Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

Pharmaceuticals and Drugs

New York City sues ‘Big Pharma’ for fueling opioid epidemic

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Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, along with his wife Chirlane McCray, who directs the city’s mental health and drug addiction programs, filed a lawsuit against the manufacturers of prescription opiates. These opiates, including OxyContin, fentanyl, and Percocet, have resulted in tens of thousands of drug abuse deaths across the United States. The lawsuit, claiming $500 million in damages, aimed to “hold manufacturers and distributors to account” for the crisis.

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed in federal court by cities and counties across the United States, and are being handled by one federal judge in Ohio: Dan Polster. Nominated to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio by President Bill Clinton in 1997, he was confirmed by the Senate the following year. Polster was selected by a federal judicial panel in December 2017 to oversee more than 200 consolidated opioid-related lawsuits in multidistrict litigation.

New York City’s lawsuit targeted several companies led by Purdue Pharma, the creator of OxyContin. One of the original high-strength opioids, OxyContin entered the market two decades ago with an aggressive marketing campaign that failed to include warnings about addiction or abuse. Other defendants named in the lawsuit include Endo, the manufacturer of Percocet; Janssen, a fentanyl patch manufacturer; and Cephalon, the creator of fentanyl lozenge Actiq. Other defendants in the case include Teva, Watson, Johnson & Johnson, and Allegran.

High profile cases of opiate abuse have recently been in the headlines, with singers Prince and Tom Petty having fentanyl in their bloodstreams at the time of their deaths in 2015 and 2017. According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 47.7 million people in the United States abused prescription drugs or used illegal substances in 2015, with almost five out of every one hundred people abusing prescription painkillers. That same year, over 50,000 drug overdose deaths were recorded, with prescription or illegal opioids accounting for over 60% of those deaths.

Mayor de Blasio said the opioid epidemic was “a national tragedy” during a news conference announcing the lawsuit. “It’s time for Big Pharma to pay for what they’ve done.” Zachary Carter, New York City’s top prosecutor, denied the idea that the lawsuit represented a city initiative, calling it a “coincidence of timing”. New York City’s suit is similar to one the city of Chicago filed in 2014, a case that has produced millions of pages of documents and hundreds of interviews. New York City is being represented by Simmons, Hanly, Conroy, a firm based in Alton, Ill., in the suit.

Missouri Town Deals With Public Indecency, Police Blaming Flakka For Incident

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In early November, a strange item on the police blotter appeared in Sullivan, Missouri when four people began making a public spectacle of themselves as they broke into several buildings, removed their clothes and went as far as to shower themselves in soda water. Other reports say they were also barking like dogs and yelling incoherences in the town. One business even reported having lost over one thousand dollars after it was determined they had broken in and knocked over one of the establishment’s cash registers. “Some are scared, some are just surprised something like this is happening here. For the most part it’s a really quiet town,” commented Alec Ockrassa, general manager of the affected Sullivan Bowl. Two people were arrested, and others in the group were taken to a local hospital; police have identified a total of four people involved in the weekend incident.

 

While police have been unable to test the suspects, the authorities believe that the people were under the influence of a mixture of methamphetamine and flakka. Flakka is a manmade drug that often has extreme side effects, including strange behaviors such as those exhibited by the group in Sullivan. For example, removal of clothing is common in publicized reports of the drug’s effects, attributed by some to the drug’s tendency to raise the user’s body temperature. Other effects include hyper-stimulation, paranoia, delusions and an increase in aggression . Due to the increase in body temperature, extreme cases have resulted in heart or kidney damage. Flakka is very similar in chemical makeup to “bath salts” and has a similar appearance. Flakka usually comes in white or pink crystals and has a strong odor. Flakka can be taken in a variety of ways, including snorting, injection, vapor or even just eating the substance.

 

Flakka is rapidly increased in popularity due to its low price compared to other illicit drugs. In fact, flakka is 10 times stronger than cocaine. For perspective on how enticing that is to low-income drug users, an average price for a gram of cocaine is $62, while a hit of flakka can go for five dollars. “The high is pretty high, and getting off takes longer,” explains Dr. Indra Cidambi, medical director of Center for Network Therapy. Flakka is also said to serve as an aphrodisiac, giving the user an increased sex drive. However, the aphrodisiacal effects of flakka are believed to quickly plummet the more often the drug is used. The DEA classified flakka as a controlled substance, although it’s thought that making it illegal wouldn’t outright help matters, as flakka was developed as a cheaper, temporarily legal alternative to MDMA, which was banned.

Search For An HIV Vaccine May Go Through The Cow

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According to a July study done by the Scripps Research Institute, the process in which cows create antibodies could be a key step in developing a vaccine against HIV, the virus that develops into AIDS for millions of humans across the Earth. According to the study, when injected with viral proteins, cows are capable of producing antibodies that are able to block HIV infection. More specifically, the scientists injected four cows with a protein that mimics HIV and proceeded to isolate antibodies created by the cows over the course of a year. The scientists then further tested the antibodies to see if they were capable of blocking HIV from infecting cells.

The main concern scientists have run into when developing vaccines against HIV is that the virus mutates constantly, which makes it so that any successful vaccine has to prevent against a myriad of strains. The human immune system on its own does not usually create such broadly neutralizing antibodies. However, Scripps has noticed that these necessary broadly neutralizing antibodies are usually long and gangly, a description that applies to the antibodies normally created by cows.

