Are all pharmaceuticals designed for population control?

Monday, September 24, 2018 by: S.D. Wells

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(Natural News) What’s the fourth leading cause of death in the United States? Don’t guess heart attacks, cancer, respiratory disease, strokes, diabetes, or traffic accidents. It’s death by prescription. That’s right, doctors in America are pushing “legal” drugs and people are taking them as prescribed and still falling off like flies. On average every year in America, there are about 40,000 deaths from motor vehicle wrecks, another 40,000 from firearm-related deaths, and then there are nearly 130,000 drug overdose deaths. Now, we know what you’re thinking. It’s just a bunch of suicides and junkies taking too many hard core street drugs. Nope. Wrong.

The CDC attributes the massive spike in overdose deaths to our nation’s exploding opioid addiction. Could that be the main reason the U.S. is still engaged in a “war” in Afghanistan? The poppy farming and distribution has also massively spiked since “W” Bush invaded the world’s home to heroin production. Now, Big Pharma in the United States is one huge cabal, and the drug dealers are medical doctors who scribble their signature on a piece of paper that propels one of the most dangerous addictions on planet earth – diluted heroin.

Two of every three Americans takes at least one prescribed drug regularly – all experimental “prescription” chemicals that are extremely dangerous

New drug approvals are at an all-time high. They’re fast tracked through the FDA (Fraud and Death Administration) and stamped for approval by the pharma mafia who participate in the FDA’s revolving door – back and forth from the cabal (Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novartis, Eli Lilly, Sanofi, Bayer, Bristol Myers Squibb, etc) to approving drugs that make them filthy rich. Nobody gets busted for insider trading at the FDA or working for Big Pharma.

As the opioid overdose epidemic sweeps across America, killing children, teens, young adults, rich folks, old folks, and anybody who partakes, health care providers make no attempt to regulate the abuse, in fact, they perpetuate it. Doctors and pharmacists alike cross-prescribe drugs for conditions that the drugs aren’t even tested or marketed for, if that even mattered in the first place.

Doctors prescribe more drugs to treat the horrific side effects of the drugs patients are already addicted to and dying from. People take their friend’s prescribed drugs, visit multiple doctors, then deal prescription drugs at school and college. The FDA can’t even keep up with all the adverse events reported, and when people are prescribed a dozen different medications, nobody knows what the hell is really wrong with them anymore.

Prescription drugs are a prescription for an early death, just as the quack allopathic “doctors ordered”

In 2018, 130,000 people will die as a result of taking medications as prescribed by their doctor. These are supposedly medical professionals who are just winging it now. Even though they all went to medical school for eight years, all they do is scribble out multiple prescriptions for experimental concoctions.

Unless you have a deep wound or a broken bone, you might as well be writing your own epitaph — and will when you start taking prescription pharmaceuticals, because you’re heading full steam towards an early grave, and there’s no predicting how quickly that surprise might arrive.

The U.S. government can’t afford to pay everyone the social security money they earned their entire hard-working lives, and it’s no longer part of the master plan anyway. The country is in debt $20 trillion dollars and counting. Massive inflation is on the way. Besides organic food, most American food is poisoned with pesticides, fluoride, GMOs, artificial flavoring, synthetic coloring, and processed until it’s all void of nutrition.

Hospital food will kill you all by itself, if the medications and the superbugs (MRSA and CRE) don’t get to you first. Vaccines are loaded with mercury, aluminum, embalming fluid for the dead (formaldehyde), blood from other animals including human abortions, E. coli (seriously, they are), and genetically modified organisms. Let’s face it folks, prescription medications and vaccines are weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

It’s all about reducing the world’s population, and the formula is toxic food followed by toxic medicine, including vaccines

By far, the most deaths (about 2,500 per week) and hospitalizations are occurring from pharmaceuticals that are properly prescribed by physicians and taken “as directed.” This does not include people who die from prescribing errors, self-medicating, or overdosing. The most drastic, dire warnings called “Black Box” warnings, only come out seven years after FDA-approved drugs start killing people off in big  numbers.

Big Pharma wants to make their billions before settling court cases in the millions. It’s all about the money and taking people “out” early. No drugs are removed from the market until chronic carnage has already taken place.

