How Women can be More Aware of Harmful Drugs

Women are targeted with dangerous drug advertisements

Drug advertisements often exploit and target women’s vulnerabilities and insecurities in the roles they play as mother, wife and friend. Through the years, breakthroughs in science and medicine have helped women deal with their specific health concerns. Some of these concerns include, but are not limited to:

  • Menstrual discomfort
  • Menopause
  • Contraception
  • Beauty and diet
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

The drugs and medical devices that have emerged often times have not delivered what they had promised. Even worse, they have injured and killed women.

Hormone Replacement Therapy

In 1942, hormone replacement therapy reared its head and became big business. It promised to help women suffering with the negative effects of menopause, telling husbands that their wives would be much more “pleasant” when they returned home from a long day at the office. By 1975, the link was made between estrogen therapy and uterine cancer, and by 1989, breast cancer.

This didn’t slow pharmaceutical manufacturers from attempting to cash in again, however. Wyeth introduced a combination of estrogen and progesterone in 1996, calling the new drug Prempro. It was later discovered that this company paid ghostwriters to publish scientific papers that played down the risks of taking hormones. Profits rose to $2 billion in 2001, and nearly 70 million prescriptions were filled.

In 2002, the tide turned when a huge federal study was stopped after researchers discovered an increased risk of invasive breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Sales dropped dramatically, but they did continue despite the dangers that were discovered. Pfizer now owns Wyeth, and they announced in 2012 that they will pay up to $1.2 billion to settle 10,000 Prempro patient lawsuits.

Be Aware and be Skeptical

The list could continue on for all of the problem drugs and medical devices that have endangered the lives of women. Here are some ways to make sure you are more aware, and that you are protecting yourself properly:

  1. Every prescription drug comes with risks, many of them are long-term. We cannot view every drug as a “silver bullet”, as though it magically will cure what ails us. The potential benefits are often not worth the larger risks. Before beginning any prescription drug, research it well with the huge amount of information available at your fingertips via the internet. 
  1. Be most cautious of newer drugs. We know about the side effects of many drugs that have been on the market for a while only because they have been used by millions of people. Many of these people suffered injury, and even death, from the side effects of dangerous drugs. They paid the price for the knowledge we have. Many newer drugs or devices may have only been tested in limited studies sponsored by the manufacturer whose first interest is making money from them, not keeping you safe from harm. Often, women are underrepresented in these tests as well. 
  1. Be especially skeptical of any drug that is heavily advertised. Drug companies are spending billions on advertising to doctors and to the public. Much of this advertising is often cited as manipulative or misleading, especially those targeting women. 
  1. Find trusted sources of information. Make sure that the data you research is not funded by the pharmaceutical manufacturer or related organizations. This includes doctors. Compare what your doctor tells you with information you research. Sometimes doctors are not fully aware of the dangers of the drugs they prescribe. Here are some trusted sources to begin with: 
  • [email protected] – official information about FDA-approved brand-name and generic drugs and therapeutic products (see the listing of adverse events associated with drugs)
  • Drugs.com – look up more than 24,000 prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and natural products
  • MedlinePlus – tracks drugs and supplements; National Institutes of Health’s website for patient safety
  • ConsumerSafety.org – safety alerts, error reporting and other resources from the Institute of Safe Medication Practices
  • Dollars for Docs – public database showing payments to doctors by pharmaceutical companies to represent their products

You are your best line of defense for protecting your health, so learn all you can and be preventative and cautious with the drugs you put in your body. Follow my blog to continually receive news and tips that will help you stay on top of your health. be sure to grab my free resource, 10 Secrets the Pharmaceutical Industry Does Not Want You to Know, to keep as a valuable resource for your protection.

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A Free Guide to Secrets of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Kay Van Wey Warns of secrets pharmaceutical companies don't want you to know.

Through my experience, I have become educated about the inside secrets of the pharmaceutical industry. I have learned through helping clients who were victims of medical malpractice, defective drugs or medical devices, and other serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths. The sad truth is, unfortunately, we cannot place our health in the hands of large corporations, and in particular, pharmaceutical corporations.

The truths I have discovered prompted me to write my book Prescription Drug Safety: Secrets the Pharmaceutical Industry Does Not Want You to Know so that I could pass on the insights I’ve gained. My hope is that by sharing this knowledge with you, you can equip yourself with awareness that will spare you or one of your family members from avoidable suffering.

The resource I’m offering is free, and by clicking here, you can have it immediately delivered to your inbox, and be on the road to protecting the health of yourself, your family, and your friends. It’s a quick, easy read that will empower you with vital information that you can pass on to others.

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Walgreen’s Illegally Distributes Controlled Substances

Is Walgreen,s Pharmacy really “at the Corner of Happy and Healthy”, like their motto claims? Maybe not…

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The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) caught Walgreen’s Pharmacy red-handed.  Allegations claim they were knowingly and  illegally distributing controlled substances to known abusers and drug dealers. The DEA found an “unprecedented” number of record-keeping and dispensing violations of the Controlled Substances Act.

