Feature on the Opioid Crisis

The Empire Files program did a feature on the opioid crisis that focuses on the behavior of criminogenic pharmaceutical corporations. It is particularly notable for noting that big pharmaceutical corporations have targeted and still do target economically ravaged places suffering from significant despair.

Economic despair is at the core of the opioid epidemic. A lot of those people addicted to opioids would have done much better if they had meaningful work to occupy their time and give them a sense of purpose. Unfortunately though, in many sectors the economic system is so dysfunctional that it fails to provide even basic elements of meaningful community work for people.

There’s a disturbing graph that shows utilization of capacity, and it reveals that there are many, many billions of dollars being lost due to capacity such as buildings not being used. It isn’t because there’s a lack of needed work — on the contrary, looking around plenty of places will have a reasonable person saying that there’s a lot that needs to be done. So there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of capacity (23 percent in the graph) pointlessly sitting idle, and there’s an economic system that isn’t putting them together for productive benefits.

Screenshot-2017-12-5 Capacity Utilization Total Industry

The U.S. government could enact a massive infrastructure project that would create millions of jobs and/or it could provide low interest loans to support worker cooperatives in economically downtrodden communities. There are other solutions too, and they also need significant will to be applied. The point to make here though is that the situation doesn’t have to be that bleak for the communities, and there’s actually a clear enough method to reconstruct what has been mismanaged.

Opioid Epidemic Cost Revised to a Staggering $504 Billion Annually

The roots of the crisis are found in the criminogenic pharmaceutical corporations and the dysfunctional U.S. economic system. More Americans die every year (about 60,000) as a result of the opioid crisis than the number who died in the Vietnam War. With $500 billion in annual costs, it also means that two years of the opioid crisis will roughly equal the direct costs of fighting the Vietnam War.

The opioid epidemic sweeping the U.S. is far costlier than once thought, with the economic impact of the crisis exceeding half a trillion dollars, according to a new report by White House economists.

The epidemic cost the American economy $504 billion in 2015, which was the equivalent of 2.8 percent of gross domestic product that year, according to the report by the Council of Economic Advisers, or CEA. The White House’s figures are more than six times larger than a previous study because it incorporates the value of lives lost to the epidemic.

The findings come less than a month after the Trump administration declared widespread opioid abuse a public health emergency while stopping short of freeing up federal disaster funds to tackle the problem.

A study released last year estimated the cost of the opioid crisis in 2013 at $79.9 billion, adjusted to 2015 dollars. The White House economists said prior research (see table) didn’t capture the full impact because it at times only measured health-care expenditures or earnings lost from those who die — which overlooks “other valuable activities in life besides work.”

The CEA also said it made adjustments to more accurately measure the number of opioid-related deaths, which often go underreported, and focused on illicit opioids as well as prescription drugs.

“This is the first but not the last publication CEA plans to issue on the opioid crisis,” according to the report. “A better understanding of the economic causes contributing to the crisis is crucial for evaluating the success of various interventions to combat it.”

Pharmaceutical Corporation Faked Its Number of Cancer Patients to Sell Drugs

What was this fraud for? It was for selling more powerful opioids, for more corporate profits, even during the ongoing opioid crisis.

When Insys Therapeutics got approval to sell an ultra-powerful opioid for cancer patients with acute pain in 2012, it soon discovered a problem: finding enough cancer patients to use the drug.

When Insys Therapeutics got approval to sell an ultra-powerful opioid for cancer patients with acute pain in 2012, it soon discovered a problem: finding enough cancer patients to use the drug.

To boost sales, the company allegedly took patients who didn’t have cancer and made it look like they did.

The drug maker used a combination of tactics, such as falsifying medical records, misleading insurance companies and providing kickbacks to doctors in league with the company, according to a federal indictment and ongoing congressional investigation by Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri.

The new report by McCaskill’s office released Wednesday includes allegations about just how far the company went to push prescriptions of its sprayable form of fentanyl, Subsys.

Because of the high cost associated with Subsys, most insurers wouldn’t pay for it unless it was approved in advance. That process, likely familiar to anyone who’s taken an expensive medication, is called “prior-authorization.”

So Insys set up an elaborate charade — with employees that pretended to be doctors’ offices — to fool insurance companies into approving the drug, according to the Senate report.

[…]

Insys is currently in the midst of an avalanche of criminal and civil legal trouble.
In December, federal prosecutors in Boston criminally charged six former Insys executives, including its former CEO, with fraud and racketeering charges related to Subsys. Prosecutors described a “nationwide conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication and defraud health care insurers.”

“As alleged, top executives of Insys Therapeutics, Inc. paid kickbacks and committed fraud to sell a highly potent and addictive opioid that can lead to abuse and life threatening respiratory depression,” said Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Boston field office, in a statement in December.

Other federal charges have also subsequently been brought against individuals connected to Subsys, and several state attorneys general have filed lawsuits of their own.

The six executives in the original December case have pled not guilty, and their cases are currently pending. But other former employees have since made guilty pleas.

In May, Motahari, then just weeks into his new job, told analysts on a corporate earnings call that the company hoped to resolve the federal investigation against it with a settlement.

“We continue to engage in discussions with the DOJ and remain highly committed to resolving this matter,” Motahari told the analysts.