My Sister Died of an Overdose of Prescription Painkillers

Date: Sunday, August 10, 2014 10:36 AM
Category: Allgov Blogs

One year ago today, my sister, Amy Wallace, died of an overdose of prescription painkillers. She had prescriptions for some drugs, but supplemented her allowance by using online pharmacies. Those wanting to know more about Amy can scroll through video of her memorial service here.

 

What I want to discuss is the Obama administration’s refusal to deal seriously with the epidemic of deaths from prescription drug overdoses. I run a web site, AllGov.com, which monitors the activities of more than 330 departments and agencies of the U.S. Government. Not realizing that someday this problem would hit so close to home, my staff and I made it a point of writing about the prescription drug overdose epidemic at least once a year.

 

Here’s a sampling of our headlines:

 

Florida: More Deaths from Oxycodone than Cocaine

Prescription Drugs Cause More Deaths than Illegal Drugs

Drug Addiction in Oklahoma Costs More than Entire State Budget

Another State Reports Uncontrolled Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse

Drug Overdose Deaths Up for 11th Year in Row

 

You get the picture. In each year since 2007, prescription opioid painkillers caused more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. All over the United States, hospitals, police departments and sheriff departments have been trying to deal with the unnecessary rise in lethal overdoses of prescription painkillers. The Obama administration has shown little interest in acting.

 

It’s not hard to figure out why.  The drugs that my sister and others overdosed on are produced by large pharmaceutical firms that spend millions of dollars on lobbying. To them, sales of their products mean nothing more than increased revenue. If their products are filtered to the public through shady online pharmacies and end up being the cause of death of thousands of Americans, that’s simply not relevant. Both major political parties want campaign donations from the pharmaceutical industry, so the consequences of the sale of prescription painkillers are not relevant to them either.

 

After four years of being President Barack Obama’s “drug czar,” Gil Kerlikowske suddenly discovered the prescription drug death crisis. By this time, prescription drug overdoses had become the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., surpassing gunshot wounds and automobile accidents. “We weren’t paying attention to it,” he told a House of Representatives subcommittee. Tell that to ER workers and law enforcement agents around the country…not to mention Americans who lost loved ones.

 

Every now and then, Obama administration officials or members of Congress will perk up and say something or advocate a minor fix, but it’s pretty much hot air. The most cynical action by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) occurred two months after my sister died.  The FDA reclassified certain painkillers to make them better regulated and announced that for certain drug combinations, patients would be limited to a 90-day supply and would have to return to a doctor for a refill prescription. Pretty tough stuff, huh?

 

But the very next day, the FDA, overruling its own expert panel, approved the production and distribution of a new painkiller, Zohydro ER, the first hydrocodone-only opioid, that’s considered at least five times stronger than heroin. Thanks FDA.

 

I understand that my sister made her own decisions about her life and that she was ultimately responsible for her own death. I also know that there are individuals in the Obama administration who are doing what they can to crack down on online pharmacies. For example, just three weeks ago, a federal grand jury indicted FedEx for knowingly shipping illegal drugs from online pharmacies to consumers despite having been warned by the federal government at least six times that it was acting as a drug courier. FedEx faces fines of up to $820 million, but unlike small-time drug couriers, no one at the company faces jail time over the charges.

 

Not until the executives of pharmaceutical companies and the executives of enabling companies, like FedEx, face criminal charges as individuals, is there any hope for seriously reducing the number of victims of prescription drug overdoses…and the number of Americans who wake up one morning to learn, as I did one year ago today, that they have lost a loved one.

Latest News

Both Obama and Trump Use more Authoritarian Language than Previous Presidents

Obama and Trump’s rhetoric suggests that the prime mover of government is not separation of powers, political parties or the bureaucracy – but the will of the president. The differences between their rhetorical styles seem stark. Yet, looking more carefully at the words Trump used in his first months in office, we discovered that, in certain ways, these two presidents are remarkably like each other. Here’s what we found – and why Obama and Trump have more in common than you would think...   read more

United States Ambassador to France and Monaco: Who Is Jamie McCourt?

McCourt, who is one of the most reviled figures in Los Angeles Dodgers’ history, has no experience in international diplomacy, but she did donate a lot of money to Trump’s campaign and to the Republican Party. As owners of the Dodgers, she and her husband alienated fans with higher parking prices, uniform changes and, because of a huge amount of team debt, failure to pay for talent. Jamie was made the team’s CEO in 2009 but quit in 2011 after receiving a $130-million divorce settlement.   read more

Ambassador to Mauritania: Who Is Michael Dodman?

Dodman took his first “hardship post” when he served as economic counselor at the embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2008–2009, then headed back to Europe to serve as economic counselor and chargé d'affaires at the U.S. mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium. Dodman took a second hardship post at one of the most dangerous U.S. diplomatic locations in the world, serving from July 2012 to August 2014 as consul general at the U.S. consulate in Karachi, which is Pakistan’s largest city.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon: Who Is Peter Barlerin?

As U.S. consul in Tokyo in 2002, Barlerin signed documents compensating the victims of a collision the previous year between a Japanese fishery school boat and the attack submarine USS Greeneville. The U.S. agreed to pay more than $11 million to the survivors of the accident and the families of those killed. Barlerin spent two years in Paris as economic policy advisor and later worked in the Office of Regional and Security Affairs and served as the State Dept’s Chad Task Force coordinator.   read more

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan: Who Is John Bass?

President Obama chose Bass to be U.S. ambassador to Georgia at a time when Georgia was recovering from a military conflict with the Russian government. When France approved the sale of two amphibious assault ships to Russia, Bass, in 2009, authored a cable calling it “'the wrong ship from the wrong country at the wrong time.” In 2011, Bass was charged by the Tbilisi government’s opposition with “meddling in Georgia’s domestic affairs” by encouraging the government’s crackdown on protests.   read more
see more...