John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Increased Drug Use by Whites Due to Access to Opioid Prescriptions Rather Than Economic Conditions, Concludes New Study

[From] LIFE expectancy in America declined for the second year running in 2016 according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC). Unsurprisingly, one major cause was the opioid epidemic. The CDC reported that deaths from drug overdoses rose from 16,848 in 1999 to 63,632 in 2016. The increase was particularly steep among those aged 55 to 64, for whom death rates increased six-fold over that period. Mortality from opioids designed for pain relief spiked from about one-fifth to over one half of total drug deaths.

This grim epidemic has often been blamed on economic conditions. But a new paper by Christopher Ruhm at the University of Virginia suggests that economic conditions can only help explain a small fraction of the increase in drug mortality rates.

Mr Ruhm’s recent work suggests that, over the long term, economic conditions are a comparatively small factor behind drug mortality rates. Deaths have spiked in communities where economic conditions are relatively good and amongst racial groups (whites) that have seen comparatively limited economic insecurity. Mr Ruhm’s results suggest that “deaths of despair” do not account for more than one-tenth of the rise in drug and opioid-involved mortality rates.

Neither unemployment and poverty rates, median household incomes, or exposure to imports were significantly related to suicide and alcohol deaths in Mr Ruhm’s study, while house prices were only weakly related. Another finding points to the more important factor behind increased drug use: whites were more affected than non-whites. The reason? White people were more widely being prescribed opioids in the first place. The epidemic is caused by access to drugs rather than economic conditions.

Further Reading:

Wolf declares opioid crisis a state disaster emergency

The declaration was accompanied by a number of steps, including allowing emergency responders to leave behind the overdose antidote naloxone when responding to a call for help and the patient declines transportation to a hospital. Officials said that in the past three years or so, police in Pennsylvania have revived people about 5,700 times using naloxone.

The declaration also will allow EMS medics to leave behind naloxone, which reverses the effect of opioids, after they revive someone from an overdose and that person refuses to go into treatment or go to a hospital. That is at least one proposed policy change that is not embraced entirely.

Evan Resnikoff (left)
receives donation from
John Mack

“It’s met with mixed feelings,” said Evan Resnikoff, president of the Bucks County EMS Chiefs Association. “It’s a hot-charged subject and opinions vary from believing it could help to believing it could enable a bigger problem.”

He hopes that people understand that people using naloxone, which is publicly accessible to all Pennsylvanians and also known by the brand name Narcan, still seek medical assistance after using it. Though family members and friends can use it to revive someone, the patient may still suffer from the effects of the drugs, he said. “Medical attention is needed. It’s not like taking a Tylenol for a headache,” Resnikoff said.

He said Bucks County EMS providers are waiting on additional guidance from the state before moving forward with the policy change.

On Tuesday, January 16, 2018, Governor Wold wrote the following letter to president Trump:

Dear President Trump,

Last year, more than 4,600 Pennsylvanians tragically died of a disease. This disease knows no age, gender, race, socio-economic status, or geography. It has spread to small towns, big cities and rural communities. It has transcended demographics and regions.

This chronic and deadly disease is substance use disorder. Across Pennsylvania, communities are grappling with an epidemic of addiction to heroin and powerful opioids that has out-paced auto accidents in terms of the lives it takes each year.

We have tried everything to make a dent: more treatment access and new treatment centers, more tools for communities, first responders and police, more access to the life-saving drug naloxone, more restrictions on prescribing, and more help for people suffering from addictions and their families, parents and grandparents.

We have worked in a bipartisan way to put new laws on our books. We have worked across agencies to break down barriers and ensure better coordination and I believe we have begun to make progress, but we continue to lose citizens and I continue to hear from families afflicted with pain and suffering that many of us could never imagine.

Last week I took another step forward in bolstering the fight against heroin and opioid addiction by signing a statewide disaster declaration to enhance state response, increase access to treatment, and save lives. The declaration is the first-of-its-kind for a public health emergency in Pennsylvania and will utilize a command center at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to track progress and enhance coordination of health and public safety agencies. See here:

Even with Pennsylvania’s disaster declaration, the reality remains that we need more help, especially from the federal government. The CURES Act passed right before you took office was a help and we will utilize every penny of the $26.5 million grant that Pennsylvania received.

When you declared a national emergency for this epidemic last October, I supported that move. But that simply is not enough.

The rest of the recommendations from your Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis are awaiting action. The primary recommendations of the commission track closely with the progress we’ve made in Pennsylvania, including increasing treatment options through Medicaid and Medication-Assisted Treatment, expanding opioid education and training for health professionals, and establishing a Naloxone standing order.

I also urge your support for Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey’s Combating the Opioid Epidemic Act to inject $45 billion into treatment and other resources to combat this crisis.

This national emergency demands significantly more resources, along with important policy recommendations from your commission. It demands that we put aside who gets credit and work together to save lives and protect communities. I urge you to refocus your efforts on implementing these recommendations and directing more federal funding to help states like Pennsylvania.