Walgreen’s agreed to an $80 million settlement to put the matter to rest.  Part of the deal required Walgreen’s to publicly admit that it had failed to comply with its responsibilities as a DEA registrant. Although they claim they do all they can to stop this activity, there is evidence it is still occurring, even after the large sum of money they were required to pay. According to a recent blog article on bytegeist.com, Walgreen’s is more concerned with making a dollar than the health of its customers.

How Does This Effect Me? 

I have written many times about the problem of prescription drug addiction in America. It is crucial to shut down the supply chains if this problem is ever going to be eliminated. Unlike illicit drugs,  prescription drug dealers aren’t standing on dimly lit street corners in the rough areas of town. To the contrary, much of the supply comes from doctors, pharmacies and clinics who are licensed to distribute  controlled substances. With this license, however, comes the responsibility of complying with the law. Unfortunately, many do not comply, and this effects all of us.

Controlled substances may only be prescribed and dispensed for a legitimate medical purpose. When this fundamental premise isn’t followed, illegal distribution and abuse emerge. Narcotics find their way into the hands of addicts and dealers who sell them illegally on the black market. Sadly, the prescription drug black market makes its way into schools and homes, and destroys lives and families. 

Kudos to the Drug Enforcement Agency for getting the attention of one national pharmaceutical chain. Let’s hope it sends a loud message to the others. We all must do our part, as they are, to stop this epidemic in America.

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U.S. Supreme Court Deals a Low Blow to Consumers

The U.S. Supreme Court recently decided a case that could have far-reaching effects on consumers. Pliva, Inc. v. Mensing holds that federal law pre-empts state laws imposing the duty on a generic drug manufacturer to change a drug’s label. Now consumers who are injured by generic drugs will not be able to bring claims against the generic manufacturers.

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It is no secret that the highest court in our country, the United States Supreme Court, is sharply divided along political lines. Currently, the Court is comprised of two Reagan appointees, one George H.W. Bush appointee, two George W. Bush appointees, two Clinton appointees, and two Obama appointees. Sadly, the decisions of the Court often come down to legal interpretations, which are heavily influenced by political ideology.

On June 23, 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an opinion in Pliva, Inc. v. Mensing, which arguably has far reaching consequences for drug safety.  In that case, the Court considered the issue of “whether federal drug regulations applicable to generic drug manufacturers directly conflict with, and thus pre-empt, these state law claims.”  Justice Clarence Thomas for the plurality wrote an opinion holding that the state law claims are pre-empted by federal drug regulations.

The holding of the case came as a surprise to many who thought that the Supreme Court would uphold the rulings of the 5th and 8th Circuit Courts.  Both of those courts rejected the manufacturers’ argument that federal law pre-empted any state tort claims and held that the plaintiffs’ claims were not pre-empted.

Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote a dissenting opinion in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan also took part.  In her opinion, she noted that "…the majority’s pre-emption analysis strips generic-drug consumers of compensation when they are injured by inadequate warnings."  She also sharply criticized the plurality opinion for its contorted reading of pre-emption, arguing that Pliva “effectively rewrites our decision in Wyeth v. Levine.”

Because Justice Thomas’ decision was a plurality opinion, there was no clear majority of the Court that adopted Justice Thomas’ reasoning.  Anyone who is interested in consumer issues, drug safety issues, or in how the Court works should read Justice Sotomayor’s blistering dissenting opinion.  As they say, “you don’t really want to see how the sausage is made.”

So what does all of this legalese mean for consumers?  The gist of the Court’s opinion is this: if a consumer is injured by a drug’s inadequate safety warnings, his/her right to sue now depends on whether the pharmacist fills the prescription with a name brand drug or a generic drug.  Under the plurality’s holding, the consumer injured by a name brand drug will be able to bring suit, but the consumer injured by a generic equivalent of a brand name drug will be left with no remedy for his injuries.

Unfortunately for consumers, generic drugs now comprise 75 percent of all prescription drugs dispensed in this country. The consumer usually has little control over whether the name brand or generic is provided.  Oftentimes, large insurance companies control the decision about which drug a consumer receives.  This decision is made in the board rooms of large insurance companies who negotiate with drug manufacturers for the cheapest prices.

According to Justice Sotomayor, "Today’s decision eliminates the traditional state-law incentives for generic manufacturers to monitor and disclose safety risks.  When a generic drug has a brand-name equivalent on the market, the brand-name manufacturer will remain incentivized to uncover safety risks.  But brand-name manufacturers often leave the market once generic versions are available, meaning that there will be no manufacturer subject to failure-to-warn liability.  As to those generic drugs, there will be no additional layer of consumer protection."

Look for more about this landmark case and how it affects consumers on www.vanweylaw.com.

 

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Money Before Medicine

Schneider duo found guilty of operating pill mill.