Only a few drugs have ever been pulled from the market. Do you remember the Vioxx scandal? People were dying from strokes and heart attacks from Merck’s blockbuster painkiller. Then there was the killer diet drug called Meridia. The irony is that nearly all chronic ailments, diseases and disorders now prominent in America are caused by eating processed food daily. Then, the “sheeple” are prescribed deadly drugs and it doesn’t even matter if they take them “as recommended” by their M.D. quacks.

Got pain? Got anxiety? Got depression? Try eating organic food, drinking real spring water, and visiting a Naturopath Physician. Unless you plan on being another zombie suffering from brittle bones, mutated cells and dementia, you might want to veer clear of prescription drugs – the fourth leading killer in the United States of America. Just check the Pharma Death Clock if you have any doubts.

Want to learn the cure for 97 percent of diseases? Watch this video of Dr. John Bergman. And see DangerousMedicine.com for more reports on the dangers of prescription medications. (Click to Source)

Sources for this article include:

Health.USnews.com

NaturalNews.com

CenterOnAddiction.org

MedicalNewsToday.com

NaturalNews.com

CDC.gov

FDA.news

PharmaDeathClock.com
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As opioid crisis raged, Insys pushed higher doses of addictive drug and pushed salespeople to ‘own’ doctors

Published: Oct 19, 2018 7:19 a.m. ET

Concerning sales tactics involving a potent opioid medication were highlighted in a new Senate committee report

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Family members of those who died of opioid overdoses take part in a rally to end the opioid epidemic in Washington, D.C., in 2016.

To sell addictive opioids, sales representatives were encouraged to “own” doctors, keeping a close eye on how and how much they prescribe.

Speaker programs that helped drive sales left out safety problems and, in one instance, didn’t say that Insys, the drug’s manufacturer, was sponsoring the event.

And high dosages of the addictive opioid Subsys were linked to bonus payments, with company presentations encouraging this behavior through slogans like “Strength Makes the Difference” and “Don’t Forget the Doses.”

“It is much easier to take an existing patient and double their units (which in essence is the same as generating a new prescription),” one sales manager wrote, referring to patients as “low hanging fruit.”

Those tactics and more were hallmarks of drugmaker Insys Therapeutics Inc.’s INSY, -2.20%  approach at the height of the opioid crisis, according to a new report from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s minority staff.

The Chandler, AZ-based Insys has become notorious for the role it played in advancing America’s devastating, drawn-out opioid crisis, which continues to this day.

Subsys consists of the potent opioid fentanyl, formulated in a spray that allows the drug to work faster. Approved for use in managing cancer patients’ pain, Subsys came on the U.S. market in 2012, and sales grew to roughly $329 million in 2015, at what appears to be the peak.

After a Department of Justice investigation into the company’s promotion of the medication, Insys agreed to pay at least $150 million in fines. Former executives as well as doctors also had criminal charges brought against them.

The new report “pertains to past events involving former employees that would have occurred well before 2016 and have since been dealt with by the company,” said Insys spokesperson Joe McGrath. McGrath had not reviewed the report when he spoke with MarketWatch and did not comment specifically on the facts cited in the report.

Pharmaceutical companies often bring in speakers, usually doctors, to discuss their products and drive sales. Insys viewed speaker programs as the crown jewel of its sales strategy.

The programs “are basically the ONLY thing you should be focusing on to increase your sales,” Sales executive Alex Burlakoff wrote to all sales personnel in 2013, according to the Senate committee report. “If you are not living, eating, and breathing [Insys speakers programs] to drive sales, you should not be in specialty pharma.”

In fact, speaker programs generated six times more revenue per prescriber, according to an internal company presentation cited in the report. Doctors also got more speaking opportunities when they met the prescribing expectations that Insys set for them, the report said.

However, the speaker programs had serious problems, including the omission of safety information in more than one presentation — something an outside consultant brought up with the company in 2014.

Insys later cut down on, and then stopped, the speaker programs, the Senate report — based on 1.6 million pages of internal company documents that were requested by Sen. Claire McCaskill — noted.

Insys also encouraged salespeople to push off-label prescriptions of Subsys, or prescriptions of the drug intended for non-cancer patients, the report found.

An external consultant called this strategy “troubling” in 2016, according to the report, saying that it “incentivized non-compliant behavior and was way outside the norm.”

