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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

FedEx Indicted for Drug Trafficking

The Internet has long been a hotbed for illegal activity, from prostitution to illegal drug sales. Illegal prescription drug pharmacies in other countries have been shipping their products to the United States using traditional methods like UPS and FedEx for years; shipping companies have made millions of dollars as a result and little action has been brought against them until now.

In San Francisco, FedEx has been accused of conspiring to deliver pharmaceutical drugs from illegal online pharmacies and a federal grand jury has indicted the company for drug trafficking, according to USA Today. The indictment states that FedEx has known for a decade that their service was used by illegal online pharmacies.

“While some Internet pharmacies were managed by well-known pharmacy chains that required valid prescriptions and visits to the patient’s personal physician, others failed to require a prescription before filling orders for controlled substances and prescription drugs,” a U.S. Sentencing Commission news release states. “These Internet pharmacies filled orders based solely on the completion of an online questionnaire, without a physical examination, diagnosis, or face-to-face meeting with a physician. Such practices violated federal and state laws governing the distribution of prescription drugs and controlled substances.”

Since 2004, FedEx had been warned by government officials at least six times, according to the prosecutors involved in the indictment.

In a statement, FedEx said. “We’re proud to say that we have partnered with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, DEA, and other federal, state and local law enforcement teams around the world to help stop illegal drug activity and bring criminals to justice. These efforts include providing assistance to the DEA in combating rogue internet pharmacies.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Veterans Stop Medications Without Doctor Consent

A number of veterans who suffer from a host of ailments linked to their tours in combat have taken it upon themselves to stop taking the heavy amounts of prescription narcotics that their doctors prescribed for them, without consulting their doctors, according to NPR. Many veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a debilitating illness which can leave some incapable of working and being present for their families, this problem is often exacerbated by depression and pain.

Veterans who turn to their doctor for help are, more often than not, prescribed painkillers and sedatives to treat their issues. Service men and women are prescribed narcotic painkillers three times more often than civilians, according to the article. One in three veterans says they are on 10 different medications.

The fact of the matter is that treating disorders like PTSD is extremely difficult and requires countless hours of cognitive behavioral therapy for progress to be seen. After close to 15 years of war the VA is not equipped to handle the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have come home and require treatment. In many cases doctors are left with no other alternative but to over medicate to compensate for the lack of treatment options available.

Many doctors prescribe drugs off-label for conditions other than the ones approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This is why it not uncommon to see veterans with PTSD who are physically healthy, but are being prescribed drugs like oxycodone on top of their antipsychotics and sedatives.

In an attempt to reduce the use of opioids among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) initiated an Opioid Safety Initiative. Gavin West, who heads the initiative, told NPR, “We’ve undertaken a psychopharmacologic safety initiative, where we’re looking across the board at more safe and more effective use of medications.”

Despite rampant over-prescribing taking place throughout VA hospitals, it is important to point out that ceasing your medications without consulting a doctor is never safe, especially if one has been on a particular drug long term. Suddenly halting one's medication can lead to withdrawal with opioids and life threatening seizures with benzodiazepines, talk to your doctor before you make the move.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Obscure Rule Limits Treatment Bed Numbers

One of the key components of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to expand coverage in order for thousands of people to become eligible for substance abuse treatment labeling it an “essential health benefit,” but an obscure law nearly 50 years old is blocking many people on the road to recovery, according to the New York Times.

The ACA has given states the ability to expand Medicaid coverage to people with low incomes and so far 26 states have done so, the article points out. However, in order for a treatment center to qualify for accepting Medicaid the facility needs to have fewer than 16 beds. While more people are finding they have coverage for substance use disorder treatment every day, the reality is that finding a bed will prove extremely challenging due to the high demand for treatment. The 16 bed rule was intended to prevent Medicaid funds from covering treatment in state psychiatric hospitals, facilities that were far more common when it was passed in 1965.

“The federal government basically said to the states, ‘We’re not going to pay for your institutional care,’" Becky Vaughn, Executive Director of the State Associations of Addiction Services, told the newspaper. “Addiction services never should have been wrapped into that because we are not long term.”

Congress could act to change the rule which would help thousands get the treatment that they need and the coverage that they constitutionally deserve, but it seems unlikely at this point because nobody in Congress wants to get near health care issues any time soon.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mass. General Screens Every Patient for Addiction

In an attempt to improve addiction treatment, Massachusetts General Hospital, affiliated with Harvard Medical School in Boston, will begin screening all patients for alcohol and illegal drug use starting this fall, according to The Boston Globe.

Most hospitals only screen patients when they come into the Emergency Room; Mass. General will ask every patient, even if they are coming in for a routine procedure, a series of four questions related to drinking and drugs, according to the article. Nationwide, about a fourth of all patients who visit hospitals for routine medical procedures have substance use disorders. If the answers indicate a possible addiction, a special addiction team could be called-in to do a “bedside intervention” and arrange for treatment.

Doctors at Mass. General believe that tackling substance abuse in a traditional medical setting may help hospitals better coordinate care and lower costs.

Dr. Sarah Wakeman, Medical Director for Substance Use Disorders at Mass. General’s Center for Community Health Improvement, believes that hospitals are the perfect opportunity to reach people who are struggling with addiction. She called being in the hospital “a reachable moment,’’ where people in the field of addiction can bring initial treatment right to the patient at the bedside.

“We make it incredibly hard for people to access care for addiction,’’ she said. “Part of our goal is shifting the culture.’’

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Washington Gears Up for Marijuana Sales

English: Cannabis plant from http://www.usdoj....
Washington State is scheduled to begin the legal sale of recreational marijuana this week for adults over the age of 21. The state’s Liquor Control Board issued the first 24 marijuana retailer licenses on Monday, NPR reports.

The Liquor Control Board noted in a news release that it has developed strict rules regarding packaging, labeling and advertising. Such measures will ensure marijuana products do not appeal to children. In June, Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued a news release highlighting rules designed to keep marijuana away from children.

Washington will be one of only two states that sell marijuana recreationally. Despite the drug being illegal federally, the Justice Department said that it will not hinder the states programs and will only bring up criminal charges in cases where the drug is being distributed to minors.

Colorado’s program has been deemed successful on a number of levels, but a lot of the drug has found its way across state lines where law enforcement is not as tolerant. Officials in Washington did not rush to get their program up and going and it will be interesting to see the differences between the two states.

Some experts believe that it will be hard to meet the demand in Washington which will lead to serious price increases.