John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Opioid Epidemic Category

Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments

At the December 12, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of authorizing a law firm to file a suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township (read "Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors").

To gauge the opinions of local residents regarding this lawsuit, I started an online SURVEY on January 4, 2019. You can find more information about this survey here.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue.

As of January 24, 2019, 111 responses were collected. Here, I summarize some comments "Pro & Con". To find out percent of respondents in favor vs not in favor, you can take the survey yourself (results to date will be displayed after you take the survey, but no comments) or you can subscribe to my newsletter where the results will be published in the January 26, 2019, issue.

Some Comments in Favor

A total of 7 comments were made by respondents in favor of the lawsuit. Many comments were from Middletown Township residents. The following is just a sampling. One sentiment among respondents was that other entities should also be held accountable:

  • “Physicians that over prescribed should also be held accountable,” said a Middletown Township respondent.

  • “I support it ONLY if the suit includes KVK. I'm fairly certain that a large number of Newtown Residents are not fully aware that KVK is 'manufacturing' their opioids in Newtown Borough on Terry Drive!,” said a Newtown Borough resident.”

  • “As long as Newtown taxpayers are not liable for any fees in the event that the lawsuit is unsuccessful,” said a Newtown Township resident.
NOTE: Newtown Township will NOT incur any expenses related to this suit and it will NOT be charged any attorney fees for filing the action no matter what the outcome. The law firms will work on a 25% contingency basis, meaning that 25% of any fees awarded to Newtown will be retained by the law firms and 75% will go to Newtown.

Other comments were concerned about the young people who have been affected:

  • “Absolutely! We have an epidemic all over Bucks county , wonderful young people taking pills escalating to herion (sic) .. destroying families yes !!!!,” said a Jamison, PA resident.

  • “My son has been directly affected by the opioid epidemic,” said a Middletown resident.

Some Comments Not in Favor

A total of 29 comments were made from respondents who were NOT in favor of the lawsuit. Most of these were from Newtown Township residents. 

  • “This is a frivolous lawsuit, initiated by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. Shame on Newtown supervisors for biting at this, and jumping on the bandwagon with other towns,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “Waste of resources concerns me [see NOTE above]. The manufacturers, with the exception of Purdue, had little to do with misuse by patients or doctors. The potential culprit are the wholesalers and chains to sent huge amounts of opioids into stores and doctor's offices known to be suppliers,” said a Lower Makefield Township resident.

  • “Regardless of my answer, There was nothing in your argument clearly defining the role of the manufacturer/ Marketer in the opioid abuse epidemic- to be more persuasive, please add this,” said a Newtown Township resident [listen to State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s comments below]. “The manufacturer is a piece of a multifactorial (sic) puzzle that leads to addiction- we need our local healthcare professionals- the gatekeepers to these medications to step-up and commit, we need our manufacturers to put programs in place to ensure education to both HCPs, patients and public, we need parents, guardians, family and friends to speak up and take actions to limit access. We need to take real action as a community, not just put our names on a lawsuit. Big thanks to the Newtown police for already doing their part in supporting Drug Take-Back days!”

  • “To blame drug companies for this epidemic is like blaming them for cancer treatments. We need to look where the real problems lie. Social isolation, mental illness, physical, sexual and/ or emotional abuse etc. this is where it all begins,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “This should be the responsibility of State Attorney Generals office,” said another Newtown Township resident.
Speaking at a local the Opioid Community Forum on January 17, 2019, PA State Attorney Josh Shapiro said prescription drugs are providing the “jet fuel driving this crisis” and that is why PA is one of 4 states leading a 41 state investigation of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors that “I hold responsible for a huge part of this crisis.”

  • “Recent legislation and law suits such as these are making it increasingly difficult for patients to get proper care from their providers,” claims a Newtown Township resident. “This is a huge problem for people suffering from chronic pain. Making their care more difficult and more expensive.”
Some research that I have seen in the medical literature on the effectiveness of opioids.

Take a look at this study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): "Effect of Opioid vs. Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain". Study conclusions: "Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications (e.g. acetaminophen - Tylenol) for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain." You can access the full abstract here.

