Doctors Checking Prescriptions Decreases Drug Overdoses

Prescription drugs and overdoses have been getting a lot of attention in the media lately, and for good reason. A little bit of work ahead of time can make life a lot easier by reducing the number of people abusing prescription drugs. One tactic that is getting a lot of attention is one that requires doctors to verify the patient’s medical history before giving them any new narcotic prescriptions.

Initially the program, which was launched in Kentucky, got a lot of criticism from doctors who argued that too much time was wasted with this process. But this added time on behalf of medical professionals has good consequences for reducing drug-related abuse and death.

The program was geared towards helping to cut down on the number of abusers known as “doctor shoppers” who hop around to different physicians in the hopes of getting more drugs. Initially, doctors believed that they didn’t need an online database to help them avoid giving prescriptions to this kind of abusers, but apparently the use of the program has really helped.

In the first year of the mandatory checks, the volume of drugs being prescribed by doctors dropped significantly. Many of the major prescriptions popular among abusers, like Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, and Alprazolam all experienced big decreases across the state.

The program seemed to help with the exact problem it was designed to combat: specific “doctor shoppers” who pick up multiple prescriptions from numerous physicians in the hopes of spurring on an addiction.

With an electronic record of who has requested and received certain types of medications, doctors have been able to avoid giving out multiple scripts for patients who don’t really need it.

There’s good news out there for the patients who do need it, too. Some patients truly in need of pain or other medication were previously looked at with a watchful eye. Doctors were trained to be suspicious of any patient appearing to need pain medication or suggesting symptoms that would warrant such medication. Now, a patient’s medical history with no flags ultimately makes it easier for legitimate individuals to get the help that they need.

After the success of the program in Kentucky, Oklahoma lawmakers are now considering their own version. The state already has one of the nation’s highest rates of overdose deaths and prescription abuse. Two years ago, half of Oklahomans who died in drug overdose incidents were taking pills prescribed by doctors.

Mandatory check requirements certainly are not without critics. Oklahoma lobbyists and doctors have been pushing off such a program for a few years. They argue that the program would be expensive and time-consuming, ultimately causing problems for all patients by generating delays and causing too much red tape.

That opposition isn’t holding too much promise, however, since the Governor is now considering at least making some of the most heavily-abused narcotics are listed in a database. Even small measures could help to reduce the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

Past research backs up the idea that relying on an inner sense of whether or not someone is a doctor shopper is not sufficient. Many physicians give prescriptions to the people who truly don’t need them.

Kentucky may see a decrease in overdose deaths for the first time in a while, thanks to the new program.

The online database isn’t the only component of the program, either. There are stronger efforts to wipe out “pill-mill” clinics that were not owned by doctors, and had a reputation for passing out prescriptions when not needed. In addition, more training and educational opportunities were given to physicians about pain management and addiction. The bottom line seems to be that the mandatory prescription checks were the most effective at cutting out pain pill abusers.

Kentucky is not alone, as many other states are looking into ways to combat the rising prescription drug abuse problem effectively. Tennessee mandated that doctors verify the prescription drug database back in 2013, along with New York. Ohio has been requiring narcotic prescription history from physicians since 2010.

This appears to be one of the most effective ways to root out potential abusers while still allowing legitimate patients to get access to the medications they need. By limiting how many abusers can visit one doctor, and then another, to rack up multiple prescriptions of the same medicine, one of the biggest epidemics in the country is finally being addressed.

Prescription drug abuse and overdose is a nationwide problem that is finally achieving some resolution. We are seeing plans at the state level to target abusers and make it difficult for them to get access to medications. Oklahoma and other states are expected to follow the lead Kentucky has taken by making doctors check prescription history more often in order to reduce abuse.

This is good news for everybody.


CDC Reveals Concern: The Over Prescribing of Opioids by Physicians

Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Press Release showing its concern about the over prescribing by physicians of opioids. Data shows that most abusers who are at the highest risk for an overdose are obtaining the drugs from physicians more than other common sources.

For more than a year, ProPublica also has been looking at physicians’ prescribing practices. Their reports show that physicians’ methods for prescribing drugs greatly differ from one physician to the next. Some physicians order massive quantities of inappropriate, high risk drugs through Medicare.

Although the federal government is collecting data on every prescription, it seems they are not doing anything about the over prescribing, according to ProPublica. State and federal agencies must work together to end the opioid epidemic.

Information You Can’t Miss!

The purpose of Advokayte is to bring awareness to health issues so that you can take the best care of yourself and your loved ones. Below are some very informative blog posts that you may have missed. They deserve another peek because they contain very important you don’t want to miss! Click on each title to read the full article.

