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about time

5/22/14 5:30pm

Two California Counties Sue Big Pharma For Painkiller 'Deception'

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According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, two California counties have recently filed suit against five of the biggest pharmaceutical companies for what officials have called a “campaign of deception,” alleging that the makers of opioid painkillers purposely lied about the effects of their drugs in order to increase profits.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckus declared that his intention is "to stop the lies about what these drugs do" while pursuing the case “as a matter of public protection.”

"In order to put money in their pockets, they've done serious harm to many thousands of people," Rackauckus told the Times.

Both Orange and Santa Clarita counties have been hammered by overdose deaths and drastically increased medical costs due to the rise of prescription narcotic use in recent years. "California is suffering disproportionately from this problem, so it is appropriate for this state to take up this hammer," said Rackauckus.

In what could be a landmark case akin to the tobacco settlement in the 1990s, the lawsuit alleges that the five drug companies named – Actavis, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Cephalon Inc – knowingly violated California laws by falsely advertising their products, engaging in unfair business practices, and creating a public nuisance.

The complaint goes on to allege that the drug companies manipulated doctors into thinking that the benefits of prescription narcotics outweighed the risks, leading many doctors across Southern California to prescribe drugs that led to fatal overdoses with patients.

Because the companies used "marketing - and not any medical breakthrough - that rationalized prescribing opioids for chronic pain and opened the floodgates of opioid use and abuse," the suit said, they "deprived California patients and their doctors of the ability to make informed medical decisions and, instead, caused important, sometimes life-or-death decisions to be made based not on science, but on hype.”

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By Shawn Dwyer

the heroin epidemic

5/22/14 3:30pm

New York Heroin Market Growing to Meet Demand

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On Monday, authorities announced the arrest of two suspected high-level drug traffickers based in the Bronx. Authorities seized 53 pounds of heroin, assault rifles, $85,000 in cash, and about 20 pounds of cocaine. This is just the latest glimpse into the burgeoning heroin market in New York City, where the flow of heroin has peaked in more than two decades, fueled by a growing demand for the drug on the East Coast.

Roughly 35 percent of heroin seized nationwide since October by the Drug Enforcement Administration was confiscated by agents in New York State. Compare this to years past, when the state accounted for about one-fifth of heroin seizures nationwide. “It’s cheap, it’s potent and there’s a user demand here right now and they’re flooding the market,” said James J. Hunt, head of the DEA’s New York office. “In my time, we’ve never seen the amount of large heroin seizures like this.”

More than 288 pounds of heroin were seized in the city in the first four months of 2014, according to the office of special narcotics prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan. Brennan’s office is focused on large-scale operations, so this figure does not account for everyday street-level trafficking in the city. The amount of heroin seized in investigations involving Brennan’s office already surpassed last year, and every year since 1991.

Heroin use is on the rise nationwide, especially among young middle-class users from Maine to Staten Island. Heroin suppliers have flocked to New York because it is a hub with a thriving local market and easy access to other places along the East Coast. “This is highly organized, high volume, and it’s being moved much more efficiently and effectively to reach out to a broader user base,” Brennan said.

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By Victoria Kim

drunk and unbalanced

5/22/14 1:00pm

Drunk Fox News Anchor Arrested After Airport Incident

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Fox News anchor Gregg Jarrett was arrested and briefly jailed on Wednesday following an incident at a bar in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

Jarrett, 59, has been the weekend co-anchor for the Fox News Channel since 2002, but went on leave for “personal reasons” on May 12. Little more than a week later, Minneapolis police responded to a report of an intoxicated man who turned out to be Jarrett causing a disturbance at the Northern Lights Grill inside the airport’s main terminal.

According to an airport spokesperson, Jarrett appeared intoxicated, was acting belligerently, and refused to follow orders. He was detained at the Hennepin County Jail and charged with one count of obstructing the legal process and interfering with a peace officer. Jarrett posted a $300 bond and was released the following morning, pending a court appearance on June 6.

