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Every day thousands of people are dying all over the world due to overdoses of opioid drugs.

January 2019 Updates on the Opioid Crises in the US and India

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The opioid crisis is the rapid increase in the misuse and addiction of opioid drugs in many parts of the world. This crisis has always been in the news for their havoc outbreak killing thousands of people over the decades.

Every day many people all over the world are dying due to overdoses of opioid drugs.

Opioids are a category of highly addictive drugs. These drugs are mostly used to treat moderate to severe pain. Some of the opioids include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.

Recently a court filing has been released against one of the richest family in the US, the Sackler family. Sackler family has been a part of opioid crisis since the early 2000s. The family owns Purdue Pharma which is known to manufacture an opioid drug, OxyContin.

Purdue Pharma company has been a target for numerous lawsuits. The company is blamed for misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of the powerful opioid painkiller over the years.

The attorney general of Massachusetts cited the internal communication and emails of Purdue Pharma in the court filing on 15 January 2019. In these emails, Richard Sackler the former president of Purdue Pharma, can be seen pushing blame on the addicts.

The lawsuit also cited that Mr. Sackler, son of Purdue Pharma founder pushed the sales representatives to advise doctors to prescribe a high dosage of oxycontin painkillers as they are the most profitable.

The lawsuit also included that the company promoted the drug to doctors who were huge prescribers of opioid, resulting in physicians losing their licenses.

The company also used pharmacy discount cards to increase sales of oxycontin. The court filing also asserts that Sackler family was aware that Purdue Pharma didn’t alert authorities about the selling and reported abuse of OxyContin.

The aggressive promotion of the drug trigged opioid outburst. Since Oxycontin came in the market, more than 200,000 people in the US have died of an overdose from prescription opioids.

Another major incident that added fuel to the opioid crisis occurred recently in December 2018. An Indian origin doctor, Rajendra Bothra was charged in a fraud case for illegally prescribing more than 13 million (approx. 1.3 crores) doses of prescription pain medications.

This is said to be one of the largest health care fraud cases in US history involving fraud of USD 464 million (approx. Rs. 3313 crores as per current exchange rate 1 USD = 71 INR). Rajendra Bothra was freed on a record 7 million USD (approx. Rs. 50 crores) bond in January 2019.

Bothra has been behind bars since last month along with five other physicians. He is one of the high profile Indian American activists and was presented with India’s fourth highest civilian award, Padmashri.

Bothra will be released on home custody with a GPS tracker and he must identify all his assets under penalty.

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider attended the court hearing on Tuesday. He said that he and his team will meet and decide whether to appeal the bond or not.

Further update on the opioid crisis includes a recent incidence from Mumbai. The Anti-Narcotics Cell of the Maharashtra police seized a synthetic drug called Fentanyl in a huge amount.

The police found 100 kg of fentanyl valued at Rs.100 crore from a car in Mumbai on 26 December 2018. It is suspected that the drug was intended for sale in the international market.

Four men have been arrested so far. It is said fentanyl is used for patients suffering from cancer. But people are using it as a recreational drug by mixing it with heroin for added effects.

Police officials believe that the small pharma companies in Gujrat may be involved in making and distributing of fentanyl to the underground market.

Another update from Indian state of Punjab also contributed to the ongoing opioid crisis. The current CM of the state Capt Amarinder Singh vowed to make Punjab a drug-free state within four weeks of coming into power.

According to the state’s drug policy, there is a ban on the sale of six addictive drugs - tramadol, tapentadol, codeine, diphenoxylate, alprazolam, and buprenorphine.

However, the negligence in the implementation of this policy and inter-state borders provided a pathway for two of the drugs being smuggled in Punjab. These drugs are imported illegally from the adjoining states via trains, buses and small postal companies.

These drugs are mainly made in pharmaceutical companies of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana.

Since last year, the state’s Food and Drug Administration has been scanning and examining pharmacy stores and suspending the licenses of hundreds of chemists. Many pharmacies of Ludhiana and Bathinda have been greatly affected by this.

Every year thousands of people all over the world die due to an overdose of opioid drugs. Opioid drugs are becoming a major threat to public health and law enforcement worldwide.

The number of deaths due to the overdose of opioids has increased over the past two years.

According to a data provided by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services more than 130 people died every day from opioid-related drug overdoses from the year 2016 to 2017.

Around 72,000 drug-related deaths in 2017 were reported in the US. Among these deaths the sharpest increase occurred due to synthetic opioids such as o fentanyl and fentanyl analogs with nearly 30,000 overdose.

This increase in opioid related death rate is a matter of serious concern with people getting affected all across the world.

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