create a tremendous burden on family members and medical staff as well.
OxyContin gave terminally-ill patients back their dignity. The medication allows the individual to be somewhat normal and social during their final months of life. Everyone knew OxyContin was addictive. Nobody cared. The patient wasn’t going to live. In this sense, I consider OxyContin a compassionate gift from God.
Unfortunately, like many things in life, OxyContin was abused. The Justice Department believes the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma unethically — and criminally — promoted the product to patients outside hospice. As a professional battling this epidemic, I know doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, pharmacists and corporate America over-prescribed and allowed this mediation. Tragically, nearly 500,000 Americans died needlessly due to this powerful and addictive chemical.
History of Hawaiian Electric
As CEO & President, Connie Lau has held the reigns of Hawaii’s most prestigious company since 2006. Although a darling of Wall Street, native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) do not share the love. The company incorporated in 1891 — two years before the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.
“Hawaiian Electric Company may be the only electric utility in the United States — perhaps in the world — inspired to go into business by the vision and enthusiasm of a king.”
The men who founded and led HECO — Jonathan Austin, William W. Hall, William V. Lockwood, Thomas May and Edwin Oscar White — were actively involved with the Honolulu Rifles, which is similar to Proud Boys in America today. They also forced King Kalakaua to sign the “Bayonet Constitution” and participated in the coup d’etat against Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1893. The U.S. government under Bill Clinton apologized for the overthrow in 1993.
The Daily Bulletin (September 30, 1887) covered the event: “William W. Hall of Honolulu is in town. He was one of that committee of thirteen that called on King Kalakaua and demanded that he either abdicate or sign the new Constitution.”
“We committeemen filed into the palace, and found the King at his desk in one of the rooms. He was pretty well frightened and extremely conciliatory. He asked us to-be seated, but we declined, and delivered our message standing.”
William W. Hall
Daily Bulletin captured the tone: “We then filed out. We felt no uneasiness, because all the reputable people of Honolulu were with us. We formed a secret league there in January and took in members until we had, at the time of the revolution, about 500 citizens sworn. They had all joined the Honolulu Rifles, the only local militia, and I had furnished them all with Springfield rifles. The King had simply his police, composed of 100 natives and about sixty palace attendants.”
Destruction of Native Hawaiian Culture and Tradition
Current CEO & President Connie Lau obviously had nothing to do with the coup d’etat, yet she continues western “White” arrogance and disrespect for Kanaka culture and tradition. She allows employees in her companies to use opioids, which are proven to be addictive, dangerous and deadly, while banning any employee who use a more safe natural alternative medication: cannabis.
Cannabis, called pakalolo locally, has been used in the islands as medication for generations. The State of Hawai’i officially legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2000. The legislature amended the state’s “329” statute in 2015 to give cannabis status of a prescribed drug. Surveys document nearly 70% of respondents substituted cannabis for prescription medications, primarily opioids, as well as alcohol and tobacco. While 500,000 Americans have died from opioids, none have overdosed and died using medical cannabis.
In addition, among those who reported replacing alcohol with cannabis, 31% said they stopped using booze altogether, while 37% reported reducing their intake by at least 75%. Fifty-one percent of those who reported substituting cannabis for tobacco said they eventually ceased tobacco use completely. Government programs costing billions of dollars have not been this effective.
These scientific findings run contrary to the so-called “gateway theory” — the long-alleged notion cannabis exposure primes users to engage in more intoxicating and addictive substances. By contrast, cannabis appears to act as an “exit drug” away from potentially deadly opioid pharmaceuticals, booze, cigarettes, and even other illicit substances such as cocaine.
Hawaiian Electric participated in stealing the islands from the Kanaka. Chairman Lau denies Native Hawaiians and employees access to a more safe alternative to OxyContin and other opioid medications. Connie Lau continues the destruction of Native Hawaiian culture. At the same time, CEO & President Constance Hee Lau endangers employees and the community.
Under her leadership, the corporation promises to “strive to be a catalyst for a better Hawai’i. We endeavor to be trusted and valued leaders in improving the economic well-being of the state, promoting the environmental sustainability of our islands, and benefiting the communities we serve.”
Is this Donald Trump marketing? Economic well-being: local residents suffer the highest energy costs in the nation; Environmental sustainability: Hawai’i is the only state dependent on diesel fuel and coal for energy generation; Benefiting communities we serve: Chairman Lau denies a plant-based medication while forcing employees to use deadly opioids.
On January 14, 1893, Queen Lili`uokalani announced she had written a new constitution which would restore power to the throne and protect the rights of Native Hawaiian people. In response, the Annexation Club formed a 13-member Committee of Safety.
Tuesday, January 17, 1893 at 2.30pm, “A horse pulling a wagon full of ammunition leaving E.O. Hall & Son’s King Street store … the Provisional Government puts ammunition in the hall, declares martial law, closes saloons, proclaims the ‘death penalty for an act of treason’, and notifies the diplomatic corps of the take over.”
Among the members of the Committee of Safety were three of Hawaiian Electric’s five leaders: President William W. Hall, Treasurer Jonathan Austin and Thomas May. John A. McCandless, a brother of Lincoln and James, became president of Hawaiian Electric in 1902. The three brothers John, Lincoln and James McCandless had been active with the Committee of Safety as well.
Sadly, Hawaiian Electric CEO & President Constance Hee Lau, of Chinese American heritage, graduate of Punahou School, Yale University, UC Hastings College of Law and Stanford University continues the Destruction of Native Hawaiian Culture and Tradition.
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Ko’olau of Kaua’i. I am the Defiant One
“I Believe We Can”