Internal company communications also instructed employees that they must “own” doctors, including by tracking doctors’ prescribing rates and encouraging them to prescribe more, according to the new report.

Representatives should “[o]wn your territory — own a doctor — and own your destiny,” Burlakoff wrote in another email to sales representatives.

Insys’ opioid sales tactics have been the subject of many additional lawsuits, including from the state of New Jersey and health insurer Anthem. Opioid litigation, which has been brought against many drugmakers and drug distributors, could well rival the well-known lawsuits against Big Tobacco.

Insys shares rose 1% in Wednesday trade. Shares have surged 21.7% over the last three months, compared with a 0.1% rise in the S&P 500 SPX, -0.04%  and a 2.5% rise in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.26%  . (Click to Source)
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New opioid is 500X more powerful than morphine and it could be on the market soon

By: Justin Gray

Updated: 

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WASHINGTON, DC – There are concerns over a new, even stronger opioid – and an FDA committee is recommending its approval.

Critics warn the new drug could be even more dangerous than oxycotin or fentanyl.

The question critics are asking is why would the FDA want to approve a stronger opioid right in the middle of a nationwide addiction crisis.

An DSUVIA is 500 times more powerful than morphine.

“It’s 5 to 10 times more potent than fentanyl and it actually goes underneath your tongue,” said Public Citizen’s Meena Aladdin.

The pill dissolves immediately when placed under the tongue by an applicator, meaning besides being powerful, it’s more fast-acting than other opioids.

The FDA drug advisory committee voted overwhelming 10 to 3 to recommend approving the drug Friday.

Critics like Aladdin said the strength and speed of DSUVIA make it attractive to addicts.

“It is yet another drug on the market that could allow for another avenue for abuse,” Aladdin said.

The drug maker, Acelrx said in a statement: “We believe DSUVIA represents an important non-invasive acute pain management option with potential to significantly improve the current standard of care.”

The FDA rejected approving the drug last year because of concerns it could get into the wrong hands.

So this time, the application included guidelines states that the drug must be administered by a trained healthcare professional.

This vote is not the final say. The FDA does not have to follow the committee’s recommendation, but usually does.

An FDA spokesman told Channel 2 Action News they don’t comment on specific drugs pending approval. (Click to Source)

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Lake County prepares to sue opioid makers

  • Updated 

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Lake County is poised to join a national wave of lawsuits against the makers of opioid-based painkillers.

The county commissioners have retained a group of Texas- and Montana-based law firms to represent them in a lawsuit against several drug manufacturers. This step links Lake County to hundreds of other local governments who charge the companies with stoking the opioid-abuse crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control report that overdose deaths from prescription opioids increased fivefold from 1999 to 2016, claiming more than 200,000 Americans in that time. Prescription opioid overdoses have killed 700 Montanans since 2000,according to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services.

This problem has drained county resources, said Commissioner Dave Stipe. “We know that there were costs, just like we know how meth costs us money.”

In recent years, state attorneys general, and local and tribal governments, have started trying to recoup these costs by taking the drug makers to court, accusing them of deceptive marketing practices that denied or downplayed the painkillers’ risks. One of their main targets, Purdue Pharma Inc., did not reply for a request for comment on this story, but has denied these allegations when they’re raised in other lawsuits, and stressed its commitment to being part of a solution to the opioid epidemic.

In May, hundreds of these cases were bundled together in a massive multidistrict litigation in the federal court system’s Northern District of Ohio, where Judge Dan Aaron Polster will start hearing the first cases next year.

One of the key firms involved in this litigation, Dallas-based Simon Greenstone Panatier Bartlett P.C., has partnered with Montana firms to represent Treasure State communities.

“Of the 56 counties, the most populated counties have been approached,” said attorney Scott Stearns, a shareholder at Missoula’s Boone Karlberg P.C. The firm, in conjunction with Simon Greenstone and others in the state, now represents Cascade and Gallatin counties, as well as Anaconda-Deer Lodge and Great Falls.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have secured representation from Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry LLP — a firm specializing in Indian law — in partnership with other firms, but they have not yet filed any complaints.

