A witness who was a manager at an Insys call center described a high-pressure atmosphere where workers were encouraged to seek reimbursements from insurers even when the patient they were helping didn’t actually have cancer. As the trial enters its fifth week, prosecutors are continuing to try to paint the picture of a company concerned only with the bottom line no matter who gets hurt in the process. In other news on the national drug epidemic: chronic pain, babies with syphilis, states that are hard hit by the crisis, and more.
Bloomberg: Insys Call Center Revealed At Trial As Hotbed Of Opioid Lies
The goal for Insys Therapeutics Inc.’s call center in Phoenix was simple: persuade insurers to authorize at least 70 prescriptions a week of its expensive opioid spray. Workers would get bonuses for surpassing the goals, a former call center manager testified. Even if the patient had minor skin cancer decades earlier, employees were told to lie to insurers to get approval for the powerful and expensive drug, which had only been approved for “breakthrough” cancer pain, Elizabeth Gurrieri told a Boston jury. (Lawrence, 2/25)
The Washington Post: FDA Takes Fresh Look At Whether Opioids Are Effective For Chronic Pain
The Food and Drug Administration will require drug companies to study whether prescription opioids are effective in quelling chronic pain — another step in the government’s efforts to rein in use of the narcotics that spawned the drug epidemic. Some studies already indicate that opioids are ineffective for pain beyond 12 weeks and many experts say long-term use can cause addiction, by prompting patients to build up tolerance to the drugs and seek higher doses. But conclusive, controlled research is scarce. (Bernstein and McGinley, 2/25)
Stateline: More Babies Are Being Born With Syphilis. Blame Meth And Opioids.
Some of the communities hit hardest by the opioid epidemic and a related methamphetamine spike also are facing another health crisis: a steep rise in syphilis. It isn’t a coincidence. Many opioid users have started to use meth, either in combination with opioids or as a cheaper, more accessible alternative. Stimulants such as meth are even more likely than opioids to promote risky sexual behavior that increases the likelihood of contracting syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. (Alvarez, 2/26)
CNN: Opioid Epidemic: Eastern United States Most Affected
While there’s early evidence that the explosive rate of opioid deaths has started to slow, opioids killed more than 49,000 people in the United States in 2017, according to preliminary data. A new study reveals which part of the country has been affected the most by the ongoing epidemic. In a study of opioid deaths from 1999 to 2016, “we found that, in general, opioid mortality is skyrocketing,” said Mathew Kiang, a postdoctoral research fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Population Health Sciences. (Tinker, 2/22)
Columbus Dispatch: Former Mount Carmel Doctor Requests State Medical Board Hearing
A former Mount Carmel Health System doctor has requested a hearing before the State Medical Board of Ohio as the panel considers disciplining him over allegations that he prescribed inappropriately high doses of painkillers to critically ill patients. Dr. William Husel also asked for reports from expert witnesses and other records and that any recommendations from a hearing examiner be deliberated in public. He submitted the request through his attorneys on Friday. (Viviano, 2/25)
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