Teamsters Union Claims Big Win vs. Largest Opioid Distributor

960x540mckessonceomakeskilling

By Staff of People’s World – WASHINGTON (PAI) — In what is a big win for shareholder activism, and in particular for Teamsters Secretary-Treasurer Ken Hall, stockholders in the nation’s largest opioid distributor, McKesson, voted down the firm’s compensation policies and ordered the board to split the positions of chairman and CEO. The twin moves punished current boss John Hammergren for his failure to halt the company’s role in the opioid scourge. “For the first time ever, shareholders voted to hold a company accountable for its role in the opioid epidemic,” said Hall, a West Virginian whose state has been hit notably hard by the plague. “The country’s largest drug distributor cannot get away with ballooning executive pay and failures in” its president’s “oversight as Americans die every day from opioid addiction.” Hall also said the vote “should serve as a warning” to the nation’s other big drug distributors that their shareholders, too, want to hold corporate conduct accountable. McKesson is the top drug distributor in the nation, but paid particular attention to flooding West Virginia with the pharmaceuticals. With McKesson leading the way, the three largest drug distributors shipped enough hydrocodone and oxycodone pills to West Virginia from 2007-12 to provide 235 pills to every West Virginian. And even after Hammergren took over with promises of oversight, a corporate whitewash ensued, state investigators later found.

“Worse Than Big Tobacco”: How Big Pharma Fuels Opioid Epidemic

5161819684_6b310a493b_z

By Lynn Parramore for Institute for New Economic Thinking – Over a 40-year career, Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger has obtained millions in settlements for investors and consumers hurt by a rogues’ gallery of corporate wrongdoers, from Exxon to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco. But when it comes to what America’s prescription drug makers have done to drive one of the ghastliest addiction crises in the country’s history, he confesses amazement. “I used to think that there was nothing more reprehensible than what the tobacco industry did in suppressing what it knew about the adverse effects of an addictive and dangerous product,” says Berger. “But I was wrong. The drug makers are worse than Big Tobacco.” The U.S. prescription drug industry has opened a new frontier in public havoc, manipulating markets and deceptively marketing opioid drugs that are known to addict and even kill. It’s a national emergency that claims 90 lives per day. Berger lays much of the blame at the feet of companies that have played every dirty trick imaginable to convince doctors to overprescribe medication that can transform fresh-faced teens and mild-mannered adults into zombified junkies. So how have they gotten away with it?

For Profit Insurers Fueling Opioid Epidemic

Alisa Erkes, who has Behcet’s disease, now takes extended-release morphine and hydrocodone after her insurance company stopped covering the painkilling skin patch Butrans that had been effective for her chronic pain. (Kevin D. Liles for The New York Times)

By Katie Thomas for The New York Times and Charles Ornstein for ProPublica – At a time when the United States is in the grip of an opioid epidemic, many insurers are limiting access to pain medications that carry a lower risk of addiction or dependence, even as they provide comparatively easy access to generic opioid medications. The reason, experts say: Opioid drugs are generally cheap while safer alternatives are often more expensive. Drugmakers, pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and doctors have come under intense scrutiny in recent years, but the role that insurers — and the pharmacy benefit managers that run their drug plans — have played in the opioid crisis has received less attention. That may be changing, however. The New York state attorney general’s office sent letters last week to the three largest pharmacy benefit managers — CVS Caremark, Express Scripts and OptumRx — asking how they were addressing the crisis. ProPublica and The New York Times analyzed Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people in the second quarter of this year. Only one-third of the people covered, for example, had any access to Butrans, a painkilling skin patch that contains a less-risky opioid, buprenorphine.

Diseases Of Despair

Mr. Fish

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The opioid crisis, the frequent mass shootings, the rising rates of suicide, especially among middle-aged white males, the morbid obesity, the obsession with gambling, the investment of our emotional and intellectual life in tawdry spectacles and the allure of magical thinking, from the absurd promises of the Christian right to the belief that reality is never an impediment to our desires, are the pathologies of a diseased culture. They have risen from a decayed world where opportunity, which confers status, self-esteem and dignity, has dried up for most Americans. They are expressions of acute desperation and morbidity. A loss of income causes more than financial distress. It severs, as the sociologist Émile Durkheim pointed out, the vital social bonds that give us meaning. A decline in status and power, an inability to advance, a lack of education and health care and a loss of hope are crippling forms of humiliation. This humiliation fuels loneliness, frustration, anger and feelings of worthlessness. In short, when you are marginalized and rejected by society, life often has little meaning. “When life is not worth living, everything becomes a pretext for ridding ourselves of it … ,” Durkheim wrote. “There is a collective mood, as there is an individual mood, that inclines nations to sadness. … For individuals are too closely involved in the life of society for it to be sick without their being affected. Its suffering inevitably becomes theirs.”

