Purdue Pharma lawsuit redactions apparently show company wanted to capitalize on opioid addiction treatment

A new report claims Purdue Pharma, the drug company accused of helping engineer and profit from the opioid epidemic, also considered expanding into addiction treatment. The ProPublica article is purportedly based on secret parts of a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts against Purdue and members of the Sackler family who own the company. The suit alleges Purdue deceptively sold OxyContin and downplayed its dangers. Purdue says it will continue to defend itself.

According to ProPublica, blacked out portions of the documents apparently show Purdue wanted to capitalize on addiction treatment. The article cites “internal correspondence” between Purdue Pharma executives discussing how the “sale” and treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked.” ProPublica goes on to report, “while OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding.”

ProPublica specifically names Kathe Sackler as being involved with a secretive project called “Project Tango,” which was allegedly meant to help Purdue break into the addiction treatment market.

The redacted documents also reportedly show that Richard Sackler “complained” over email that an OxyContin Google alert “was giving him too much information about the drug’s dangers.”

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In an interview with CBS News correspondent Tony Dokoupil, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the Sackler family doesn’t “want to accept blame for this.”

“They blame doctors, they blame prescribers and worst of all, they blame patients,” Healey said.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma called the release of the redacted information “part of a continuing effort to single out Purdue, blame it for the entire opioid crisis, and try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system.”

According to a court order, the state has until midday Friday to release the redacted information. It is unclear who released it early.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office told CBS News it did not release the redacted information and would not confirm the information in ProPublica’s article.

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Trump’s shutdown is a historic opportunity for real change

Now, as support for Trump is waning, leftists need to stop ‘playing-it-safe’ and present a new vision for this country.

US President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion at the US Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, US, January 10, 2019 [Leah Millis/Reuters]
US President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion at the US Border Patrol Station in McAllen, Texas, US, January 10, 2019 [Leah Millis/Reuters]

This week, the White House Council of Economic Advisers doubled its estimate of how much the shutdown – the longest in US history – will cost the economy. Others are warning that it could push the US towards a recession. Families across the country are scrambling to feed their children, keep their homes, and pay for expensive medications. As hundreds of thousands of federal and contract workers continue without pay, Trump has demanded that workers return to their jobs, stating that the shutdown will continue indefinitely – for months or even years – until his racist, multibillion-dollar border wall is approved.

Despite Trump‘s claims that what he is doing is for the safety of everyday Americans, this moment could not make it plainer that he does not care about any of us – not even the working class white people he claims to represent. The wall’s aim is not to protect ordinary Americans, but to rile up Trump‘s base using racism.

This is a classic divide-and-conquer tactic, aiming to get poor white people to blame people of colour and not the political and corporate elite, for poverty. The wall will also make loads of money for an ever-growing corporate defence industry, who are deep in Trump‘s pockets, and see militarised borders, surveillance, deportation, war and incarceration as opportunities to make cash.

But polling shows that Trump‘s plan is backfiring. By refusing to back down, Trump is actually losing support among his base. This carves out a path for leftists to present a new vision for this country, one that sees the fate of everyday people – both within and outside the US border – as deeply connected. We have an opportunity to present a political pathway where there is enough for all of us. We have an opportunity to actually win more people towards our side, and away from Trump, the fascist far right, and the political and corporate elite.

A hard-lined shutdown for the poor, negotiations for the rich

A shutdown happens when Congress cannot agree on the budget. In recent years, we’ve become used to the threat of shutdown but no president has openly called for one. In May, Trump tweeted that “our country needs a good ‘shutdown.'” Months later, he announced that he would not sign any spending bill that does not include $5.6b for a border wall – a demand that Democrats refuse to meet.

READ MORE

US gov’t shutdown: How long? Who is affected? Why did it begin?

As a result, working-class people across the country – already struggling – have been pushed into an even more vulnerable position. Over 800,000 workers are being forced to work without pay – some will be reimbursed after the shutdown ends, others won’t. Families are preparing to go without food stamps – and potentially, without their tax refunds – next month.

In New York City, imprisoned people at a local jail launched a hunger strike to protest the cancellation of family visits due to staffing shortages caused by the shutdown. Others have reported that they aren’t receiving their medication.

