The pandemic has revealed the power of Big Pharma. Major drug manufacturers and suppliers have the power to set prices, influence regulators and lobby lawmakers. This power has allowed big pharma to push potentially dangerous drugs, such as opioids in the 1990’s and 2000’s. How? Palki Sharma tells you.
San Mateo County files lawsuit against McKinsey & Company, alleging that the consulting firm helped push opioid sales in the county.
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy LLP, the law firm representing the county, alleges that McKinsey helped opioid manufacturers increase drug sales by serving as marketing advisor to companies like Purdue Pharma. Purdue Pharma makes OxyContin, a prescription pain medication commonly involved in opioid overdose deaths.
The lawsuit also claims that McKinsey helped Purdue protect its public image and helped suppress negative press from the families of overdose victims.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017 amid a rise in opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2019, more than 70 percent of drug overdose deaths nationwide involved an opioid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In San Mateo County, the number of deaths from opioids has steadily increased in recent years. County data shows that in 2015, there were 60 drug-induced deaths, with about 20 directly tied to opioid use. Doctors wrote nearly 350,000 opioid prescriptions in the county that year.
In the next two years, the number of drug and opioid-related deaths increased countywide and county health officials estimate that thousands of residents are dependent on opioids.
Purdue Pharma has already faced scrutiny and pleaded guilty in 2020 to criminal charges related to its role in the opioid crisis.
The county’s complaint against McKinsey, dated Tuesday, states that “McKinsey knew of the dangers of opioids, and of Purdue’s misconduct, but nonetheless advised and encouraged Purdue to improperly market and sell OxyContin.”
Dealing with the epidemic has also cost the county millions of dollars for expenses related to drug treatment, emergency room visits, law enforcement and social services such as helping children whose parents are addicted to opioids.
San Mateo County Counsel John Beiers said, “This lawsuit is a continuation of our efforts to pursue the corporate bad actors who have caused the opioid epidemic.”
“Mighty Ducks” star Shaun Weiss is making strides in his recovery. The former actor graduated from a drug court program this week in California, the Yuba County District Attorney’s Office announced.
The graduation also means Weiss’s burglary case in the county has been dismissed. He was arrested in Marysville, Calif., last January for breaking into a person’s garage and gaining entry into their car.
The accomplishment follows a turbulent period for Weiss, who in recent years has faced a number of hurdles amid a struggle with addiction. He first entered into the Yuba County Drug Court program on March 3, 2020.
‘MIGHTY DUCKS’ STAR SHAUN WEISS SOBER FOR OVER 200 DAYS, SHOWS OFF TRANSFORMATION WITH NEW TEETH
The Yuba County DA’s Office praised him for his recovery in statements shared to agency’s Facebook account.
“Shaun demonstrated perseverance during his recovery complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. He had to move treatment and transitional living programs on several occasions. He underwent dental reconstructive surgery, and had a close family member suffer a serious accident during his treatment,” the agency wrote in a statement.
“Shaun regained employment and has been traveling across the country making guest appearances and signing autographs. He received tremendous support from friends and fans of the character, Goldberg, he played in the 1992 hit ‘The Mighty Ducks,'” the statement continues.
Photos that were released of the actor last fall showed a much happier and healthier Weiss. In honor of reaching his 200 days of sobriety in September, a close friend named Drew Gallagher shared a photo of Weiss, then 42, looking virtually unrecognizable as compared to his mug shot stemming from an arrest in January. He showed off his brand new set of teeth in the pic.
‘MIGHTY DUCKS’ STAR SHAUN WEISS APPEARS HEALTHIER IN NEW PIC, PAL SAYS HE’S ‘THRIVING’ IN REHAB
“Weiss is thriving. His face and mouth feels like ‘tenderized meat’ as he recovers from each oral surgery, but he is feeling blessed to be getting a new set of permanent teeth. His progress has been smooth and steady and he is well over 225 days sober. More pics and video soon,” Gallagher wrote on Facebook.