Jarrett has so far declined to publicly comment on the incident, but a Fox News spokesperson released a statement that appeared to distance the cable news station from him.

“We were made aware late last night that Gregg Jarrett was arrested in Minneapolis yesterday and charged with a misdemeanor,” the spokesperson said. “He is dealing with serious personal issues at this time. A date at which Gregg might return to air has yet to be determined."

In an ironic twist, Garrett made comments during the trial of George Zimmerman last year that Trayvon Martin "may have acted irrationally and may have been violent" because he smoked marijuana, despite those behaviors being more widely associated with alcohol use.

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By Shawn Dwyer

about face

5/22/14 11:00am

Louisiana Approves Legal Immunity For Overdose Witnesses

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In sharp contrast to harsh sentencing laws recently passed by the state, Louisiana has just approved legal immunity for people who witness drug overdoses, meaning that natives of the state will not face repercussions for notifying police of a potentially deadly situation.

Commonly known as the “Good Samaritan” law, the Louisiana legislature gave full passage to the law on Tuesday. Only an unlikely veto from Gov. Bobby Jindal could prevent the bill from becoming law. Several amendments were also made to the law that same day, including removing legal immunity from the person who administers the drug that leads to an overdose. The person who calls for help will also be legally required to stay on the scene, and provide both their first and last name to law enforcement officials upon request. Paramedics and firefighters were also given authorization to carry the opiate overdose antidote known as naloxone.

“Research shows the most common (reason) people cite for not calling 911 is fear of police involvement," said Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, D-Baton Rouge, during a committee hearing last March. "(The bill) would directly reduce the number of overdose deaths." The law comes in sharp contrast to the draconian drug sentences approved by the state earlier this month, which set the maximum sentence for repeat heroin dealers to 99 years. Tennessee also approved an equally harsh law that will send pregnant women to jail for doing drugs.

Louisiana will become the twentieth state to have some variation of the Good Samaritan law on the books. Georgia was the most recent state to approve the law last month, with the bipartisan campaign attempting to address that the state loses more than 1,000 people every year to drug overdoses. The law also expanded access to naloxone.

“Naloxone saved my life,” said Kathy Fletcher, who had accidentally overdosed on prescription drugs. “It should be available to the average citizen just like the EpiPen and glucagen because it’s just as safe, and the faster we get it to people the more [lives] we save.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

liquid drugs

5/22/14 8:30am

Synthetic Marijuana Resurfacing In Liquid Form

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Synthetic marijuana might have been classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. government, but that hasn't stopped it from resurfacing on the streets in a liquid form.

The liquid drug has been found throughout several locations in Hawaii and numerous mainland states. A shop in Honolulu was found to be selling 2 ml bottles of the liquid for up to $50 and marketed it for use in conjunction with electronic cigarettes. Synthetic marijuana manufacturers are known to slightly alter the compounds of the drug as a means of evading police, but such practices have posed serious health concerns because each batch varies in potency as a result.

“The chemists are savvy,” said Hawaii Sen. Josh Greene, chair of the Senate health committee. “They stay a half-step ahead of us and we change the formulary and we put people behind bars. What we really need to do is increase the penalties.”

Earlier this month, a wave of emergency room visits throughout Texas were linked back to a questionable batch of synthetic marijuana. Over 100 overdoses in Dallas and Austin were reported over a five-day period, with patients reportedly hallucinating, suffering seizures, and violently acting out. Parkland Hospital physician Dr. Stacy Hail noted that some patients had “to be restrained” due to their reaction to the drug.

“Several of them came in with similar symptoms of psychosis, altered mental status, abnormal behavior – ranged from very sedated to an agitated state,” said Dr. James E’tienne, an emergency room physician at Baylor University Medical Center. “We don’t know what they’re putting in these synthetic drugs.”

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By McCarton Ackerman

headlines

5/22/14 7:00am

Morning Roundup: May 22, 2014

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By Shawn Dwyer

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