Tag Archives: drugs

AG joins lawsuit against makers of addiction treatment drug

News release from Attorney General’s office
Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, along with the Division of Consumer Affairs, today announced the filing of an antitrust and consumer protection lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction. Slatery and attorneys general from 35 other states filed the lawsuit over allegations that the companies engaged in an anti-competitive scheme to block generic competitors and cause consumers to pay artificially high prices.
 
Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals, now known as Indivior, is alleged to have conspired with MonoSol Rx to switch Suboxone, a brand-name prescription drug used to treat heroin addiction and other opioid addictions by easing addiction cravings, from a tablet version to a dissolvable film version in order to prevent or delay generic alternatives from entering the market while maintaining monopoly profits. Continue reading

Nashville council approves pot ordinance 35-3

Nashville on Tuesday became the first city in Tennessee to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and Memphis likely will become the second in two weeks. according to the Commercial Appeal.

The Nashville Metropolitan Council voted 35-3 on final reading Tuesday night to allow police officers to either issue a civil citation punishable by a $50 fine or community service, or charge someone under the state’s criminal law, for possession of a half-ounce or less or marijuana. Under state law, violators are charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to a year in jail.

Earlier in the day, members of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators arrived in Memphis to campaign around the city and at City Council for a similar ordinance that received the second of three readings Tuesday before a final vote as early as Oct. 4. The ordinance is sponsored by council member Berlin Boyd.

Rep. Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said the caucus she presides over as chairwoman feels the criminal justice system across the state “has gotten out of whack.” The caucus isn’t advocating for legalizing marijuana, she emphasized, but is instead offering a second chance for low-income violators to avoid a cycle of a criminal justice system they perceive as discriminatory to African-Americans.

State Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said criminal records for African-Americans associated with small amounts of marijuana thwart the future of a minority middle class.

“In the city of Memphis one of the things we lack is an African-American middle class,” Harris said, later adding: “This is a cycle that we’ve got try to get out of if we’re going to create an African-American middle class.”

On the prescription painkiller lobby’s influence

(Note: The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity have produced a package of stories published this weekend on the politics of those involved in making prescription painkillers. One of them, focused on lobbying efforts and political contributions at the state level, is below and includes a substantial reference to Tennessee. ‘

The Tennessean has done a sidebar reporting that Tennessee politicians received more than $1.6 million in campaign contributions over the past decade from pharmaceutical companies and other members of the Pain Care Forum, a coalition that meets monthly to discuss opioid-related issues. That report is HERE.)

By Geoff Mulvihill, Liz Essley Whyte and Ben Wieder, Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity
The makers of prescription painkillers have adopted a 50-state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and millions in campaign contributions to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming the tide of prescription opioids, the drugs at the heart of a crisis that has cost 165,000 Americans their lives and pushed countless more to crippling addiction.

The drugmakers vow they’re combating the addiction epidemic, but The Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity found that they often employ a statehouse playbook of delay and defend that includes funding advocacy groups that use the veneer of independence to fight limits on the drugs, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and fentanyl, the narcotic linked to Prince’s death.

The mother of Cameron Weiss was no match for the industry’s high-powered lobbyists when she plunged into the corridors of New Mexico’s Legislature, crusading for a measure she fervently believed would have saved her son’s life.

It was a heroin overdose that eventually killed Cameron, not long before he would have turned 19. But his slippery descent to death started a few years earlier, when a hospital sent him home with a bottle of Percocet after he broke his collarbone in wrestling practice.

Jennifer Weiss-Burke pushed for a bill limiting initial prescriptions of opioid painkillers for acute pain to seven days. The bill exempted people with chronic pain, but opponents still fought back, with lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry quietly mobilizing in increased numbers to quash the measure.

They didn’t speak up in legislative hearings. “They were going individually talking to senators and representatives one-on-one,” Weiss-Burke said.

Unknowingly, she had taken on a political powerhouse that spent more than $880 million nationwide on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006 through 2015 — more than 200 times what those advocating for stricter policies spent and more than eight times what the formidable gun lobby recorded for similar activities during that same period.

The pharmaceutical companies and allied groups have a number of legislative interests in addition to opioids that account for a portion of their political activity, but their steady presence in state capitals means they’re poised to jump in quickly on any debate that affects them.

Collectively, the AP and the Center for Public Integrity found, the drugmakers and allied advocacy groups employed an annual average of 1,350 lobbyists in legislative hubs from 2006 through 2015, when opioids’ addictive nature came under increasing scrutiny.

“The opioid lobby has been doing everything it can to preserve the status quo of aggressive prescribing,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, founder of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and an outspoken advocate for opioid reform. “They are reaping enormous profits from aggressive prescribing.” Continue reading

Black Caucus backs marijuana decriminalization

News release from TN Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators (TBCSL) is announcing its support for efforts in the state’s two largest cities to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The Metro Council in Nashville has passed on first reading a new ordinance that would lessen the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service. Last week, the Memphis City Council passed a similar ordinance out of its Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and it is scheduled to be considered by the full Council in September.

TBCSL Chair Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said the efforts of these cities go hand-in-hand with Caucus efforts to target criminal justice reform across the state. Continue reading

Haslam ‘not a fan’ of decriminalizing marijuana

Gov. Bill Haslam says he doesn’t like the idea of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, as proposed in pending Nashville and Memphis city ordinances, reports WATN-TV in Memphis.