On its seventh day of deliberations, a federal jury on Thursday, June 24 found Kansas  doctor Stephen Schneider and his nurse wife Linda Schneider guilty of conspiring to profit from illegally prescribing painkillers to patients, many of whom later died. The jury also found the Schneiders guilty on five counts of unlawfully writing prescriptions and on 11 health care fraud counts. The jury found Linda Schneider guilty of 15 money laundering charges.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway prosecuted the case, which consumed eight weeks of trial. In a 34-count indictment, the Schneiders were charged with conspiring to illegally distribute prescription drugs that contributed to 21 deaths, fraud, and money laundering. The prosecution put on evidence of 176 overdoses and 68 deaths related to the pill mill.

This was a case of “money before medicine,” Tanya Treadway said. According to the prosecution, about half of the 10,000 patients treated at the Schneider Medical Clinic received pain medication. The clinic was open 11 hours a day every day, had 14 exam rooms and  scheduled patients 10 minutes apart.  Prosecutors allege the clinic made $7 million in a little over four years through health care fraud. The Schneiders pocketed about $1.5 million. The prosecution put on evidence of 176 overdoses and 68 deaths related to the pill mill.

Dr. Schneider’s attorney, reportedly supported by the advocacy group Pain Relief Network that advocates for the right to pain treatment, argued that Dr. Schneider acted “with a pure heart.” He said that “what [Dr. Schneider] did with his patients, he did so innocently, he did so honestly, and he did so courageously.”

 

Curiously, Dr. Schneider chose to drive a bright yellow hummer emblazoned with skull and crossbones to and from the pill mill on a daily basis. I wonder what kind of message he was trying to send? Was he  in a state of deep denial or did he have  so little fear of ever being prosecuted for his pill peddling that he felt bulletproof? We will probably never know, but I am sure the vehicle represents to the victims everything that was wrong with the Schneiders and their so called medical practice.

Sentencing has not yet been set. The Schneiders could face up to a life sentence.  The Schneiders also will stand trial in several civil wrongful death lawsuits which have been filed against them.
 

 We applaud the courage of Tanya Treadway in stepping up to the plate to prosecute this case.  It takes hard work and effort to bring persons such as these to justice.  Prosecutions such as these must continue to happen. Pill mill operators need to go to jail  just like persons who peddle street drugs go to jail. Pill mill operators must also be held liable for monetary damages for the devastation that they are causing while lining their pockets with blood money.Hopefully, the combination of vigorous criminal and civil prosecution will stem the tide of prescription drug overdose deaths.
 

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What is a pill mill?

A pill mill is a doctor’s office or medical clinic whose purpose is not to treat sick or injured patients, but instead to reap enormous profits through the illegal diversion of prescription drugs. Law enforcement estimates that there may be tens of thousands of these pill mills currently operating in the United States.

While not all pill mills look alike, they can often times be spotted by the crowds of people gathering in their parking lots or the makeshift banner advertising "pain management" or "pain clinic". Pill mill doctors rarely have any pain management credentials, usually do not have hospital privileges, see 80-100 patients per day and typically only accept cash.

Pill mills work in conjunction with shady pharmacies and unethical pharmacists who are willing to turn a blind eye to apparent non-therapeutic prescribing practices.  Remember, the prescriptions are only worth the paper they are written on until a willing pharmacist agrees to dispense the drugs.

Some pill mills may have the appearance of a legitimate medical practice. However, the encounter will typically be very brief. Oftentimes, there will be very little medical history, little or no physical examination, no laboratory or diagnostic studies performed.  Some pill mills routinely write prescriptions for a drug cocktail, which is a combination of Lorcet or Vicodin, Soma and Xanax. This combination of drugs is commonly referred to as a "party pack", "Holy Trinity" or in some parts of the country a "Las Vegas Cocktail".

A legitimate pain management practice may also dispense narcotic pain medications, but only after a thorough physical examination, detailed understanding of the patient’s medical history, and diagnostic tests. Typically, medical treatment such as physical therapy, injections, surgical procedures and psychotherapy are provided in conjunction with the prescription. 

Some pill mill operators have become smarter about flying under the radar screen and have adopted ways of looking more like legitimate medical practices.

Partially gathered by the CBS Evening news and myself, here are some tell tale signs of a typical pill mill:

  • It accepts cash only
  • You may or may not be seen by a physician
  • No physical exam required or performed
  • No medical records or X-rays are needed
  • Prior medical records not required
  • You ask for the medications rather than the doctor deciding what you need
  • The same drugs and combinations of drugs are prescribed over and over to most patients
  • There is scant medical documentation
  • You’re directed to "their” pharmacy
  • They treat pain with pills only
  • They give you a set number of pills and tell you specific date to come back for more
  • Huge quantities of drugs are prescribed at one time
  • They may have security guards
  • They may have a line of people outside or in the waiting room
  • They may accept out of town or out of state patients
  • Patients may arrive in carloads

Again, pill mills come in all shapes and sizes and some are better at hiding their true colors. However, there are a staggering number of pill mills that are operating right under the noses of law enforcement, medical licensing boards and other government regulatory agencies. Law enforcement is well aware of these types of clinics, but little has been done to eradicate them.  Meanwhile, enormous fortunes are being made and people continue to die from prescription drug addiction.

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