Also, please don’t hesitate to grab my free resource that will inform you of inside information about pharmaceutical drugs and companies, allowing you to protect yourself further…

prescription drug safety

Hormone Replacement Therapy Safety Warning

Kay Van Wey advocates caution while using HRT estrogen and progestin.

In 1991, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group published the book Women’s Health Alert. The evidence they provided showed that hormone replacement drugs containing estrogen caused breast cancer.  In the book, Public Citizen stated:  “Female replacement hormones may someday be remembered as the most recklessly prescribed drugs of this century.”

Non-medical Prescription Drug Use Among Adolescents

Rural adolescents are 26% more likely than urban adolescents use prescription drugs non-medically, according to a groundbreaking study that the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine published online this month.  Is your teen at risk? 

What You Should Know about Prescription Drug Addiction

pills Pictures, Images and Photos
In recent years, the United States has experienced a surge in the number of people addicted to prescription drugs, especially prescription painkillers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is working to help change the perception of addiction and to help those who have become addicted…

FDA Panel Considers Tightening Rules on Hydrocodone Prescriptions

 According to recent statistics, the United States consumes 99 percent of all Hydrocodone in the world, yet the United States is merely 4.5 percent of the world’s population.  In 2010, an estimated 131.2 million prescriptions were written for Hydrocodone, making it the most prescribed drug in the United States.  Hydrocodone is a highly addictive painkiller and has been blamed on overdoses and deaths.

Prescription Painkiller Addiction is an Epidemic in the United States
Abuse of prescription painkillers in the United States is an epidemic.  Reports of pharmacies being robbed for Hydrocodone and other strong narcotic painkillers are all too commonplace.  Now the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is asking for help from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to tighten regulations and make it more difficult to get prescription drugs containing Hydrocodone.  
“If Hydrocodone has more restrictive manners tied to it, it could help reduce the abuse potential,” says Special Agent Robert Hill of the DEA Pharmaceutical Investigations Section.
FDA Advisory Panel Could Mandate Tighter Restrictions on Hydrocodone
In response, the FDA convened an advisory panel for a two-day meeting on Thursday, January 24, 2013.  The panel is to consider tighter regulations for the prescribing of drugs and other products that contain Hydrocodone.  One of the proposed regulations would limit prescriptions of pills and cough syrups containing Hydrocodone to a 90-day supply.  Currently, these products are available to be filled with five refills within six months.  The advisory panel will also consider moving Hydrocodone-combination products like Vicodin up from a Schedule III to a Schedule II drug, which is more highly regulated.  Drugs currently in Schedule II include OxyContin and pure Hydrocodone.
Advocates of tighter restrictions on Hydrocodone believe that moving Hydrocodone-combination drugs to a Schedule II classification will make the drugs less available.  A similar measure was attempted in 2012 with a proposed amendment to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA), but lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies fought against the amendment, and ultimately it was defeated.
Big Pharma Looks to Cash-in on Hydrocodone with New Drugs
Another FDA panel recently voted against approving Zohydro, an extended-release drug that contains pure Hydrocodone.  Manufactured by Zogenix Inc., the new painkiller is ten times more powerful than Vicodin and highly addictive.  Although the FDA panel found that the new drug met FDA standards for safety and efficacy, it voted against approval of the drug based on its high potential for addiction.  The FDA will consider the panel’s findings, but may still approve Zohydro in March when it comes up for consideration.
For more information about Hydrocodone and prescription drug addiction, read:

Big Pharma’s Marketing of Painkillers Launches Senate Probe

Accidental overdosing on prescription drugs now kills more people in some states than car accidents.  Now, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee is investigating the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies that make highly addictive narcotic painkillers.

The Senate Finance Committee launched the investigation to help ensure consumers are not being misled into thinking that these opioid painkillers are completely safe. 

“Overdoses on narcotic painkillers have become epidemic, and it’s becoming clear that patients aren’t getting a full and clear picture of the risks posed by their medications,” said Senator Max Baucus, who along with Senator Charles E. Grassley has launched the investigation.

Non-Profits Promote Pain Drugs

Pain advocacy organizations have popped up in the past decade, including groups like the American Pain Foundation, which received nearly 90 percent of its funding in 2010 from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.  These groups highlight the benefits of opioid painkillers and downplay the risks, which include addiction.

The American Pain Foundation has decided to dissolve amid the allegations that it has illegally marketed painkillers. However, the group has cited the decision to dissolve based on operational and financial problems.

