* This is just insane…
Illinois emergency rooms experienced a 66 percent jump in opioid overdose visits last year, according to a new report that suggests the epidemic of heroin and prescription painkiller abuse is worsening in some states.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released state emergency room data Tuesday in a report that encourages hospitals to do more to combat outbreaks and prevent repeat overdoses.
The report found opioid-related emergency room visits rose an average of 35 percent across 16 states between July 2016 and September 2017. The increase was worst in the Midwest and in large metropolitan areas.
In the Midwest, Wisconsin saw a 109 percent jump in suspected opioid overdose visits. Visits rose 35 percent in Indiana, 28 percent in Ohio and 21 percent in Missouri.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has filed a lawsuit against the nation’s three largest opioid distributors, alleging they unlawfully circulated the addictive narcotics in Chicago.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court late Monday, is against AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp., which the city said account for about 90 percent of all revenues from prescription drug distribution and dominate the wholesale market in Chicago.
“These companies have a responsibility under state and federal law to exercise due diligence to prevent the illicit distribution of pharmaceuticals and yet they failed to reject or report suspicious orders and placed profits over public health,” Edward Siskel, the city’s top attorney, said in a statement. “We are filing this suit to hold them accountable.”
* And the Illinois Times has a must-read story on Springfield-based drug wholesaler HD Smith…
Profits can be immense – sales of OxyContin last year totaled a reported $1.8 billion, which was down 50 percent from five years ago. The family that owns Purdue Pharma, the privately held company that invented and sells the drug, was deemed the 16th richest in the United States by Forbes magazine in 2015, with most of an estimated $14 billion fortune based on the exploding popularity of a painkiller blamed for the death and addiction of tens of thousands of Americans. In 2007, the company pleaded guilty to criminal charges for misleading the government, physicians and patients about the dangers of OxyContin. The company was fined $600 million. In addition, three company executives entered guilty pleas as individuals and were hit with an additional $34.5 million in fines. Faced with scores of pending lawsuits, Purdue in February announced that it would end marketing campaigns of OxyContin to doctors.
As part of the supply chain, drug distributors also have fallen under scrutiny, and so H.D. Smith and other wholesalers have been hit with lawsuits and government inquiries, including the letter sent by the House Energy and Commerce Committee in January.
Citing data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the committee wrote that H.D. Smith in 2008 sold more than 1.1 million hydrocodone doses to Family Discount Pharmacy in Mount Gay-Shamrock, a West Virgina town that is home to 1,800 people – it works out to more than 3,000 pills per day. That same year, H.D. Smith sold more than 1.3 million doses of hydrocodone and oxycodone to Sav-Rite Pharmacy in Kermit, West Virginia, a town of 406. According to the congressional letter of inquiry, that’s five times the amount that such a rural pharmacy would be expected to need. The company between 2007 and 2008 also sold nearly 5 million hydrocodone pills to two small pharmacies in Williamson, West Virginia, where slightly more than 3,000 people live, the committee wrote. The committee based part of its concerns on stories in the Gazette-Mail, which has reported that H.D. Smith distributed more than 18 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012.
“Data provided to the committee by the Drug Enforcement Administration raises…questions regarding H.D. Smith’s efforts to monitor for, and mitigate, controlled substance diversion in West Virginia,” representatives from both parties wrote in the eight-page letter.
Emphasis added because… wow.
* Jump In Overdoses Shows Opioid Epidemic Has Worsened