Stearns explained that, when filed, Lake County’s complaint will closely resemble the one that Cascade County filed last November. It accuses Purdue and several other drug manufacturers of fielding a deceptive, multi-pronged marketing campaign that transformed opioids from a rarely-used painkiller into a profitable product line, at devastating financial and human cost.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox made similar accusations against drug makers in a lawsuit currently pending in state court. But while that case seeks court-ordered penalties for the drug makers’ alleged violations of state laws, as well as reimbursement of Medicaid and other state funds that Purdue obtained through its activities, Commissioner Stipe explained that Lake County is focused on other needs.

“We’re suing for what it costs the police to respond, what it costs the court to prosecute, what it costs the health department” — the local toll of the opioid epidemic.

“It’s under the theory of, ‘You broke it, now you have to buy it,’” Stearns said. “They’ve broken the system here in America, and now they have to pay for the solution, and the solution is usually at the community level.”

At the same time, “we want to be somewhat selective” in picking cases. “We want to make the best case we can, and some counties have more clear-cut cases than others.” Stearns and his colleagues identified Lake County and the Flathead Indian Reservation as areas with “more of an opioid and drug problem than other areas that lead to jail overcrowding and dependent-neglect” cases.

George Simpson, a sergeant with the Polson Police Department, has seen these challenges firsthand. “When you have users, that obviously becomes a strain on first responder resources, and we try as hard as we can,” he said. His agency is currently training officers to administer naloxone, a lifesaving nasal-spray medication that counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose.

But the challenge goes far beyond reviving users. “You start to see an increase in property crimes, you start to see an increase in domestic violence,” as users’ habits prompt them to steal, and sour their relationships. “Treatment centers can be expensive,” too, he added.

All of these ills have drained public coffers in Lake County, Stipe said. “We don’t have the hard data yet, but we know for sure that some of the people who served hard time in jail … were there because of opioid addiction,” he said. Stearns agrees. “Early on we recognized Lake County as an important client to have to tell the full Montana story,” he said.

Under the retention agreement, the law firms will receive compensation up to 25 percent of gross recovery from the case, in addition to attorney’s fees and litigation-associated costs. “In the event that no recovery is realized, the law firms shall receive no compensation or reimbursement,” the contract states.

While a county employee will be designated to monitor the claims, Lake County is not required to assign a staff member to pursue them. “Lake County and the Law Firms both recognize that the claims present numerous factual and legal obstacles and that no assurance of success on the claims has or can be made,” according to the retention agreement.

Some Montana localities have been wary about litigating their opioid problems. In January, Butte-Silver Bow County Commissioners voted against joining the fight, citing the lawyers’ profit motives, the litigious trends in U.S. society and the absence of solid local data on the matter.

Missoula County Commissioners voiced similar concerns last November, with Deputy County Attorney John Hart telling the Missoula Current that “we have not seen, at least from a criminal justice standpoint, a significant opioid problem in Missoula County that’s costing us a lot of money and that we can quantify.”

In a follow-up email to the Missoulian, Hart said that County Commissioners did discuss the topic over the summer, but “no decisions have been made” yet. The City of Missoula has not yet decided whether to take part.

Lake County will need to tally the costs of its opioid problem for inclusion in a Plaintiff Fact Sheet. Commissioner Stipe expects that any damages or settlement funds that reach Lake County will be distributed to the involved groups in proportion to the costs they bore.

However the litigation plays out, the Polson Police Department’s Simpson predicts that resolving the problem will take time.

“The whole country didn’t get in this problem overnight, so it’s not going to be an overnight solution.” (Click to Source)

 
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Chuck Norris blasts drug overdoses: Worse than we think

Search is on for drugs that kill pain, not people

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Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, in 2015, more than 20,000 overdose deaths in this country were directly related to prescription pain relievers. Given all the media attention on this subject, you may not be at all surprised by such statistics. As bad as this news is, it is likely underestimated.

Recent research by a team at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Public Health revealed that many drug overdoses are so broadly classified that they are not being counted properly as opioid-related.

As stated in the report published in the journal Public Health, “Potentially 70,000 opioid-related, unintentional overdose deaths from 1999 through 2015 have been missed because of incomplete reporting, indicating that the opioid overdose epidemic may be worse than it appears.” The University Of Pittsburgh findings support other recent studies that show opioid overdoses as undercounted.