The Senate investigation comes just months after Purdue Pharma (maker of the highly addictive Oxycontin) announced plans to release a painkiller 10 times stronger than Vicodin.  The painkiller contains pure hydrocodone, which doctors believe will lead to more accidental overdoses.

Three pharmaceutical companies are being investigated in the Senate probe, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson.  Five different pain support groups are also being investigated, including the American Pain Foundation, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, the American Pain Society, the Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group, and the Center for Practical Bioethics.

Even the Joint Commission, a nonprofit hospital accreditation group, is being investigated for its partnership with Purdue Pharma.  The group not only brought pain management to hospitals’ attention as a national priority in 2001, but also distributed to those hospitals pain education materials promoting Oxycontin.  The group already pled guilty in 2007 to criminal charges that it understated the risk of addiction with Oxycontin.

Experts Voice Concern about Painkiller Addiction

Narcotic painkillers are currently the most widely prescribed drugs in the United States, despite their classification as highly addictive substances akin to illegal drugs.

Sales of painkillers have risen nearly 300 percent since 1999, and in proportion, the number of deaths due to painkiller overdoses has also risen.  Prescription painkillers are now available even to high school students who have held “pill parties” in which they bring different medications they find around their homes, including painkillers, and take pills without knowing what those pills are.

Even newborns are being born addicted to painkillers.  The Journal of the American Medical Association recently released a report finding that newborns are being born with drug withdrawal at a rate five times that of levels in 2000.

Pain awareness groups have “helped usher in an epidemic that’s killed 100,000 people by promoting aggressive use of opioids.  What makes this especially disturbing is that despite overwhelming evidence that their effort created a public health crisis, they’re continuing to minimize the risk of addiction,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in New York.

Since the 1990s, big pharma has marketed these painkillers to more groups of people.  Before, the pills were largely used to help cancer patients, but companies like Purdue Pharma have sold doctors and consumers on broader uses for the pills, including arthritis and back pain.  Senators Baucus and Grassley noted “There is growing evidence pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and market opioids may be responsible, at least in part, for this evidence by promoting misleading information.”

While these painkillers do have their uses in some patients, the overprescribing of these pills is clearly out of control.  Oftentimes, doctors prescribe the pills without fully explaining to the patient the risk of addiction and overdose.  Critics have said that many doctors need to be retrained on when it’s appropriate to prescribe narcotic painkillers.

I will continue to post updates about this and other pill mill news.  For the latest information on prescription painkillers and pill mills, subscribe to my blog.


DEA Fines Las Vegas Pharmacy in Violation of Federal Drug Laws

Lam’s Pharmacy of Las Vegas agreed to settle civil charges that it violated federal drug laws on February 7, 2012. The settlement is a record $1 million to be paid by the non-chain pharmacy.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas have been working in unison to identify pharmacies violating federal drug laws and hold them accountable for their illegal acts.  On February 7, 2012, the work of these two units paid off when Lam’s Pharmacy of Las Vegas agreed to pay a $1 million settlement fine for violations of federal drug laws.

The DEA began investigating Lam’s Pharmacy in 2006, starting with the company’s receipt and distribution of controlled substances.  After years of investigation, the DEA took the evidence it had collected to Nevada’s U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden, alleging that Lam’s had violated the Controlled Substances Act.

Lam’s violation of the Controlled Substances Act was a civil violation, rather than a criminal violation.  Still, Bogden stresses that “Civil settlements such as this are an extremely important component in our strategy to combat unlawful prescription drug trafficking in Nevada.”

The $1 million settlement is the largest civil settlement under the Controlled Substances Act against a pharmacy that is not a chain-operated pharmacy.  Bogden promises to continue to enforce violations of federal drug laws by physicians, pharmacies, and pharmacists both civilly and criminally.  The DEA has made clear to pharmacies that they have a corresponding duty not to participate in distributing controlled substances when no valid medical purpose exists.

Although Lam’s did not admit to any wrongdoing or liability, the company has agreed to surrender its DEA registration and pay the settlement within 14 business days. Additionally, Lam’s will be sold, but the business will continue to operate in Las Vegas under new management and a new name.

I would like to congratulate the Justice Department on successfully holding Lam’s Pharmacy accountable for its violations of federal drug laws.  I hope that both the DEA and Justice Department will continue to search out pharmacies that are contributing to the pill mill problem in this nation.

To learn more about prescription drug addition, read my article “America’s Growing Addiction” at


Senator Warns FDA about New, Stronger Painkillers

New York Senator Charles Schumer is warning the FDA that approving a new painkiller containing pure hydrocodone could have disastrous consequences across the nation. Painkillers that contain hydrocodone currently on the market are known to be highly addictive and have caused fatal overdoses.