Here's another study you that was cited in the survey: Russell K. Portenoy, Opioid Therapy for Chronic Nonmalignant Pain: Current Status, 1 Progress in Pain Res. & Mgmt., 247-287 (H.L. Fields and J.e. Liebeskind eds., 1994). The researchers conclude that the effectiveness of opioids wane over time, requiring increases in doses to achieve pain relief and markedly increasing the risk of significant side effects and addiction.

In this issue of JAMA [JAMA. 2018;320(23):2448-2460. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.18472], Busse and colleagues provide important information on patient outcomes when opioids are used to treat chronic noncancer pain. The findings illustrate that most patients who are prescribed opioids for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain will not benefit from those drugs,” said the researchers. “However, when opioids fail to provide pain relief, a common response by clinicians may be dose escalation rather than reconsidering use of the drug. Given the clear risk of serious harm, opioids should not be continued without clear evidence of a clinically important benefit.

How Will This Help?

Several respondents wondered how any monies awarded Newtown Township would be used to combat the opioid epidemic. “What costs are you trying to recover?,” said a Newtown Township resident. “I support any monies going towards prevention & treatment,” said a Middletown resident who was unsure whether to support the lawsuit or not.

When this came to a vote at a public meeting, I too wondered how the money would used. At that meeting, I said “If the Township were to get some money out of this, small as it might be, I hope that the funds are used to support opioid anti-addiction programs and implement educational programs for the general public and students.” I also noted that Newtown Township’s “24/7” drop drop-off box could be improved by making it a secure, true 24/7 box that does not require a police officer to be called to open the lobby door during off hours and on weekends

Speaking of recovering costs, I will be attending the 111th Annual Convention of the Bucks County Association of Township Officials on Saturday, February 16, 2019. An agenda item of interest to me is an opioid panel of experts that will answer questions about which Township costs may be the result of the opioid epidemic.

Click here to access more information about this panel plus a long list of opioid epidemic costs that may be recoverable from a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

DISCLAIMER: This is not an official Newtown Township approved survey. Its purpose is solely to inform John Mack – a Newtown Supervisor – of the public’s opinion regarding this issue.

Posted on 25 Jan 2019, 01:48 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors

With regard to the opioid crisis, I have said (here) that we can’t educate doctors and patients on the effects of opioids and combat the overdose epidemic without addressing the source of the problem: pharmaceutical companies.

At the December 12, 2018, meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) voted 4 to 1 in favor of authorizing Marc J. Bern Partners, LLP, & Cordisco & Saile, LLC to file suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township (see story embedded at the end of this post).  

THIS SUIT WILL NOT COST NEWTOWN TAXPAYERS ANY MONEY! 

Newtown Township will NOT incur any expenses related to this suit and it will NOT be charged any attorney fees for filing the action. The law firms will work on a 25% contingency basis, meaning that 25% of any fees awarded to Newtown will be retained by the law firms and 75% will go to Newtown.

The following video clip documents the discussion before the vote was taken:

SURVEY: Do You Support Newtown’s Decision to Sue Opioid Manufacturers, Distributors?

Take this survey to test your knowledge of statistics regarding opioids and the opioid epidemic, then answer the question: Do You Support Newtown's Decision to File a Civil Lawsuit Against Opioid Manufacturers?

This survey is NOT an official Newtown Township survey.

There is no single “magic bullet” that will solve this problem, but putting pressure on drug companies through legal suits such as this one can help call attention to some of the bad players, some of whom are mentioned in this lawsuit.

I do wish other bad players were on the list of defendants. Including those companies who have illegally provided kickbacks to physicians to overprescribe their opioid products (see the “Further Reading” list below).

If the Township were to get some money out of this, small as it might be, it is my hope that the funds are used to support opioid anti-addiction programs and implement educational programs for the general public and students.

Further Reading:


Posted on 14 Dec 2018, 10:53 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

"Pot vs Pills": Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special Report

Dr. Gupta takes an in depth look into cannabis as an alternative to prescription drugs. He tackles the role of cannabis in fighting America's opioid addiction crisis.

