Congress acts on opioid drug epidemic as judge unseals OxyContin files

by Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers

Here are some developments worth watching in the nation’s battle against the epidemic of opioid drug misuse that killed 28,000 Americans in 2014 alone:   

CONGRESS ACTS: Congressional negotiators now must confer to determine which parts of House and Senate measures to combat opioid drug abuse will go forward. The House just passed a package of bills, while the Senate approved its measures a month ago. A key difference dividing the two chambers is funding, with Democrats complaining that GOP lawmakers, particularly in the House, aren’t putting up new and real money for the anti-drug efforts to be effective. President Obama has sought $1.1 billion to combat the abuse of heroin and prescription, opioid medications.

JUDGE UNSEALS OXYCONTIN FILES: A state judge in Kentucky has rejected a drug maker’s attempt to keep sealed court records from a recent lawsuit over the marketing and abuse of the powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin. The online health news site Stat asked the court to open the records, arguing that the public had a huge need to know how OxyContin’s maker had so aggressively sold the drug, leading to widespread deaths and addiction, particularly in poor parts of the state. The drug maker settled with Kentucky, paying $24 million over allegations it illegally promoted OxyContin; the citizens of Kentucky had the right to know details of the case to decide if that settlement was fair and reasonable, the judge ruled in unsealing the court records. A key document from the Kentucky files that likely will attract considerable attention is sworn testimony from Richard Sackler. He’s a member of the family that owns the maker of OxyContin and is the firm’s president. He’s also an MD who was deeply involved in OxyContin’s development and marketing.

FORMER FDA HEAD BLASTS Rx PAINKILLERS: David Kessler, the physician who headed the federal Food and Drug Administration for seven years, has provided an unusually blunt assessment of the opioid epidemic, ripping narcotic prescription painkillers as “one of the great mistakes of modern medicine.” In an interview with CBS News, he said, “FDA has responsibility, the pharmaceutical companies have responsibility, physicians have responsibility. We didn’t see these drugs for what they truly are.” He goes on to blast Big Pharma, saying: “The inappropriate promotion of drugs contributed significantly to this epidemic. Because drug companies took a small piece, a sliver of science and widely promoted it as not being addictive. That was false.” He does cop out some, saying the epidemic took hold after he left as FDA chief in 1997.

A CRACKDOWN BY MAJOR INSURER, HMO: In California, one of the state’s largest health maintenance organizations and one of its largest health insurers both have taken steps to combat opioid drug abuse, according to a Los Angeles affiliate of National Public Radio. The HMO, Kaiser Permanent of Southern California, says it has instituted new measures in its care facilities to not only monitor the prescribing of painkillers but also to work with its physicians to reduce dosages of the potent medications. The insurer, Anthem Blue Cross, also is monitoring patients for whom it is paying to receive prescription painkillers. Anthem says it is requiring doctors to get insurer approval in advance before prescribing opioid meds, and it is asking them to explain and curtail larger, longer lasting dosages of the drugs.

ADDICTIVE DEBASEMENT: How debasing can prescription drug addiction become? Some of them turn to loperamide when they can’t get high from their usual supplies, emergency room doctors report. In case loperamide isn’t a familiar substance, the New York Times helpfully explains it is the key ingredient in such over-the-counter diarrhea treatments as Immodium. Addicts take the OTC drug to treat the stomach and gastric ills associated with withdrawal. But loperamide taken in extreme amounts also can produce its own dangerous high─with ER docs saying they have treated addicts with irregular heartbeats and death by overdose. Meantime, ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative web site, finds itself in the odd position of defending its public, online database that provides hard-to-find information on physicians’ prescribing practices. The site’s editors say they have information that some users may be using the data to find doctors more inclined to dispense painkillers for abuse. The database is intended to let patients and physicians understand how their prescribing compares with peers and best practices. ProPublica says that, for now, the data’s benefits outweigh its possible misuses, and the site is committed to being transparent and keeping the information available.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers

Patrick Malone & Associates P.C. | DC Injury Lawyers on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.