For Native American sovereign nations, the US has failed to maintain treaty agreements due to the shutdown. As a result, guaranteed funding for programs like healthcare, education and safety are all on the brink of collapse. On the Navajo Nation, many are stuck in their homes – unable to get to the grocery store or take care of vital needs, like getting to a pharmacy – because ploughs aren’t operating in the midst of heavy snowfall.

43,000 immigration hearings have been cancelled – the number set to grow by 20,000 weekly. People have been waiting years for these hearings and are now being told they might have to wait years more.

Small farmers aren’t receiving millions in payouts they were promised due to falling crop prices at the hands of Trump‘s trade wars.

All across the country, working-class families are struggling and, in a sign of how out of touch our politicians are, the Trump administration has told the country to treat the shutdown like a vacation or to do chores for their landlords in lieu of paying rent.

But the state of things – with people working for free and services to everyday Americans being cut – is not an inevitable byproduct of the shutdown. In fact, in the midst of the shutdown, the Trump administration has made changes to policy in order to serve the interests of the uber-wealthy and corporate class. As a result of the lobbying efforts of the credit-reporting companies and mortgage industry, IRS workers were called back to work (and are being paid) to carry out income verifications for lenders. This process earns the mortgage banking industry millions of dollars in fees each year.

While rules are being bent so big corporations can make even more money, a judge struck down a union lawsuit demanding workers be paid for their time immediately.

The shutdown is hard-lined for working class people and negotiable for the rich.

It is clear what this country’s priorities are

Long before Trump‘s demand for expanding the wall at the US-Mexico border, this country’s priorities were out of whack. Every year, US taxpayer dollars are used to cultivate a world of war, violence, incarceration and deportation – not one of safety and of meeting basic human needs.

Of our discretionary budget, the US spends nearly 10 times more on defence than health and human services, 9 times more than education and 9 times more than housing. UnderTrump‘s proposed discretionary spending for 2019, these margins have increased.

Much of this money is going to private companies, who in the age of Trump see dollar signs in his tough on crime, hard-lined immigration, warmongering approach to governance. The fact that the shutdown is happening over a wall is a scary symbol of where society is and where it is headed.

We are living in an era where not social services and jobs for working class people but police, wars, border walls and prisons are the priorities of the government.

And this is not a purely American trend. All over the world, as communities are battling the devastating effects of climate change and poverty, governments are building walls, closing borders and abandoning green initiatives. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, at least 55 new border walls have been built all around the world. During this same period, poverty has been wrecking our society with at least 80 percent of humanity living on less than $10/day.

The answer is a clear political vision rooted in the idea that there is enough for all of us.

The need for a big-picture agenda

While the Democrats could use this moment to talk about comprehensive, human-rights based immigration policy or the ways shutdown policies have been shifted to serve the rich, they aren’t doing much other than condemning Trump for shutting down the government, while countering his proposal for a wall with negotiations focused on other forms of border security.

We should applaud the Democrats for not caving to Trump‘s wall demand, but we should also acknowledge that they have failed to raise the bar. A party that is trying to present itself as the only progressive alternative to Trump and his allies should have done a lot more. By reinforcing myths about the “threats” on our border, Democrats like Pelosi are not conducting political diplomacy, but instead casting long term damage to everyday people’s understanding of what our problems are and what solutions should be put forth.

New poll sheds light on effect of US government shutdown

The majority of Americans don’t support the border wall or Trump‘s family separation policy. Seventy-five percent of Americans say immigration is good for our country. So why aren’t Democrats using this moment to be visionary, pushing demands rooted in the basic idea that everyone has the right to move across borders as freely as money does in this society? Why aren’t they calling out Trump‘s IRS policy shift for the rich, while food stamps are being cut?

We need to use this moment to not only end the shutdown but to push out big ideas like the green new deal, wealth redistribution, medicare for all, abolishment of ICE and repeal of the 1994 crime bill. Policies like the conservative-austerity paygo measure that House Democrats approved in their rules package, which requires new spending to be offset with equivalent savings, should be abandoned. This policy will make it virtually impossible to pass any of the reforms mentioned above but only three Democrats voted no  – Ro Khanna of California, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. This is unacceptable.

We must reject the small, limited point of view shared by many prominent Democrats that sees unfettered capitalism and austerity measures as natural law. We need a clear, big-picture agenda that creates opportunities for working class people to organise and build bridges between our communities so we can expand the political imagination of the public to get behind big demands.