The scientists were particularly surprised by how quickly the cows were able to produce the adequate amount of antibodies. Within two months, all the cows involved in the study were able to produce antibodies that blocked a wide variety of viral strains. They were also able to suppress the virus with lesser doses than human antibodies would require. “We definitely didn’t expect to get the response that we did. We didn’t expect the extent of the response or how quick the response developed. That was kind of mind-blowing,” was how Devin Sok, director for antibody discovery and development at the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, described his reaction to the results.

As for an explanation on just why cows are able to do this when humans currently aren’t, Dr. Vaughn Smider points to the uniqueness of the cow’s stomach as a potential source. Smider, who is a professor of molecular medicine for Scripps, says that the cow’s stomach’s large capacity contributes to the strength of its immune system. A cow’s stomach can hold as much as 20 gallons of digestive microbes, and is shaped in such a way that its antibodies need to be longer than human antibodies in order to reach the stomach’s grooves and crevices. “The cow immune system has to deal with keeping in check all these microorganisms,” Smider says.

While the headlines may call this a massive breakthrough, experts in the field caution that this is only a small step in the quest for creating an HIV vaccine. As Dr. John Mascola, director of vaccine research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explains: “The study… doesn’t tell us how to make a vaccine for HIV in people, but it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response.” Mascola also highlights the importance of using cows to develop an envelope that most closely represents HIV so that vaccine tests in the future can be as accurate as possible.

‘Pharma Bro’ Shkreli Calls EpiPen Price Hikers ‘Vultures’

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Two EpiPens used to treat severe allergic reactions with a dose of Epinephrine delivered in an autoinjector. John Makely / NBC News file

However, those without better insurance plans, or the uninsured, aren’t able to take advantage of the program.

Dr. John Vann, a pediatrician in Omaha, Nebraska recalled the mother of a 14-year-old girl with walnut allergies crying in his office two weeks ago. She was on an HSA with a high deductible, and an EpiPen dual pack would have cost over $600. She didn’t know how she would pay for it.

“You essentially have to have epinephrine around because if you have a reaction you need it,” said Vann. “They hardly ever get used and it’s a good thing — but if you don’t have it, you’re in trouble.”

After doing some quick internet research, Vann was able to find “Adrenaclick,” substitutable as a generic for EpiPen in 21 states, for just $200. The pharmacy was able to order it and have it available the next day.

Not all providers will cover it, though. He tried to do the same for another patient and the drugstore said that patient’s insurance only pays for EpiPens.

“They did a pretty good job marketing themselves where it’s just like Kleenex,” said Vann. “People don’t say ‘epinephrine auto injector,’ they say ‘EpiPen.'”

Patients also expressed outrage in tweets and Facebook posts, and emails to NBC News.

Donna, an archaeology educator in Birmingham, Alabama who asked only her first name to be used, told how she felt her mouth, tongue, and eyes swelling shut after she was stung 26 times by yellow jackets on caving expedition a few years ago. That’s when she learned for the first time that she was allergic. She hiked back several miles to her truck and sought treatment at the nearest hospital, two hours away.

“I barely survived and now have to carry two EpiPens at all times, even to the mailbox,” she wrote in an email. “For Mylan to be the sole producer of this product and hold my life, and the millions of children and adult lives hostage for profit, is extortion and an outrage.”

On Friday Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said he would investigate the “shocking increase.”

“As kids across the country head back to school, it is critical that their parents have affordable access to this life-saving product. I have heard from parents and first responders across Connecticut who are terrified that this steep price increase could put epinephrine out of reach for American families—and literally cost lives,” said the Senator in a statement released to NBC News.

“Sadly, this case is just the latest in a greedy trend of skyrocketing prescription drug prices that are hurting consumers, limiting health options, and strangling our economy. I will investigate this shocking increase and continue doing everything I can in the Senate to combat the rising cost of prescription drugs across the board.”

Senator Blumenthal was the original cosponsor of the bill whose passage awarded grants to states that required public elementary and secondary schools to maintain emergency supplies of epinephrine and authorized school personnel to administer it to students experiencing an anaphylactic reaction.

Source: NBC News

Johnson and Johnson Found Liable for Ovarian Cancer Link

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There have been links between the long term use of talcum powder and ovarian cancer. However, finding the manufacturer at fault for failing to label their product as possibly carcinogenic has been an uphill battle.

Lethal Injection

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The Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that current lethal injection techniques could continue to be used.  Prisoners on death row filed suit stating that the current technique used fell under cruel and unusual punishment.

Marijuana Legalization

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The landscape of the war on drugs has changed significantly within the past few years.  Currently, in many states, heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions.  Also, the rising use of prescription drugs has prompted some state governments to implement restrictions on refills of narcotic medication.  Also, with the increase in the use of narcotic medication and the influence of big pharma over many aspects of healthcare, it has become common for people to look for alternatives to habit forming narcotics.

Religious Freedom for Corporations

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There are plenty of corporations in the United States that have based their business models on religious principals. Most are Christian principals.  Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act, many of these Christian based corporations have decided that they do not have to provide birth control to their female employees under the Affordable Care Act, although, it is a requirement for them to do so.