Two Former Drug Salesmen Arrested for Allegedly Paying Doctors to Prescribe Fentanyl

Two former drug salesmen were arrested last week for allegedly paying physicians to prescribe fentanyl, USA Today reports. Fentanyl has received heavy scrutiny after it was announced Prince died from an accidental overdose of the drug.

Fentanyl, a powerful opioid, can be up to 100 times more potent than morphine, the article notes.

The salesmen worked for Insys Therapeutics, which makes Subsys, a fast-acting form of fentanyl that is sprayed under the tongue. Subsys provides pain relief in as little as five minutes. In contrast, fentanyl patches provide a slow, continuous dose of painkiller.

According to the complaint, the salesmen paid two New York-area doctors $259,000 in kickbacks in 2014. Court documents say the doctors wrote more than $6 million worth of prescriptions for Subsys that year—more than all but a few physicians in the country. The complaint states that a manager for the company allegedly knew about the scheme, and told sales staff to demand that doctors prescribe large quantities of fentanyl in exchange for the payments.

Full story of drug salesman arrested prescribing Fentanyl at drugfree.org

Opioid Taper Program Helps Patients Take Less Medication Without More Pain

A new study suggests many patients who are taking a high dose of opioid medication to treat chronic pain are willing to taper off their medication if they are given guidance in how to cope with pain without drugs.

In many cases, patients who are able to taper off opioids find their pain doesn’t increase, and in some cases, it actually decreases, according to Beth Darnall, PhD, Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Dr. Darnall spoke about the study at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. She partnered with a Colorado physician, Richard L. Stieg, MD, who was closing his practice, which included many patients who were taking high doses of opioids. He had inherited many of the patients from other doctors.

Full story of the opioid taper program at drugfree.org

Study Links Economic Downturns and Drug Use

A new study concludes economic downturns lead to an increase in substance use disorders involving prescription pain relievers and hallucinogens. The connection is strongest among middle-aged white males with low levels of education.

The researchers studied the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and its potential impact on substance use, The Wall Street Journal reports. They find “clear evidence that substance-use disorders involving analgesics and hallucinogens are both strongly countercyclical,” meaning that such drug use increases when the economy falters.

The relationship between unemployment and painkiller abuse is especially strong among people who work in sales and service occupations, the researchers wrote in a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. They found in fields such as construction, maintenance, machine operators, transportation workers and the armed forces, heroin use was strongly countercyclical.

Full story of economics downturn and drug use at drugfree.org

Employers Facing Challenges in Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

Employers face a number of challenges in dealing with workers’ prescription drug abuse. Studies show people with addictions are much more likely to be sick, absent or use workers’ compensation benefits, according to NPR.

Opioids are often prescribed in workers’ compensation cases when painkillers are called for, the article notes.

“The more professional stature you have, the less likely you are going to be forced into recovery, and the longer your addiction is likely to go on unchecked,” said Patrick Krill, who directs a treatment program at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation focusing on lawyers and judges. Krill notes the legal profession has twice the addiction rate of the general population.

Full story of employers dealing with prescription drug abuse at drugfree.org

Teens Who Misuse Prescription Drugs More Likely to Engage in Risky Sexual Behavior

Teens who misuse prescription medications are more likely to have sex and engage in risky sexual behavior, a new study concludes.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found teens who misused prescription drugs were more likely than their peers who didn’t use prescription drugs for recreational reasons to be sexually active, not use a condom, use drugs or alcohol before sex, and have more sexual partners. The more teens misused prescription drugs, the more likely they were to engage in all of these risky behaviors, the study found.

Teens in the study misused drugs such as the prescription painkillers OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet or codeine; sedatives such as Xanax or Ativan, or stimulant drugs such as Ritalin or Adderall, HealthDay reports.

The study of more than 29,000 high school students appears in Pediatrics.

Full story of misuse of prescription drugs and risky sexual behavior in teens at drugfree.org