By Trudy Duffy, Substance Abuse Task Force/Volusia & Flagler Counties | Report


The dramatic increases in illicit sales, opioid induced deaths and addiction levels rose at the same time as manufacturers and medical groups promoted increased production despite mounting evidence of their abuse.


The dramatic increase in abuse in recent years is directly reflected in admissions to hospital emergency departments and addiction treatment centers. Opioid dependence is the leading contributing factor to child abuse and neglect in our state. As indicated below, the number of opiate addicted pregnant women and their unborn children increased by more than 400 percent between 2005 and 2009. In Volusia County the unfortunate rate of increase has surpassed that of the state as a whole.

In Volusia County the rate of increase surpasses that of Florida as a whole.

The Substance Abuse Task Force of Volusia & Flagler Counties strongly support the recently announced investigation by the Senate Finance Committee into the connections of drug manufacturers of narcotic painkillers and non-profit medical groups that have advocated increased use of prescription opioids for the treatment of pain. The dramatic increases in illicit sales, opioid induced deaths and addiction levels rose at the same time manufacturers and medical groups promoted increased production despite mounting evidence of their abuse.

A thorough investigation will help determine if regulators, physicians and patients may have relied on misleading information from manufacturers including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Endo Pharmaceuticals, backed up by supportive organizations including the American Pain Foundation, the Academy of Pain Medicine, and the Federation of State Medical Boards. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in a series of investigative reports, revealed that these and other nonprofits pushed for expanded use of the drugs while taking in millions of dollars from the companies that made them.

We believe the Senate investigation should thoroughly examine industry and related interest groups influence in increasing production quotas, promotion and marketing of a controlled substance, financial support for organizations providing literature sent to physicians and Federal and State Medical Boards responsible for developing care guidelines.

The current impact on Florida and Volusia County is witnessed daily in our treatment centers, neo-natal units, morgues, foster care system, jails, and drug courts. All social services are strained to provide adequate resources during a time of significant lack of government support at all levels.

We applaud the goals of this investigation. While the Task Force supports the compassionate management of pain, the minimization and misrepresentation of the risk of addiction has resulted in a public health tragedy.


Below are resources for those who are interested in knowing more or would like to help.

A few good links that will get you up to speed:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/09/health/senate-panel-to-examine-narcotic-drug-makers-financial-ties.html?_r=1

http://www.finance.senate.gov/newsroom/chairman/release/?id=021c94cd-b93e-4e4e-bcf4-7f4b9fae0047

The latter link takes you to the Finance Commitee website and there you can read their press release and download their letters to each individual entity being targeted.

HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP:
1. Call the offices of Senators Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley, the two Senators who are leading the charge. They are keeping track of public reaction to their investigation, and it is very important that we let them know we are watching and that we very strongly support this investigation. Call Senator Baucus’ office at 202-224-2651 and ask for Chris Law. Simply tell him who you are and that you strongly support the investigation. Call Senator Grassley’s office at 202-224-3744 and ask for Erika Smith. She is also tracking the response, so tell her you strongly support the investigation. You might need to leave them a voice message, that is good enough to get logged in as a supporter. Here is a sample statement you can use:

“Hi, I am (name) from (town, state) and I am calling to voice my strong support for the Senate Finance Committee investigation into the financial relationship between the narcotic manufacturers and various organizations and individuals who have promoted the increased use of prescription opioids. Thank you for undertaking this investigation.”

2. Writing is also important. The addresses for Senators Baucus and Grassley are:

Office of Senator Max Baucus
Chairman, Committee on Finance
United States Senate
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Attn: Chris Law

Senator Chuck Grassley
United States Senate
135 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Attn: Erika Smith

I would also note that you may wish to write to other members of this committee. There are several Senators who are sympathetic to this issue, for example Senator Schumer of New York. Senator Rockefeller is from West Virginia which of course has a terrible problem with opioids. Senator Hatch is the Ranking Republican, he may merit a letter given his senior status on the committee. You can get addresses off of the Finance Committee website at: http://www.finance.senate.gov/about/


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One Response to Florida’s Prescription Opioid Abuse Epidemic Needs Your Help

  1. Gary Broughman says:

    I agree with the concerns about drug abuse expressed by the writer, but the single, throwaway line given to the very real need to treat chronic pain is insufficient. When you don’t suffer from chronic pain it’s easy to dismiss. But those who do suffer have seen the fearful inhibition most doctors now exhibit when it comes to prescribing meds at the levels needed to curtail the pain. Even pain management clinics are reluctant.