NuvaRing: Deadly Dangers Associated with Use

When choosing birth control, women may be drawn to the convenience and higher probability of proper compliance with the NuvaRing birth control option. NuvaRing promises a “continuous low dose of hormones to prevent pregnancy,” comfort, and the added benefit of “no daily dosing” which allows it to be more effective and easier to manage. It’s no surprise that busy women who want simple, effective birth control may certainly be drawn to this product.

However, NuvaRing users or women considering using NuvaRing as birth control, beware: NuvaRing is responsible for more than 5,000 adverse reactions ranging from blood clots to strokes and even death.

Like many of its competitors on the market, NuvaRing is appealing to a wide scope of women through vibrant, catchy advertisements. However, what those considering using NuvaRing won’t see in the commercials and ads is a lengthy list of serious complications that are associated with its use. Some of NuvaRing’s risks are common with most forms of birth control, but some are more than a little jarring, especially when coupled with the potential for a more serious, life-threatening side effects.

Although NuvaRing was originally marketed as a safer alternative to oral contraceptives,    its continuous dose of synthetic hormones, as well as the type of hormones it uses, make it a more dangerous choice.The synthetic hormones (desogestrel) in NuvaRing are absorbed directly into the bloodstream instead of by way of the digestive tract, as in the case of oral contraceptives, which may increase the user’s risk of developing life-threatening blood clots.

A study conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on combined hormonal contraceptives (CHCs, such as NuvaRing) and the risk of cardiovascular disease revealed some shocking statistics:

“Of the 835,826 of women studied, 241 women suffered strokes and 614 women suffered venous thromboembolisms (VTE), as well as other life-threatening complications.”

In my opinion, if it was my daughter, sister, or friend, I would advise her to stay away from the NuvaRing, as it really isn’t worth taking the added risk.

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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.

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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 www.vanweylaw.com

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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 www.papda.net. 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.

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FDA Updates Warning for Reclast

The FDA has issued a new safety update for the bisphosphonate Reclast, warning that patients have experienced kidney failure requiring dialysis or resulting in death after having an injection of the drug. Patients should be screened for kidney problems before being given the injection.

(Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an update to the drug label for Reclast, an injection used to prevent or treat osteoporosis.  The new warning is in regards to the risk of renal failure.

Reclast, generic name zoledronic acid, is a bisphosphonate that is used to treat or prevent osteoporosis in women who are in menopause and to increase bone mass in men with osteoporosis.  The injection is given in a single dose every one to two years.

The FDA has recently received reports of patients experiencing kidney failure while taking Reclast.  These patients reporting kidney failure either required dialysis or died from the complication.

While kidney failure is a rare condition in patients using Reclast, it is more likely to occur in those patients who have a history of or risk factors for kidney problems.  Risk factors include an underlying moderate to severe renal impairment, use of kidney-damaging or diuretic medicines, and severe dehydration before or after receiving Reclast.

The risk of developing renal failure increases with age.  Your doctor should screen you for any kidney problems prior to giving you Reclast.  You should tell your doctor about any medications you are taking so that he or she can better identify whether these medications will adversely react with Reclast.

Earlier this year, Reclast was identified as a drug that is likely to cause a femur fracture in patients.  The FDA has sent out a safety announcement warning patients about the risks bisphosphonates pose and is continuing to review data regarding the risk of femur fractures in patients.

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Tylenol Lowers Daily Recommended Dose

Johnson & Johnson has recently lowered the daily recommended dose for its popular OTC drug, Extra Strength Tylenol. The drug, which contains acetaminophen, has been shown to cause liver failure when patients overdose on it.

Tylenol! Pictures, Images and Photos

Do you take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications daily at the maximum recommended dosage?  If so, you may be over-medicating yourself.  

Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of the popular OTC pain pill Tylenol recently announced that it would be reducing the recommended dose of its Extra Strength Tylenol from 4,000 mg or eight pills a day to 3,000 mg or six pills a day.  Tylenol contains acetaminophen, which is found in more than 600 medicines, including Alka-Seltzer, Nyquil, and Sudafed.   People mixing these medicines often unknowingly overdose on acetaminophen.
 
So why is Johnson & Johnson changing its dosing instructions now?  More than 56,000 Americans are hospitalized each year after overdosing on acetaminophen, which can cause liver failure.  In fact, acetaminophen overdoses are the leading cause of liver failure in the United States and lead to nearly 458 deaths each year.
 
Because acetaminophen is found in so many other OTC products, Johnson & Johnson thought it would be best for consumers if the company lowered the daily recommended dose.  New labels on Extra Strength Tylenol with the reduced dosage will start rolling out this fall.  Next year, Johnson & Johnson will also change the dosing instructions on its regular Tylenol.
 
While health experts are praising Johnson & Johnson for voluntarily changing the labels to reflect the lower recommended dosage, they are also worried that companies that produce similar OTC products are not informing consumers sufficiently about these medicines and how they may interact with other medicines.
 
Beginning as early as 2009, some medical experts called on Johnson & Johnson and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to lower the recommended dose to as little as 2,600 mg per day.  They also urged the major pharmaceutical company to require a prescription be written for Extra Strength Tylenol 500 mg.  Neither of these changes were made at the time, and Extra Strength Tylenol is still available as an OTC medication.
 
In recent years, Johnson & Johnson has suffered major setbacks in manufacturing several of its popular OTC drugs.  Just this year, the company recalled 43 million packages of Tylenol, Benadryl, Sudafed, and Sinutab products because the equipment used to produce the drugs was not sufficiently cleaned.
 
Even with “safe” OTC drugs on the market, pharmaceutical companies need to help consumers understand what ingredients are in the medicines they are taking, how those interact together, and the maximum dosage of each drug they should be taking per day.
 
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