When health care professionals refer to opioids, they are referencing a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin, as well as the lawful prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and fentanyl. A large number of overdoses today are currently being attributed to new drugs, including fentanyl-related substances. It is believed that the problem of opioid-related deaths could get even worse as new synthetic drugs come on to the market.

The dilemma we now find ourselves in: More than one-third of the population experiences some form of acute or chronic pain in the U.S. When looking at older populations, this number rises to 40 percent. Opioids effectively kill pain. That is what they are being prescribed to do. They also can kill people and create drug addicts. To combat pain, we desperately need safer pain medications. One of the most common conditions linked to chronic pain is chronic depression. It is a major cause of suicide.

In an effort to come up with a safer solution, biochemist Dr. Tao Che, a research associate at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is focusing on a structural and functional study of opioid receptors – in particular, what are known as mu and kappa opioid receptors. Nealy all currently marketed opioid drugs exert their drug action through the mu opioid receptor (clinically called MOR).

MORs are embedded in the surface membrane of brain cells and block pain signals when activated by a drug. As described by Dr. Che in an analysis posted on the Conversation, in addition to blocking pain, current opioids stimulate portions of the brain that lead to additional sensations of “rewarding” pleasure, as well as disrupt certain physiological activities. The “pleasure” trigger may lead to addiction, the “physiological” disruption can lead to death. As Che writes, “Which part of the brain is activated plays a vital role in controlling pain. For example, MORs are also present in the brain stem, a region that controls breathing. Activating these mu receptors not only dulls pain but also slows breathing. Large doses stop breathing, causing death.”

MOR is not the only opioid receptor. According to Che, there are two other closely related proteins – called kappa and delta, or KOR and DOR respectively – that also alter pain perception.

Recent lab studies are now focusing much of their attention on the KOR protein due to its ability to block pain without triggering euphoria, meaning it is non-addictive. This receptor also does not slow respiration, which means it also is not lethal. It is not without some side effects, primarily sensations of unease or sleepiness. This issue is being addressed. The ultimate goal is to design a drug that only targets the pain pathway without side effects; to utilize what are called “biased” opioids and transform these molecules into safer drugs.

I wish Che and his colleagues well. The fate of so many could depend on their success. Let us pray that the solution does not debut as yet another new exclusive high-priced designer drug by a major pharmaceutical company – one that puts the major financial burden for access on the patient. Without affordability, the introduction of such a solution would essentially be meaningless in fighting the drug overdose epidemic.

Health plans that put patients on the hook for thousands of dollars in monthly medical costs are widespread in this country and growing. The industry rationale has been that requiring workers to shoulder more of the cost of care will also encourage them to cut back on unnecessary spending. In a world where so many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, that result was never going to happen.

Instead, studies now show that many folks are choosing to put off routine care or skipping prescribed medication entirely to save money. They simply are reducing the amount of medical care they use – including preventative care. As a result, illnesses that might have been caught early go undiagnosed. Many conditions go on to become potentially life threatening and enormously costly for the medical system.

The Trump Administration recently charged that drug companies are keeping lower-cost drugs out of the market. These mega companies are “gaming” the regulatory processes and the patent system in order to unfairly maintain monopolies, the announcement said. This is one area the Administration’s “American Patients First” Plan, announced in May, is targeted to address.

In response to the president’s announcement, Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer for AARP, told Forbes’ Robin Seaton Jefferson: “There is no justifiable reason for Americans to pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world. High-priced drugs hurt everyone, and seniors, who on average take 4.5 medications a month, are particularly vulnerable.”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s “The State of US Health, 1990-2016” study found preventive services are key to giving everyone an opportunity to achieve their best state of health. Preventative health appears to be one of the areas in greatest jeopardy. (Click to Source)

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11 big signs of opioid addiction everyone should know

July 22, 2018

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Many people use opioid to deal with chronic pain.

However, when they overuse the drug, they become addicted to it.

it is not always easy to tell if someone you know has an addiction to opioids.

But researchers from University of Michigan suggest 11 signs of opioid addiction everyone should know:

Taking a substance in larger or longer amounts than intended

Prescription painkillers are meant to be a short-term fix. Any long-term use can mean something is wrong.

