Suing Pharmaceutical Companies and a New Drug on the Streets
The legal fight against Big Pharma continues, and there’s a new drug to be concerned about
An Illinois city joins prescription drug lawsuit
In June I posted about two California counties hoping to stem the tide of opioid abuse by suing five pharmaceutical companies for overprescribing opioids. (The companies were Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries’ Cephalon Inc.)
This summer, a New York Times article reported that Chicago joined the California counties, starting its own lawsuit. The full lawsuit is on the paper’s website. I haven’t read of individuals who have lost loved ones to drug overdoses starting their own lawsuits, or a class action lawsuit, but that would be another logical step.
Acetyl-Fentanyl Hits the Streets
While some governments are taking action against pharmaceutical drugs (which are legal unless they’re sold illegally), another dangerous “designer” drug has popped up on the streets. Sounds a little like the Whack-a-Mole game, an analogy I’ve used before to refer to the phenomenon that occurs when the distribution of one drug is hindered even just slightly and another drug rears its ugly head. In this case, it’s acetyl fentanyl.
Fox News says it’s a “relative of … prescription pain pill fentanyl,” and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s more potent than heroin. When users show up in the ER after taking it, it may appear that they’ve taken heroin. They may exhibit labored breathing, a slower heart rate, and low blood pressure, and look disoriented and lethargic. The drug may be mixed with heroin (and thus made even more potent), however, or disguised as oxycodone. ER personnel might try and give Naloxone, but in this case, the patient doesn’t respond as heroin users do. Therefore, doctors are being instructed to give a higher dose.
Here’s a news release on acetyl fentanyl from the American College of Emergency Physicians. I assumed it calls the drug quasi-legal because it’s an opiate used for pain, but that’s not the whole story. The release says:
“Acetyl fentanyl is not specifically regulated though it qualifies as an analogue of fentanyl (a medical opiate). Thus, it exists in a legal grey area in that it is considered illicit for human consumption but if a package is labeled “not for human consumption” the product is technically legal. A large quantity of acetyl fentanyl would potentially be immune to regulation as long as it was titled, labeled and stored as a product with industrial or non-human research purposes.” And drug distribution networks will likely take advantage of this grey area.
Because it can be mixed with heroin or disguised, however, users may not even know they’re taking it.
One researcher said that acetyl fentanyl will probably be rendered a “schedule drug,” similar to what happened with bath salts. But he’d like to see the legal loophole closed proactively.
An article in the LA Times adds some information. Drug dealers are cutting the acetyl fentanyl and labeling it “not for consumption” so that they have larger quantities, which can be legally transported, for example. And as if the news weren’t bad enough, some users knowingly inject the drug as a substitute for heroin or other opiates.
Unfortunately, it sounds like we have another dangerous substance on our hands, one ER’s around the country will need to be on the lookout for.