New York Senator Charles Schumer has seen the effects of prescription drug addiction in his state and has vowed to fight it.  He warns that a new painkiller promising to be 10 times stronger than Vicodin could lead to more violent and deadly drug store robberies.

In June 2011, New York resident David Laffer was charged with robbing a Long Island drug store of more than 10,000 highly addictive prescription painkillers and killing four people in the pharmacy.  He and his wife had been doctor shopping before the robbery in an effort to get prescription pain pills like hydrocodone, which is highly addictive.

Nationwide, more than 1,800 pharmacies have been robbed in the past three years alone.  Long Island alone has experienced a 125 percent increase drug store robberies.

“It’s tremendously concerning that at the same time policymakers and law enforcement professionals are waging a war on the growing prescription drug crisis, new super-drugs could well be on their way, flooding the market.  The FDA needs to grab the reins and slow down the stampede to introduce these powerful narcotics” Senator Schumer said.

The new painkillers, which contain pure hydrocodone, could come onto the market as early as 2013, with big pharmaceutical companies looking to cash in on the $10 billion prescription painkiller market.  At present, hydrocodone is classified as a strictly controlled Schedule II drug under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. 

Products that contain hydrocodone and another painkiller like acetaminophen fall into Schedule III, which is less strictly controlled.  Some experts argue that because of this, highly addictive hydrocodone has been given to more patients, which has increased abuse of the drug and overdose rates in the United States.

A prescription painkiller that contains pure hydrocodone could lead to more accidental overdoses, leading to more emergency room visits.  Experts say that already thin hospital emergency room resources could become even more strained if this new drug is allowed on the market.  In 2008 alone, emergency room visits related to hydrocodone abuse totaled more than 86,000, up more than 400 percent from 2000 when an estimated 19,000 visits were recorded.

To learn more about prescription drug addiction, read my article “America’s Growing Addiction” at


A Tribute to Ken & Esther Scarborough

The Scarborough family of Kountze, Texas, has been instrumental in the fight against prescription drug addiction. After their son died from a prescription drug overdose, the Scarboroughs realized the need to help other families who had lost a loved one.

Far too many families have been devastated by a loved one’s addiction to prescription drugs. Unlike the images we conjure up when we think of a typical drug addict, the faces of prescription drug addiction are the faces of ordinary Americans. One of the casualties of prescription drug addiction was Christopher Scarborough, the 25 year-old son of Ken and Esther Scarborough of Kountze, Texas.

I came to know the Scarboroughs when I represented them in a legal case, which sought to hold the negligent parties accountable for Christopher’s death and to raise awareness about these pill mills, which often masquerade as pain management clinics. In the lawsuit, we alleged that the healthcare providers and clinic owners were nothing more than “drug dealers” who were trying to pass off their “pill mill” as a legitimate pain management clinic.

When Christopher went to this walk-in “pain management clinic,” he was prescribed a cocktail of more than 300 highly addictive narcotic pills, without even receiving an exam or seeing a doctor. Shortly thereafter, Christopher tragically died of an accidental overdose.

Rather than dwell on their son’s heartbreaking death, the Scarboroughs have chosen to help other families who have lost loved ones to prescription drug addiction and accidental overdose.

Since their son’s death, the Scarboroughs have worked every day to fight against the prescription drug epidemic in their son’s name. In 2009, they founded Parents Against Prescription Drug Abuse (PAPDA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. They have also testified before the Texas Senate, worked to pass legislation to regulate the so-called pain clinics, given countless talks, and comforted other parents who have also lost their children to prescription drug overdoses.

The Scarboroughs need your help to continue their fight. You can help by making a tax deductible contribution to PAPDA at Your contribution, no matter how slight, will help Ken and Esther keep fighting every day to prevent the reckless prescribing of narcotics from claiming another innocent life.


New Pain Pill to be Stronger than Vicodin

Purdue Pharma and several other major pharmaceutical companies have announced plans for new prescription painkillers that will contain pure hydrocodone. The pills will be 10 times stronger than Vicodin and will likely be more addictive than the prescription pain pills currently on the market.

Pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma and three other companies have announced a new prescription drug that will contain pure hydrocodone, a highly addictive narcotic painkiller.  The pill is expected to be 10 times stronger than Vicodin, one of the strongest painkillers available on the market.

Hydrocodone is an opiate much like heroin, oxycodone, codeine, and morphine.  The United States is the largest consumer of hydrocodone prescription pills, using 99 percent of what is on the world market.  Much of the hydrocodone available today is combined with other painkillers like acetaminophen.