If You Can't Measure Opioid Overdoses, You Can't Improve the Response

It’s a disgrace that Chuck Kiessling - the current president of the Pennsylvania Coroners Association - does not see the benefits of accurately reporting drug overdoses and believes that such data “isn’t going to impact the living.” In a paper published in the Archives of Pathological & Laboratory Medicine, the authors conclude that “It is foreseeable that the public health role of medical examiners and coroners may continue to grow and that, perhaps in the not-too-distant future, public health impact will surpass criminal justice as the major focus of medicolegal death investigation in the United States.”

Further Reading:

Drug Overdoses Lead to Higher Taxes

Bucks County commissioners vote to raise taxes for 2018 to pay for fight against opioid epidemic

Medical Marijuana Coming to PA

PA Medical Marijuana Available In 6 Months, Registry Launched

Read "Is There a Role for Medical Cannabis in Combating the Opioid Epidemic?"

Mainstrem Media Knows Who the Real Opioid Drug Pushers Are!

This cartoon appeared on the editorial page of the October 29, 2017 issue of the Bucks County Courier Times. I have often said the the drug industry bears a major portion of the respondibility for "pushing" the over prescribing of opioids.  Just this week the founder of Insys Therapeutics Inc. was arrested and charged with allegedly bribing doctors to improperly prescribe Insys drugs containing the powerful opiate Fentanyl (see the embedded story below).

PA to Fund Narcan for First Responders

@GovernorTomWolf to Fund Narcan Opioid Overdose Antidote for PA First Responders

Holding Big Pharma Accountable for Opioid Crisis

Holding Big Pharma Accountable for Opioid Crisis 

Further Reading:

Drug Industry Now Favors Limiting Opioid Prescriptions

PhRMA Says Limiting Prescriptions of Opioid Painkillers "Right Thing to Do"

Fitzpatrick, Tsongas Anti-Fentanyl Bill Passes Committee

Bipartisan Measure Seeks to Stem Flow of Synthetic Opioids into U.S.

PA Attorney General Subpoenas Opioid Producers 

September 20, 2017. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday that several pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors have been served with subpoenas as part of a national investigation into the country's opioid abuse crisis.

One PA opioid producer NOT on this list is KVK Tech, located right in Newtown, PA! Why not? For more on why I think KVK Tech should be held accountable, read my blog post: Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies.

Bucks County Courier Times Editorial About Bensalem's Plan to Sue Opioid Drug Companies

September 2, 2017. The editorial - -reproduced below - stops short of endorsing Bensalem's decision (see here) and believes that opioid drug companies mean what they say when they claim they are working "collaboratively" with the public sector to "find solutions." BCCT says "better late than never." But the reality is it's likely to be never!

Bensalem First Local Government to Sue Opioid Manufacturers

As reported in the Philadelphia Business Journal: "Bensalem is poised to become the first local government in Pennsylvania to sue pharmaceutical companies in an effort to recover the millions it has spent to fight the opioid crisis.

"Mayor Joe DiGirolamo announced his plans Wednesday to sue more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies that he said played down the addiction risks of opioid drugs they made, marketed and distributed."

"While the companies pocketed untold fortunes from the drugs, the country fell into the worst addiction crisis it have ever endured, complained DiGirolamo and other officials who joined him at an afternoon news conference at the township building in Bucks County."

My opinion: Companies that produce opioids - including KVK Tech in Newtown Twp - should help combat the opioid addiction problem in local communities where they have headquarters. One idea I champion is the implementation of a 24/7 drug drop-off box - currently the box in Newtown is only available from 8:30 am to 4 pm on week days. KVK Tech can garner much needed good publicity by providing the funds to make this happen.

Trump and Health Secretary Price Reject Call for National Emergency to Deal with Opioid Epidemic. So Sad!

[From] The Trump administration on Tuesday stopped short of declaring the opioid epidemic a national emergency, rejecting an urgent recommendation from a White House panel on tackling the crisis.

“We believe at this point that the resources we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis, at this point, can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said at a press conference in Bedminster, N.J., after a meeting with President Trump and other White House officials.

He added that the option, like the rest of the policies suggested in the commission’s report, was still “on the table.”

The Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, called an emergency declaration it’s “first and most urgent” recommendation, in an interim version of a long-awaited report last week that included a number of policy proposals for addressing the crisis.

“Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act,” the five-member panel wrote to the president, adding that the option is “direct and completely within your control.”

“We’re going to have a tremendous team of experts and people that want to beat this horrible situation that has happened in our country — and we will. We will win. We have no alternative,” Trump said in brief remarks before Tuesday’s meeting.

While experts say stemming the flow of drugs is part of any solution, many, including top administration officials, have said that law enforcement alone cannot end an addiction crisis. That points to the need to expand treatment for people who are already addicted to opioids, experts say.

Further Reading:

Bucks County DA Matthew D. Weintraub speaks about the opioid epidemic "task force"

John Mack attended a Langhorne Rotary Club luncheon on Thursday, July 27, 2017, where Bucks County DA Matthew D. Weintraub spoke about the opioid epidemic "task force". A key component of the Task Force is the "Push the Pusher Out" campaign, which encourages people to "report drug activity" and receive up to $5,000 in rewards.

While John agrees that drug pushers need to be found and arrested, he fears that many minor drug users will be caught up in the net, while the really BIG opioid pushes, i.e., drug companies like KVK Tech (see here), are ignored. Mack made this point to DA Weintraub. Listen to his comments near the end of the following video clip.


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