Cannot curb or control opioid use

Even if a person wants to quit, s/he cannot do it due to some difficulties.

That’s because genetic, environmental and psychological factors put some opioid users at an elevated risk for addiction.

Excess time spent obtaining, using or recovering from opioid use

A person addicted to opioids might spend a lot of time and money seeking drugs. Sometimes they may find other substances to use instead.

Craving or strong urge to use opioid

A user might be well aware that opioids have negative consequences, but s/he just wants to get more.

Repeat failure to fulfill work, home or school duties

Opioid use can disrupt body clock and cause sedation, the effects can affect existing life duties — and be noticeable to others.

Continued opioid use despite related social problems

Personality changes such as irritability may indicate an opioid problem. A user may keep using drugs even the behavior has already cause tensions in relationships.

Withdrawal from social, occupational or recreational activities

Many opioid users who become addicted skip leisure pursuits or group outings. They do less and less and it might not be clear why.

Recurrent opioid use in physically hazardous situations

Much like those who struggle with an addiction to alcohol, acting recklessly under the influence of opioids is a known side effect.

Those behaviors may include recklessness while swimming, driving or using machinery or having unsafe sex.

Continued use despite a persistent physical or psychological issue

Opioids can worsen mental health conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder.

And those patients already are more vulnerable to addiction.

A need for more opioid to achieve intoxication

Continued opioid use slows endorphin production, leading a user to seek more to receive the same pleasure.

Withdrawal symptoms are evident

Diarrhea, sweating and moodiness, among other things, can occur when the drugs wear off.

The symptoms are not medically dangerous, but they can be extremely uncomfortable. Moreover, they can lead to more opioid use to counteract the effects.

So how to treat opioid addiction?

Experts suggest various treatment options are available, including visiting opioid specialists and taking drugs designed to help people with addiction.

A patient’s primary care doctor — or the doctor who prescribed the opioid — can help assess the situation and recommend options.

Support from families and loved ones is very important.

It’s also recommended that households with a person with opioid addiction keep a supply of Narcan (naloxone). The drug can rapidly counteract a narcotic overdose. (Click to Source)

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These Pills Could Be Next U.S. Drug Epidemic, Public Health Officials Say

Officials call for prescription curbs, as anxiety drugs show up in more overdose deaths.
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THE PEW CHARITABLE TRUSTS
Clonazepam (traded as Klonopin), diazepam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax) are among the most sold drugs in a class of widely prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines. Public health officials warn the pills should be used only in the short term and should never be mixed with opioids or alcohol.

By Christine Vestal

 

The growing use of anti-anxiety pills reminds some doctors of the early days of the opioid crisis.

Considered relatively safe and non-addictive by the general public and many doctors, Xanax, Valium, Ativan and Klonopin have been prescribed to millions of Americans for decades to calm jittery nerves and promote a good night’s sleep.

But the number of people taking the sedatives and the average length of time they’re taking them have shot up since the 1990s, when doctors also started liberally prescribing opioid painkillers.

As a result, some state and federal officials are now warning that excessive prescribing of a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines or “benzos” is putting more people at risk of dependence on the pills and is exacerbating the fatal overdose toll of painkillers and heroin. Some local governments are beginning to restrict benzo prescriptions.

When taken in combination with painkillers or illicit narcotics, benzodiazepines can increase the likelihood of a fatal overdose as much as tenfold, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. On their own, the medications can cause debilitating withdrawal symptoms that last for months or years.

Public health officials also warn that people who abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines risk seizures or even death.

With heightened public awareness of the nation’s opioid epidemic, some state and local officials are insisting that these anti-anxiety medications start sharing some of the scrutiny.

“We have this whole infrastructure set up now to prevent overprescribing of opioids and address the need for addiction treatment,” said Dr. Anna Lembke, a researcher and addiction specialist at Stanford University. “We need to start making benzos part of that.”

“What we’re seeing is just like what happened with opioids in the 1990s,” she said. “It really does begin with overprescribing. Liberal therapeutic use of drugs in a medical setting tends to normalize their use. People start to think they’re safe and, because they make them feel good, it doesn’t matter where they get them or how many they use.”

Public health officials also warn that people who abruptly stop taking benzodiazepines risk seizures or even death.