Over the years, these pain pills have been criticized for being too addictive.  For example, OxyContin, produced by Purdue Pharma, is the most abused pain pill in the United States. When OxyContin was first introduced onto the market in 1995, abusers quickly learned that they could get a stronger high from the time-release caplets by crushing them.

Today, prescriptions that contain hydrocodone are a quick second to oxycodone in terms of abuse.  A stronger painkiller that contains pure hydrocodone could be disastrous for a nation already suffering with substance abuse and addiction.

The market for pain pills is $10 billion, and pharmaceutical companies are coming up with new drugs to get into the lucrative market. But big pharmaceutical companies are marketing the new drugs as safer, arguing that fewer patients will experience liver problems like they do with drugs that contain acetaminophen.

A form of pure hydrocodone could be on the market as early as 2013, but with an even more addictive prescription on the market, more patients may become addicted to the drugs, leading to numerous overdoses that will strain hospitals resources.  Abuse of hydrocodone alone has led to an uptick in the number of emergency room visits related to hydrocodone abuse.  In 2000, more than 19,000 visits to the emergency room were related to hydrocodone abuse, but in 2008 that number grew more than four times to more than 86,000 visits.

Prescription drug addiction is a brain disease that can be fatal if undetected or untreated. To learn more about America’s prescription drug addiction epidemic, visit


Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths on the Rise

Deaths due to prescription drug overdose have nearly tripled within the past 10 years. Experts say that irresponsible doctors are to blame for the abuse of highly addictive prescription painkillers.

(Image: Michelle Meiklejohn /

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report detailing that as many as 40 Americans die each day from overdosing on prescription painkillers.  That amounts to nearly 15,000 deaths each year.

Deaths due to prescription overdose are now more common than deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined.  And the problem does not look like it will be ending anytime soon.  Prescription painkiller overdose deaths have increased three times over within the past decade.

80% of the World’s Painkillers are Taken in the U.S.

Director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, blames irresponsible doctors for the uptick in prescription painkiller abuse.  He and other CDC experts have estimated that in 2010 enough painkillers were prescribed to supply every American adult with a one-month supply.

More than 600,000 doctors are licensed to prescribe opiate-based painkillers.  Vicodin is one of the most popular prescription painkillers, because it is not as strictly regulated as its counterparts, making it easier for doctors to prescribe.  In fact, 99 percent of the entire world’s supply of Vicodin is used by patients in the United States.

Accidental Overdoses from Prescription Painkillers Now Kill More People than Car Accidents in 17 States

The overprescribing of prescription painkillers is not only causing death, it is also costing an estimated $72.5 billion.  And, three of the hardest hit states are Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Florida.

The federal government has proposed expanding statewide prescription drug monitoring programs to monitor electronically the number of painkillers prescribed in each state.  But critics say these programs will not work alone.  Patients need to be educated about the dangers of abusing and overdosing on prescription painkillers.

National Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske says doctors need to be retrained on writing prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers.  He adds that people with moderate pain, such as back pain, should not be prescribed these highly addictive painkillers.

To learn more about America’s epidemic of prescription drug addiction, read my article “America’s Growing Addiction” at


Ken and Esther Scarborough Carry the Torch

Ken and Esther Scarborough make appearance on Good Morning America and Nightline.

I want to congratulate my clients and friends Ken and Esther Scarborough of Kountze, Texas for their tireless efforts to end prescription drug addiction. As many of you know, Ken and Esther lost their only son Chris to an accidental prescription drug overdose. Chris, who was only 25 at the time visited a store front "pain clinic" and was prescribed huge quantities of the popular cocktail of hydrocodone, Soma and Xanax. 

Ken and Esther enlisted my services to fight for them in the Courts and that battle continues. However, Ken and Esther didn’t stop with the filing of a lawsuit. They have formed an advocacy group called Parents Against Prescription Drug Addiction (PAPDA).

Their story was first featured on Dan Rather reports and yesterday they were featured on ABC’s Good Morning America and Nightline.

I encourage everyone to view these stories to gain a better understanding of the flagrant practices of  "pill mills" and what is being done to try and eradicate them. 

Ken and Esther are my heroes. They have taken the tragedy of their son’s death and turned it into a passion for helping others avoid a similar fate. I imagine there are times when the pain of their grief makes it hard to carry on, but they do. 

Thank you Ken and Esther for fighting the good fight and for spreading the word about pill mills. Congratulations on bringing the national spotlight onto the epidemic of prescription drug addiction.


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