We can’t wait for someone else to organise people during the shut down – the likely result of inaction would be more division and fascism. Without political clarity, we run the risk of people getting so tired and fed up that they give in and move to the right. “Fine, build the wall” is the other potential pathway we walk down.

Trump is making very intentional plays to pit working class people against one another. However, the experiences and grievances of poor people, whether they are immigrants or not, are not opposing, but shared. After 40 years of neoliberal economic policy, which has devastated communities all across the country and around the world, people are desperate and turning to xenophobia, white nationalism and fascism as a result. At this moment, when Trump‘s support is waning – and people are falling into an even more vulnerable state – we must present an alternative. We cannot rely on mainstream Democrats’ play-it-safe approach.

The path we are headed down will only get darker if we do not fight for a drastic reorganisation of our communities rooted in a new political vision that values the freedom of people over the profits of a few. We can live in a society where everyone has enough food to eat, a safe place to live and where parents and children have what they need to take care of each other. But this won’t happen while our political system is drowning in dark, dirty corporate money and when politicians refuse to take a stand.

From the Right of Return protests in Gaza, to the immigrant caravan at the US-Mexico border, to the LA teachers strike and calls for TSA worker strikes – we have a real a opportunity to help people see the connections across our experiences and to rally behind a vision of solidarity rooted in the idea that our fates are tied, that we are in a shared battle against the corporate class and that if we come together to take them down, we can live in a society where there is enough for all of us.

by

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera‘s editorial stance.

US-Americans ‘more likely’ to die of opioid overdose than car crash

Opioid overdose has become the fifth most probable reason for preventable death, according to a new report.

A discarded syringe is seen under a bridge on Lester Avenue in Johnson City, New York [File: Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

A discarded syringe is seen under a bridge on Lester Avenue in Johnson City, New York [File: Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

In the United States, the probability of dying from opioids has for the first time surpassed the likelihood of being killed in a car crash, according to a new report by the National Safety Council.

Published on Monday and based on National Center for Health Statistics’ 2017 data, the report found that opioids overdose was the fifth most probable cause of preventable death, with a one-in-96 odds. The odds of dying in a vehicular crash were one-in-103.

More probable causes than opioids overdoses were heart disease, cancer, chronic lower respiratory disease and suicide.

Opioids contributed to the overwhelming majority – 69 percent – of fatal drug overdoses in 2016, totalling 37,814 deaths, according to the NSC.

These opioids include the use of illegal narcotics, such as heroin, and prescription pain killers, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

“The nation’s opioid crisis is fueling the Council’s grim probabilities, and that crisis is worsening with an influx of illicit fentanyl,” the council said in a statement on Monday, referring to a synthetic opioid often used to treat severe pain.

Just a day before the report was released, one person died and at least 12 people were hospitalised in northern California in what police described as a “mass overdose” stemming from fentanyl use.

OPINION

Addiction in the US: A corporate morality crisis

Larry Beinhart
by Larry Beinhart

In 2017, overdose deaths soared, surpassing 70,000, according to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics.

And between 2013 and 2017, fatal drug overdose rates grew in 35 of the 50 US states as well as the District of Columbia. In many of those states, synthetic opioids were behind a growing number of deaths, per CDC statistics.

In December, a separate report concluded that fentanyl had become more common than heroin in drug overdose deaths in the country.

Bipartisan legislation, criticism

US President Donald Trump signed an opioid law in late October. The bipartisan law expanded medical treatment for opioid users and made it more difficult to mail illicit drugs.

“Together we are going to end the scourge of drug addiction in America,” Trump said during an event at the time.

“We are going to end it or we are going to at least make an extremely big dent in this terrible, terrible problem.”

The legislation expands access to substance abuse treatment in Medicaid, the government health insurance programme for the poor and disabled.

It also cracks down on mailed shipments of illicit drugs such as fentanyl, and provides a host of new federal grants to address the crisis.

In October 2017, Trump declared opioid addiction a 90-day emergency, a limited declaration that critics said fell short of implementing the measures needed to combat the crisis.

Critics also point to Trump’s previous attempts to slash hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, which provides treatment to around one-third of people seeking help with substance abuse.

