New Yorkers in Staten Island believed their silence enabled the US Department of Health to dispense the powerful painkiller fentanyl to medical emergency personnel
A jury convicted three pharmacies for “fraudulently concealing” that powerful prescription painkillers and narcotic heroin were being substituted for fentanyl in a reckless disregard for the safety of medical personnel – thus enabling a massive epidemic of addiction among West and North American citizens.
Dr. Whitney Dean (CVS), Dr. Mark Anzalone (Walgreens) and LKF Pharmaceutical Corporation (Walmart) were indicted on December 2, 2017 for medical misrepresentation and drug diversion.
Those involved in a crime similar to “Hacking their Bodies” in which doctors offered faulty diagnoses to allow prescriptions for dangerous “biohazards” such as opioid-infused dextromethorphan (DMT) in the name of “sick patients” were sentenced to “only time in prison.”
If the path of least resistance was accepted, the most efficient way to dispose of not only the drug, but the potential safety hazard, would be to leave it in contact with human waste, impure water and/or air in a hospital or school.
A T-shirt design supporting Walgreens and Carson’s
The convicted pharmacists submitted statements of contrition that:
“I was ignorant, and I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how it feels to be wrong.”
But the case was not about any shortage of medical care in New York’s Staten Island. And the three were very fortunate that there was not another medical facility in the borough, or the state, or the nation or the world, that also had the volume and the numbers of prescriptions approved by pharmacy owners, consultants and associates who worked for them.
As the New York Post reported in 2014, admissions into Staten Island’s addiction treatment facilities – Wayside Recovery, The Staten Island Center for Alcohol and Drug Services, and Miller Place Healthcare were among the highest in the country; Staten Island Physicians Prescribe More Opioids Than Anyplace Else in the Nation.
But for nearly a decade the importance of proactive opioid recognition by the community of Staten Island was never seriously addressed.
“We should be ashamed. It’s been 50 years since the first abuse of benzodiazepines using banned substances began and the public has barely registered an alarm. Like with heroin, it’s happening in all kinds of communities and we need to acknowledge that,” says Dr. Janice Cohen, who spoke at the news conference.
“Treatment, supply and demand, our laws, our laws’ opponents and government agencies, our faith communities, our patients, our mentors, our family and friends all need to communicate the reality of the epidemic we are in,” said Cohen, who is a supervising medical officer with New York City’s medical examiner and served on the Board of Regents from 2008-2012.
The “same word” and a judge’s decision makes clear that abusers pay the highest price for our inaction
That’s a problem that can be easily resolved by changing our policies and our laws in order to stop filling prescriptions “on demand” for pills that are unfit for human consumption. Prescribing these opioid-addicted addicts a week’s supply of Suboxone, methadone or Naloxone can be approved with reasonable explanation.
By sending opioid addicts to treatment in rural communities where addiction prevention happens through community education rather than punishment, the government can help reduce addiction in our inner cities and our suburbs alike.
The jury’s verdict must and will be respected. Moreover, this successful prosecution and case should be replicated across America.
The ruling confirms that doctors must now face the reality that those who abuse prescription painkillers, who happen to have multiple violations of New York law, are causing a huge loss of life.
In this overdose epidemic, the FDA should reconsider its proposal to limit drug abuse via first-time prescriptions for Suboxone, Methadone or Naloxone. And in states where heroin is the main abuser and we need to reduce prescription opioid use to lower the use of heroin, we need laws and ordinances such as Massachusetts, where criminal sanctions apply to anyone who possesses, or prescribes, hydrocodone on a first use.
The “same word” and a judge’s decision makes clear that abusers pay the highest price for our inaction.
This article was originally published on August 31, 2018.