The number of adults filling a benzodiazepine prescription increased by two-thirds between 1996 and 2013, from 8 million to nearly 14 million, according to a review of market data by Lembke and others in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite the known dangers of co-prescribing painkillers and anti-anxiety medications, the rate of combined prescriptions nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013.

Since then, prescriptions for benzodiazepines may have leveled off or declined slightly, according to recent data from a market research firm that tracks prescription drug sales, the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. At the same time, opioid prescribing has dropped by more than a fifth.

Still, Lembke said, the level of prescribing is much higher than it was in the mid-1990s and benzo dependence appears to be rising based on her own clinical observations.

First marketed in the early 1960s, benzodiazepines have been cyclically abused throughout their history. What’s notable now, Lembke said, is that overuse of benzos is coinciding with overuse of opioids.

But a newly formed group of researchers and pharmacologists, the International Task Force on Benzodiazepines, wrote in an editorial that recent negative publicity has made it difficult for many doctors around the world to prescribe medications they consider essential.

Some scientific articles “achieved a common goal that negative propaganda frequently reaches: they aroused suspicion of benzodiazepines and suggested difficulties in using them, while overlooking their benefits,” the pharmacologists said. (Three of the 17 co-authors reported having consulted for or received support from drug companies.)

Psychiatrists, including Lembke, agree that relatively inexpensive benzodiazepines can be effective at relieving acute cases of anxiety and sleeplessness.

Physicians agree that benzos should not be used long term to solve psychiatric problems. Research indicates that use of the drugs for more than a few weeks can cause tolerance, including withdrawal symptoms between doses, and physical and psychological dependence.

To raise awareness of benzodiazepines’ dangers, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and New York City have issued prescribing guidelines that limit the duration of Xanax, Valium and other benzo prescriptions, similar to many state guidelines for opioids.

In addition, the Massachusetts Legislature this month passed a wide-ranging opioid bill that included benzodiazepines as a class of restricted drugs.

Nationwide, most states require doctors and pharmacists to track opioid prescribing through online databases that monitor patients who receive them and doctors who prescribe them. Benzodiazepines are not included in half of the states, according to an analysis of state laws by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which also supports Stateline.

Mounting Dangers

As prescriptions for benzodiazepines have grown since the late 1990s, so have deaths, according to a study at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that overdose deaths involving benzodiazepines quadrupled from 2002 to 2015.

New highly potent forms of benzodiazepines that are illicitly traded are also causing overdose deaths, addiction doctors say. Adding to the dangers, the Drug Enforcement Administration has reported that the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl has been found in counterfeit forms of Xanax.

Xanax and Valium were involved in more than 30 percent of opioid overdose deaths between 2010 and 2014, far more than cocaine and methamphetamines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In some parts of the country, the prevalence of Xanax in drug overdose autopsy reports was even higher.

Xanax for the past several years has been found in more overdose autopsies in Kentucky than any specific opioid, according to Dr. Kelly Clark, president of the American Society of Addiction Medicine and an addiction doctor who lives in the state. “In fact, community mental health centers in Louisville stopped prescribing Xanax because it is such a common drug of abuse and so dangerous in combination with alcohol and opioids,” she said in an interview with Stateline.

Better Information

Researchers and patient advocates argue more needs to be done to educate medical students and inform doctors and patients about the drugs’ dangers.

Dr. Christy Huff, who is in recovery from dependence on Xanax, co-directs the Utah-based Benzodiazepine Information Coalition. The nonprofit advocates for stronger warnings for patients who take Xanax and other benzos, as well as better education for prescribing physicians.

“Our population of patients is experiencing extremely difficult withdrawals, and they have neurological injuries because of unsafe prescribing,” Huff said. “Doctors need to be informed that the medications should be prescribed for no more than two to four weeks. They were always meant to be short term.”

In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the dangers of combining opioids and benzodiazepines. That prompted many doctors to force patients to choose one drug over the other without warning them about the potential symptoms of withdrawal such as seizures or even death, Huff said.

“Patients who are on the medications should be given the choice of how and when they are tapered off,” she said. “Too many doctors are taking people off their prescriptions too rapidly.”

The benzo task force wrote in its editorial that it was developing research that it hoped would support preserving the drugs as a valuable part of the medical arsenal. (Click to Source)

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