In July 2018, Senator Elizabeth Warren, a vocal opponent of Trump, accused the Trump administration of undermining programmes that are pivotal to tackle the opioid crisis.

In a nine-page letter to the president, Warren said his administration “failed to take the actions needed to meaningfully address this crisis … (and has) continued to substitute empty words and broken promises for real action and bold ideas”.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib: “I won’t apologize for my comments about Trump—I still want to impeach him!”

JANUARY 08, 2019

Newly elected Democratic Congress-Woman  Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made headlines last week for declaring, “We’re going to go in there, and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker,” in reference to President Donald Trump. Tlaib made the comment at a Washington, D.C., bar, days after she made history last week when she and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota became the first Muslim women sworn in to Congress. Tlaib is part of the most diverse and most female class of representatives in U.S. history.

James Grindel & Richard Drost charged in drug-related death of 34 year old Nina Wallace

L-R: James Grindel, 54, of Waltham; Richard Drost, 44, of Sullivan

FRANKLIN, Maine — Two men have been charged following a months-long investigation into the drug-related death of a woman from Sullivan.

On Aug. 25, officials responded to South Bay Road in Franklin after a report of a female who was not breathing. Nina Wallace, 34, ultimately died, and officials began an investigation into the cause of her death.

Trooper Dana Austin and Detective Greg Roy found that James Grindel of Waltham and Richard Drost of Sullivan had furnished and sold fentanyl to Nina, and the drug had contributed to her death. Both suspects were friends with her.

In late December, Grindel was charged with unlawful furnishing of schedule drugs, and on Monday, Drost was also arrested for unlawful trafficking of schedule drugs.

Author: Chloe Teboe, Newscenter Maine

Deadly shooting at California bowling alley [Yay, USA!]

Police say three people killed and four injured in a shooting at a gaming complex near Los Angeles.

Police said they were searching for a suspect or suspects [Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images]
Police said they were searching for a suspect or suspects [Torrance Daily Breeze via Getty Images]

Three men have been killed and four wounded in a shooting in the US state of California after a late-night fight at a bowling alley.

The Torrance Police Department said officers responded to calls of “shots fired” at the Gable House Bowl in Torrance, a town about 40km south of Los Angeles, shortly before midnight on Friday

Multiple victims were found with gunshot wounds inside the gaming venue, which offers bowling, laser tag and an arcade.

Police said three men died at the scene and four male victims were injured, two of whom were transported to a hospital for unknown injuries while the other two injured sought medical treatment on their own.

“Investigators are currently conducting a follow-up investigation, and are working to identify the suspect(s) involved,” the department said in a statement.

Authorities have not released details about what led to the shooting, but witnesses said it stemmed from a fight between two large groups of people at the bowling alley.

‘Complete chaos’

Wes Hamad, a 29-year-old Torrance resident, was at the bowling alley with his 13-year-old niece and cousin when he saw a “huge fight” break out.

Hamad told the Associated Press news agency that the brawl, which lasted about five minutes, blocked the entrance of Gable House Bowl and devolved into “complete chaos”.

“I grabbed my niece and started running toward the far end of the bowling alley,” Hamad said. “As we were running, we heard 15 shots.”

As he was leaving, Hamad said he saw a woman weeping over a man who had multiple gunshot wounds to his head and neck.

Damone Thomas was in the karaoke section of the venue, a regular stop for him and his friends after work on Fridays, when people ran in saying there was a shooting.

The 30-year-old Los Angeles resident said his friend flipped over one of the tables to shield them as they heard gunshots.

Thomas told the AP he didn’t feel scared because he was “just trying to survive”. But when he was driving back home, he said he realised how traumatic the situation had been and he hasn’t been able to fall asleep.

“Closing my eyes, all I can see is the women against the wall crying, not knowing what to do,” he said.

The US has long dealt with the issue of mass shootings. In the first four days of 2019, there have been five mass shootings that resulted in five deaths, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a group that tracks such incidents.

Both Thomas and Hamad said they had never witnessed any violence at Gable House Bowl in the past, but Hamad said he had stopped going for a while because he heard someone with a gun was recently seen there.

“I definitely won’t be going back any more,” he added.

According to health authorities, nearly 40,000 people died in the US as a result of firearms in 2017 – a figure that includes suicides.

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