Opioid Business has ended for Johnson and Johnson after a settlement has been reached with New York State
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to a $230 million settlement with New York state that bars the company from promoting opioids and confirmed it has ended distribution of such products within the United States.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office in a statement Saturday said the agreement bans J&J from promoting opioids through any means and prohibits lobbying about such products at the federal, state or local levels.
Johnson & Johnson has not marketed opioids in the U.S. since 2015 and fully discontinued the business in 2020.
As part of the settlement, the company will resolve opioids-related claims and allocate payments over nine years. It could also pay $30 million more in the first year if the state executive chamber signs into law new legislation creating an opioid settlement fund, according to the press release from James’ office.
The settlement follows years of lawsuits by states, cities and counties against major pharmaceutical companies over the opioid crisis, which has killed nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. in the last couple decades.
Governments have argued that companies over-prescribed the drugs, causing people to become addicted and abuse other illegal forms of opioids, while companies have said they’ve distributed the necessary amount of the product to help people with medical issues.
“The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on countless communities across New York state and the rest of the nation, leaving millions still addicted to dangerous and deadly opioids,” James said in a statement.
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“Everything just kind of seemed like a blur that day,” Becky Savage said. “Your mind is not really meant to process something that extreme.”
The Indiana mom’s two oldest sons, Nick and Jack, were celebrating at high school graduation parties the night before. The boys came home about 12:30 a.m. and checked in with their mom, who had been waiting up.
The next morning, as Savage was picking up laundry in Jack’s room, she noticed that he wasn’t stirring as she tried to wake him. “He was unresponsive. I called 911, and I remember hollering for Nick, for him to come up, and how he never came.”
Nick, her eldest son, was downstairs sleeping in the basement with friends.
The first responders arrived and tried to resuscitate Jack, and then Savage noticed one of them going downstairs to the basement. “I had no idea at that point what they were doing in our basement. And then I remember one of them coming up and asking for a coroner. That’s the last thing that I remember that day.”
The boys were pronounced dead. Both had accidentally overdosed on hydrocodone and alcohol. Someone at one of the graduation parties had passed around the prescription pills.
Savage says the boys had never been in trouble with drinking or drugs. They just happened to make “a bad choice that unfortunately cost them their lives.”
For the next year, the Savage family — Becky, husband Mike and two younger sons, Justin and Matthew — worked on healing and picking up the pieces. They did not discuss their loss publicly until Becky was asked to speak at a local town hall about underage drinking.
“I had never spoken publicly before, and I was assured there would be maybe between 15 and 20 people there. So, I agreed to do it, and over 200 people showed up. It was just overwhelming.”
That’s when the family realized the impact their story could have on others.
After their first speaking engagement, more speaking requests came in. The Savage family decided to turn their tragedy into a positive force.
They started the 525 Foundation, named after the boys’ hockey numbers (Jack’s 5 and Nick’s 25) in order to share their story and prevent “another family from having to endure the pain” they experienced.
Savage now estimates that she has spoken in front of 23,000 students. She was also invited to testify before a US Senate committee dealing with the opioid crisis. The determined mother hopes to influence lawmakers to create stricter laws around prescription drugs. She also wants to spread awareness about the abuse of medication.
“We’ve talked to our kids about drinking, but we had never talked to them about prescription drugs, because it wasn’t even on our radar.”
As the Savage family continues to spread their message, they are finding that they are not alone.
“In different communities, there are still people who are unaware of the dangers. After I get done talking to them, the first thing they say is they’re going to go home and clean out their medicine cabinets.”
One of the biggest ways the Savage family and the 525 Foundation are making a difference is by trying to help clean up their own community. They’ve teamed up with local law enforcement to hold pill drop-offs, where people can safely dispose of unused prescription drugs to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.
After only three of these events, they’ve collected over 1,500 pounds of pills.
“If you think about how much one pill weighs, that’s a lot of pills collected. And when you think that one of those pills could take a life, that could potentially be a lot of lives saved.”
Savage hopes to install permanent pill drop-off boxes across her community soon. In the meantime, she continues to spread her message to protect other families and keep her sons’ memories alive.
“By me telling their story, they’re still able to make a difference in the lives of others. There can’t be a better goal than that.”
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