In the special, Gupta meets pioneers in the field of pain management as well as addiction research who believe that marijuana is the next best hope for treating both. 

He also speaks with those who have struggled with addiction including an exclusive interview with NFL running back Mike James. In 2013 James suffered a devastating leg injury during a Monday night football game. He was given opioids after surgery to treat his pain, and months later he found himself addicted. Scared and worried, his wife suggested he try marijuana, a drug that is banned by the NFL and could cost any player their careers. 

I've gotten some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.

Posted on 04 May 2018, 01:32 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

National Drug Take Back Day Was a Success

The recent DEA-sponsored National Drug Take Back Day - April 28, 2018 - was a great success. Newtown Township Police estimate that 104 lbs of unused, unwanted, or expired drugs were collected at the Newtown Township Administration building and 29 lbs from the Together We Can Convention for a total of 133 lbs! More than 16,705 lbs of drugs were dropped off in Bucks and Montgomery Counties:

More Drug Take Back Numbers

Meanwhile, you can still drop off your unused drugs at the Newtown Police Station any day of the week at any hour - even when the office is closed - thanks to Newtown's innovative 24/7 drug drop-off program, which I advocated for way back on August 9, 2017, before I was a Township Supervisor. Back then I called upon the Board of Supervisors to implement a 24/7 drug drop-off box at the Newtown Twp police station and to establish a "Drug-Free Newtown" committee of concerned citizens to advise the board about further initiatives to help curb the Opioid/drug abuse problem in Newtown and surrounding communities (see video below and my letter to the Bucks County Courier Times). 

I recall that during my campaign, the opposition put out a negative mailer claiming I wanted to take a police officer off the street to man a drug take-back box 24 hours a day! How cynical and unimaginative those critics were. I am happy that Henry Pasqualini - Newtown's Chief of Police - was passionate and creative enough to come up with a solution.

BTW, I spoke to the police officer "manning" the drop-off box located at the Together We Can convention and she told me that many people people are using the 24/7 option to drop off their drugs in Newtown, so that is a success as well!

Posted on 01 May 2018, 01:21 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

Report from the Together We Can Convention

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, I spent several hours manning my table at the “Together We Can™” convention addressing drug addiction in Bucks County, which took place at the Newtown Athletic Club. I participated in order to learn about solutions and get feedback about the potential of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain.

John Mack surveys attendees of the Together We Can convention.

As you can see from the video at the end of this post, there were many – perhaps 100 -  “vendors” and organizations with tables at the convention. Tables were arranged into three sections: Engage, Embrace and Encourage. I was in the "Engage" section, which also included the Bensalem Police Department two tables away. They were promoting their Recovery Assistance Program, which they hope other municipalities will copy - even Newtown perhaps.

“Under the Bensalem Police Assisting in Recovery (BPAIR) program instituted in 2016,” reported the Bucks County Courier Times (read Volunteer 'navigators' needed for Bensalem recovery assistance program), “any Bensalem resident can show up at the department day or night, even if they are under the influence, and ask for help. A volunteer or ‘navigator’ then is called to respond and accompany the resident to Gaudenzia treatment center in Bristol Township for a treatment assessment.” I was told that a local taxi company offers free transportation for the navigator and resident.

Bensalem Police manning a table at the Together We Can convention.

The convention organizers also invited political candidates – including Brian Fitzpatrict and other Republican Party candidates – to speak to the audience. Not invited – as far as I know – were any Democratic Party Candidates although PA State Representative Perry Warren was there making the rounds and manning his own table.

Regardless, I don’t think the convention should be considered a “trick” designed to get Republican candidates more exposure. Anyone could attend, including more Democrat candidates even if they were not invited to speak. You could have learned a thing or two just by attending!!!

Truth be told, it was difficult to hear most speakers and the real action was the interaction with attendees and vendors on the floor, many of whom were recovering from addiction. I learned a lot by talking to these people - no one asked my political affiliation.

I spoke to several parents who lost their sons and daughters to overdosing or who endured great hardship helping their children get treatment to overcome addiction. I also got some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.

 

 

Here’s my 8-minute video tour of the convention:

Posted on 30 Apr 2018, 15:27 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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