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Physician pleads guilty to painkiller deaths

By Tim Sandle     Jul 11, 2013 in Health
A New York physician faces 20 years in prison after admitting he distributed painkillers to people he knew were drug addicts. This follows on from news that deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses have risen sharply among women.
A medic, William Conway of Baldwin, has pleaded guilty to charges of distributing painkillers to people he knew were drug addicts. Federal prosecutors stated, according to Long Island Business News, that two of the addicts later died of drug overdoses.
At court, the physician admitted that he knew that some of those people who got prescriptions had no medical reason for the painkillers. The documents presented during the trial showed that between January 2009 and November 2011, Conway issued 5,554 oxycodone prescriptions — for a total of 782,032 pills. Oxycodone is a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from poppy-derived thebaine (a narcotic analgesic).
This case comes on top of new figures that indicate that the number of prescription painkiller overdose deaths have increased fivefold among adult women (this is between 1999 and 2010). This worrying trend is according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its bulletin [i]Vital Signs[/i].
The report indicates that men are more likely to die of a prescription painkiller overdose. However, since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths has been greater among women (400 percent in women compared to 265 percent in men). In total, prescription painkiller overdoses have killed nearly 48,000 women between 1999 and 2010. This means that about 42 women die every day from a drug overdose and, as a comparator: more women have died from drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes.
In 2010 (the most recent data available), more than 6,600 women, or 18 women every day, died from a prescription painkillers.
The reason for the sharp rise is because women are more likely to have chronic pain, be prescribed prescription painkillers, be given higher doses, and use them for longer time periods than men.
Commenting on the report, CDC Director Tom Frieden, stated: “Prescription painkiller deaths have skyrocketed in women (6,600 in 2010), four times as many as died from cocaine and heroin combined. Stopping this epidemic in women — and men — is everyone’s business. Doctors need to be cautious about prescribing and patients about using these drugs.”
The CDC has posted the some recommendations in relation to the study, indicating that women can take steps to help stay safe from prescription painkiller overdoses, by considering the following:
Using prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider.
Discussing all medications they are taking with their health care provider, including over-the-counter medications (such as for allergies).
Discussing pregnancy plans with their health care provider before taking prescription painkillers.
Disposing of medications properly, as soon as the course of treatment is done. Not keeping prescription medications around “just in case.”
Helping prevent misuse and abuse by not selling or sharing prescription drugs. Never using another person’s prescription drugs.
The prosecution of the physician and the CDC alert highlight some of the dangers of overuse of prescription only painkillers.
More about Painkiller, Overdose, Drugs, Prescription drugs
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