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.


Medical Device Manufacturer Accused of Paying Kickbacks Settles for $23.5 Million

Medtronic, Inc., the world’s largest maker of medical devices, has agreed to pay $23.5 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors for using its medical devices. Medtronic did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Pharmaceutical companies are not the only companies accused of paying kickbacks to doctors to sell their products.   More recently, Medtronic, Inc., the world’s largest medical device maker, agreed to pay $23.5 million in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department after the government alleged Medtronic was paying kickbacks to doctors.

In a recent probe into the company’s practices, the government found enough evidence to bring charges against Medtronic, alleging that the company submitted false claims to Medicaid and Medicare using two post-market studies and device registries in which illegal kickbacks were paid to doctors.

As part of the kickbacks, the government alleged that Medtronic paid doctors between $1,000 and $2,000 per patient to get them to use the devices in their patients.

Medtronic has not admitted any wrongdoing despite its settlement with the government.  But government attorneys say improper payments like those made by Medtronic to doctors can impair doctors’ judgment when it comes to helping patients choose a pacemaker or defibrillator that is right for the patients.

Other companies that have settled kickback allegations with the government include Boston Scientific and St. Jude Medical.  Boston Scientific paid $22 million after the government found it had paid kickbacks to doctors as an incentive for them to use Boston Scientific’s heart devices.  And earlier this year, St. Jude Medical paid $16 million to settle allegations similar to those brought against Medtronic.  Neither of those companies admitted wrongdoing in their settlements.

This is not the first allegation that Medtronic has paid doctors to influence study results.  Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation into the company’s marketing of Infuse, a bone growth product.

For more information on tactics the pharmaceutical industry uses to sell its prescription drugs, download my free book Prescription Drug Safety: 7 Secrets the Pharmaceutical Industry Does NOT Want You to Know today at www.vanweylaw.com


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 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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 www.vanweylaw.com.