“I’m not a fan,” he says. “While I do think we’ve had some people who have spent more time in jail than they need to for that. I’m not in favor of decriminalizing that.”

…”I think we have enough of an issue around substance abuse now,” he said. “You can debate whether it’s a gateway drug and all this. I’m not the expert. But I just don’t think its a helpful step for our society given the struggles we have right now with substance abuse.”

Nobody is talking about making it legal. It would still be against the law to be carrying around half an ounce of marijuana, only if decriminalized, you wouldn’t go to jail, you’d pay a fine. The Memphis City Council is scheduled to give the decriminalization plan the first of three readings on Tuesday, September 6th.

Northeast TN methadone clinic gets state OK

GRAY, Tenn. (AP) — State officials have approved East Tennessee State University and Mountain States Health Alliance’s application for a methadone clinic in Gray.

Media outlets report that the Tennessee Health Services and Development Agency voted 8-0 Wednesday to grant a certificate of need to the addiction treatment clinic.

ETSU and MSHA said in a statement that it is “regrettable” that the need for the clinic exists, but that they have a responsibility when it comes to the health and well-being of the community.

Several local residents and leaders spoke out against the clinic at the meeting, many citing concerns over the clinic’s proximity to three schools.

Next, the Johnson City Commission will vote on a rezoning request for the proposed site’s location before the clinic can open in Gray Commons Professional Park.

Eight TN drug offenders get Obama sentence cuts

Eight Tennesseans are among 214 drug offenders whose prison sentences were shortened Wednesday by President Barack Obama in the largest single-day grant of commutations in the nation’s history.

further from Michael Collins:

Deborah Lucille Blue of Alcoa, Debra Brown of Nashville, Thomas Duncan of Columbia, Steve Gillespie of Greeneville, Robert L. Matthews of Memphis, Kenneth Smith of Nashville, Jimmy Walden Jr. of Morristown and Byron Willis of Knoxville will see their sentences shortened as a result of Obama’s actions.

“This is a country that believes in second chances,” Obama wrote of the commutations in a Facebook post. Continue reading

Pastor charged with taking state grant for nonexistent program

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has accused the pastor and associate pastor at Nashville’s Mt. Hopewell Baptist Church, Clinton Lewis and Andre Trice, of collecting state grant money for an addiction treatment program that did not exist, reports The Tennessean.

The two men have been under investigation by TBI special agents for the last year.

According to the TBI, Lewis and Trice fraudulently received more than $60,000 in grant money from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for an addiction recovery program they operated as part of the Mt. Hopewell Community Development Corp. The investigation revealed the clients on the list submitted to the state did not actually receive any program services from at least 2011 to 2015.

In some cases, those clients turned out to be deceased or incarcerated, and those listed as counselors in the program didn’t know the program was still operating, according to TBI.

“Although Pastor Lewis is stunned by the Grand Jury’s decision to indict him on these charges, he is comforted in the fact that he will have an opportunity to clear his name of any and all illegal conduct,” Lewis’ attorney, Jamaal Boykin, said. According to Boykin, Lewis still has the strong and full support of his congregation.

TN, VA govs talk opioid addiction with agriculture secretary

By Jonathan Mattise, Associated Press
ABINGDON, Va. — Kicking off a national tour on opioid addiction, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack brought together the governors of Tennessee and Virginia on Thursday to talk about stemming Appalachia’s drug abuse epidemic.

The town hall reinforced President Barack Obama’s call for Congress to pump $1.1 billion more into substance abuse treatment. It also was an opportunity to show that governors of opposite parties want to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, despite Republican efforts to stop them.

Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Republican Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam see solutions in a mix of treatment, prescription monitoring, drug courts, education and new economic opportunities.

West Virginia leads the nation in drug overdose deaths, with 35.5 per 100,000 people. Kentucky has the fourth-highest toll and Tennessee the eleventh, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s everybody’s problem,” McAuliffe said. “Of course, we need money.” Continue reading

Four TN prisoners among 58 getting Obama sentence commutations

President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentences of 58 drug offenders, including four from Tennessee.

From Michael Collins:

Efrem Rahoman Douglas of Knoxville, Cintheia Denise Parra of Memphis, Trevis Love of Harriman and John Herbert Talley of Chattanooga will see their sentences expire Sept. 2, the White House announced Thursday.

“As a country, we have to make sure that those who take responsibility for their mistakes are able to transition back to their communities,” Obama said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. And it’s something I will keep working to do as long as I hold this office.”

Douglas was serving a sentence of 300 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of cocaine base. He was convicted in 2005 in U.S. District Court in East Tennessee.

Parra was sentenced in 2006 in federal court in Northern Mississippi to 235 months in prison and five years of supervised release for possession with intent to distribute more than 500 grams of methamphetamine. The sentence was amended last year to 188 months in prison.

Love was serving a sentence of 240 months in prison and 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute at least five kilograms of cocaine. He was convicted in 2005 in federal court in East Tennessee.

Talley was sentenced in 1995 to life in prison and 10 years of supervised release for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine base and for using a phone in the commission of a felony. He was convicted in federal court in East Tennessee.

To date, Obama has commuted the sentences of 306 people — more than the previous six presidents combined — and said he will continue to review clemency applications. But he said only Congress can bring about lasting changes in federal sentencing through criminal justice reform.