Archive for Opioid crisis

A Mother Sues Healthcare Providers over Son’s Death

HOPE Clinic pharmacies were sued by a mother who believes doctors at the clinic over-prescribed opioid medications to her son leading to his death. In a lawsuit, Inez Lewis said her son, Timothy Jason Lewis, who died on May 4, 2017, after overdosing, was introduced to drugs through negligent doctors’ prescriptions.

Inez claims that doctors at HOPE Clinic filled prescriptions despite suspicious prescription activity that violated the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act. The defendants in the lawsuit include; Cross Lanes Family Pharmacy Inc., four employees of HOPE Clinic, and Poca Valu-Rite Inc.

One of HOPE Clinic owners, James Blume, was among 12 people indicted in February for purportedly operating a pill mill at the clinic. Inez Lewis filed the lawsuit in Kanawha Circuit Court on June 29 on behalf of her son’s estate. This filing came four months after physicians, owners, employees, and managers at HOPE Clinic were accused of federal charges citing distribution of illegal substances.

The HOPE clinic team were accused of distributing Schedule II controlled substances, including oxycodone, outside their legal and intended medical purposes from November 2010 to June 2015. Their trials were rescheduled to November 5 from the original April dates presided at the Beckley courthouse by U.S. District Judge, Irene Berger.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration rates all drugs on a five-tier system. Schedule I drugs have no medicinal use and are highly addictive while Schedule V drugs have low addiction capabilities, and commonly used in the treatment of common ailments. Inez Lewis said that the physicians started prescribing her son methadone and oxycodone in 2014.

Both drugs are strong painkillers but are highly addictive and quite lethal as stated in Inez’s lawsuit. None of these drugs were medically necessary for Timothy Lewis, and they contributed to his opioid addiction whose overdose ultimately caused his death. No defendant in the lawsuit reported the “suspicious prescription activity” to any federal regulatory agencies.

Timothy Houston of Brown Houston PLLC in Charleston represented Inez Lewis. The case was assigned to Judge Duke Bloom. The clinic had locations in Wytheville, Virginia and Beckley, Charleston, and Beaver in West Virginia. In February 2015, HOPE Clinic in Charleston closed down after West Virginia Office of Health Facility Licensure officers decided the clinic was risking patient lives.

Clinic’s branch in Beaver was also shut down with similar reports of narcotic auditors. The 12 defendants are faced with multiple charges including maintaining drug-involved premises, conspiracy to commit money laundering, distribution of controlled substances, and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to these charges. Dr. John Pellegrini, a doctor at the Beckley HOPE Clinic is also charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. He pleaded guilty in April and faces a jail term of up to 20 years in federal prison.

According to Federal prosecutors, HOPE Clinics operated in a cash-based business set up. They never accepted insurance for compensation for medications and services offered. According to the indictment, the clinic received at least $21 million from patients in cash payments from 2012 to 2015. It is alleged that clinic owners contracted physician’s services who knew nothing about pain management.

The physicians also conducted incomplete, cursory, or no thorough medical examinations of patients on many occasions. Inez Lewis, through the lawsuit, seeks unstipulated compensation for damages. She wants compensation for emotional distress, expenses arising from her son’s care and treatment, mental anguish, funeral expenses, and the loss of her son’s advice, guidance, comfort, and companionship.

Inez also seeks court costs and attorney’s fees together with all punitive damages against the defendants.

Swinomish Files Lawsuit Against Big Pharmaceutical Company For Perpetuating Opioid Crisis

Big Pharmacy is no stranger to lawsuits and this time they’re in a bind against not only an individual but an entire tribe. The Swinomish Native American tribe in Washington has filed a lawsuit against huge pharmaceutical companies, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson and Johnson. Purdue Pharma is on the prime manufacturers of the deadly and addictive drug, Oxycontin. The Swinomish tribal community claims that the companies used false and misleading advertising techniques that “fueled the opioid epidemic and results in death and devastation to Swinomish families.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate of Native Americans and Alaska Natives dying from opioid overdoes skyrocketed four-fold between 1999 and 2013. By 2014, Native Americans had the highest death rate from opioid overdoes out of any other ethnic group in the country. The lawsuit attributes this increase and epidemic to the pharmaceutical companies. Further, the lawsuit states that the opioid epidemic affects the tribe culturally and economically and deceptive companies must be held accountable.

Swinomish Tribal Chairman Brian Cladoosby, the former president of the National Congress of American Indians says of the lawsuit: “We have been holding funerals while these companies reap record profits. It is time they are held accountable for the destruction they’ve caused in the Swinomish community.”

Purdue Pharmaceutical attempted to dismiss the Swinomish lawsuit but a King County Superior Court judge shut them down. Purdue also tried to counter lawsuits in South Carolina and Oklahoma and was not allowed.

For short-time rehabilitation to currently struggling opioid addicts, The Swinomish tribe established its own opioid dependency treatment center called The Didg’alic Wellness Center. “Didg’alic” is a Lushootseed word that translates roughly to “place where camas was dug” Camas is both a flower and food staples amongst Native American culture. This wellness center has been the Swinomish tribe’s way of taking back control in the out-of-control opioid crisis brought on by Big Pharma, but they feel the lawsuit will bring further justice.

Cladoosby sums up: “It’s very important for the companies to understand we feel they created a plague in the United States, and we don’t feel they’re doing enough to address it.”

Wake Up America! The Opioids Are Taking Over Medicine, One Dosage At A Time

Of the 77 million Americans that use opioids up to ninety-one Americans die from an overdose daily. Opioid medications are taken for chronic pain which occurs in at least fifty million Americans. It is ironic that the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies are in the middle of this opioid epidemic because physicians continue to prescribe Opioids despite the fact that they are highly addictive. Further, selling and manufacturing Opioids is, at yet still legal, but only can be dispensed with prescriptions. It is a well-known business practice for drug company employees to personally visit their physician clients to introduce the company’s specific drugs. Opana ER was wrongfully marketed for a more extensive treatment of ailments, which included back pain. Back pain requires a more prolonged use of Opana ER, increasing the risk of addiction.

While Canada is facing its opioid crisis, not all countries have followed the same route as the United States and Canada. For instance, the Germans use opioids at the same rate as the Americans but do not face a crisis because there is an emphasis on the proper ways that a physician should prescribe opioids. Further, in Japan, it is not as easy to obtain a prescription of opioids than it is from the physician in the United States. Thus, the emphasis in Germany and Japan is to use opioids to support palliative care to improve the patient’s quality of life.

The United States has looked at the practices of drug companies in marketing opioids to the public and physicians. Andy Beshear, the attorney general of Kentucky, took legal action against Endo Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions for the deceptive marketing and manufacturing of Opana ER a robust painkiller. These pharmaceuticals minimized the risk of taking Opana ER.

Two hundred Kentuckians, without knowledge of the risks of Opana ER, perished in 2016, while the pharmaceuticals’ misrepresented that its competitors’ drugs were at a higher risk than that of Opana ER.

What was most troubling, was that Endo misinformed physicians that risk screening tools would identify people that would be predisposed to find Opana ER addictive. Endo Pharmaceuticals has withdrawn Opana ER from the market in July 2017.