Don’t Blame Addicts For America’s Opioid Crisis. Here Are The Real Culprits

4509

By Chris McGreal for The Guardian – America’s opioid crisis was caused by rapacious pharma companies, politicians who colluded with them and regulators who approved one opioid pill after another. Of all the people Donald Trump could blame for the opioid epidemic, he chose the victims. After his own commission on the opioid crisis issued an interim report this week, Trump said young people should be told drugs are “No good, really bad for you in every way.” The president’s exhortation to follow Nancy Reagan’s miserably inadequate advice and Just Say No to drugs is far from useful. The then first lady made not a jot of difference to the crack epidemic in the 1980s. But Trump’s characterisation of the source of the opioid crisis was more disturbing. “The best way to prevent drug addiction and overdose is to prevent people from abusing drugs in the first place,” he said. That is straight out of the opioid manufacturers’ playbook. Facing a raft of lawsuits and a threat to their profits, pharmaceutical companies are pushing the line that the epidemic stems not from the wholesale prescribing of powerful painkillers – essentially heroin in pill form – but their misuse by some of those who then become addicted.

How A Father's Tragedy Moved The Teamsters To Fight An Opioid Distributor

Travis Bornstein’s son, Tyler, died at age 23 after becoming hooked on opioids prescribed following a sports injury. Photograph: Travis Bornstein

By Chris McGreal for The Guardian – Teamsters union general secretary-treasurer Ken Hall has called drug firm’s role in the opioid epidemic ‘one of the most tragic failures of corporate integrity.’ The largest drug distributor in the US has been accused by the Teamsters union of a pivotal role in the country’s opioid epidemic. The union is urging shareholders to force a public reckoning this week, a move prompted by one member’s heartrending account of the death of his son. The Teamsters, which has 1.4 million members in the the US, is using its substantial fund holdings in McKesson, the fifth-largest corporation in the US, to press for leadership changes. This comes after the company paid the largest financial settlement of its kind amid lawsuits accusing it of “flooding” the country with prescription painkillers. The union is asking shareholders to impose an independent chair to run the board and come clean on the company’s role in the epidemic after McKesson paid $150m to settle justice department accusations that it failed to report suspicious deliveries of vast numbers of opioid pills at the heart of the epidemic. The crisis has claimed more than 300,000 lives over the past 15 years. The Teamsters also want shareholders of McKesson meeting in Dallas on Wednesday to vote against a huge bonus for the present chairman and CEO, John Hammergren, one of the highest paid executives in the country.

‘Big Reflection’ Needed On Opioid Crisis

1opioi

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage for InterPress Service. UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2017 (IPS) – Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency. In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world. In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at least once. Of these, almost 30 million suffered from drug use disorders including dependence. UNODC found that opioids were the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of negative health impacts associated with drug use disorders worldwide, and its production is only increasing. “[Opioid use] is a really dramatic epidemic…they are really, in terms of burden of disease, at the top of the scale,” said UNODC’s Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch Gilberto Gerra to IPS.

TN Counties Sue Opioid Makers Using Local “Crack Tax” Law

1opioid

By Zero Hedge for Mintpress News. As the death toll in some of the hardest-hit areas of the country skyrockets – in some cases forcing county coroners to build larger freezers to store the bodies – states have begun filing lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies responsible for making and marketing opioid painkillers, in hopes of offsetting the ballooning public-health costs that have been a byproduct of the crisis. Three Tennessee district attorneys are the latest prosecutors to file suit against the drug makers, joining a group that includes the attorneys general of Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, New York and Santa Clara and Orange County in California – not to mention the Cherokee Nation. But the Tennessee prosecutors’ approach differs from their peers in one unique way

A Nation Of The Walking Dead

image

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – Opioids and experiences that simulate the deadening effects of narcotics are mechanisms to keep us submissive and depoliticized. Desperate citizens in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel “Brave New World” ingested the pleasure drug soma to check out of reality. Our own versions of soma allow tens of millions of Americans to retreat daily into addictive mousetraps that generate a self-induced autism. The United States consumes 80 percent of opioids used worldwide, and more than 33,000 died in this country in 2015 from opioid overdoses. There are 300 million prescriptions written and $24 billion spent annually in the U.S. for painkillers. Americans supplement this mostly legal addiction with over $100 billion a year in illicit marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

Opioid Crisis: Public Health Crisis Rooted In Poverty

1opio

By Sarah Jaffe for In These Times. It is hard, because all of us have lost people, I will say that. I have lost people that I love to this and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. When we are talking about it, it is deeply personal for people because we are literally watching our communities die and that is really rough. To be in a moment where people are dying from using drugs and we are also shrinking whatever public safety net has been left, to me it is so ridiculous to live in a place where people don’t see that this is a public health crisis that has its roots in poverty. Also, I would say, in the white denial. People not wanting to believe that this could be such a big problem with white people. I would say that it is not just the Republican folks who have been pushing law enforcement over increasing access to care. Here in Portland, we have an all-Democratic City Council that chose to shut down one of the premier, in the country, clinics that had a needle exchange, that had an HIV positive program and did STD testing and counselling, that was serving folks on the street, really low income people, had incredible relationships to their providers.