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ROC Weekly News Bites
Marijuana Users More Likely to Need Emergency Care, New, Dangerous Synthetic Opioid in D.C., and McKinsey’s Role in Opioid Epidemic
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Marijuana Users More Likely to Need Emergency Care and Hospitalization, Study Finds
A new study suggests recreational marijuana smokers may be at an increased risk of needing emergency room care or hospitalization compared with those who do not use cannabis. The goal of the study was to examine whether there was a link between marijuana use and respiratory-related hospitalizations or emergency room visits. While researchers found no strong association between marijuana use and respiratory-related hospital visits and deaths, they found overall visits to emergency rooms and hospitalizations for any reason was higher among those who used marijuana.
Cannabis users were 22% more likely than those who don’t use to land in the emergency room or become hospitalized for any reason, suggesting the use of the drug may be associated with negative health outcomes. Bodily injury was the top reason for emergency department visits and hospitalizations among marijuana users, while respiratory issues came in second.
“Unlike tobacco, there is some uncertainty or controversy regarding the adverse health impacts of cannabis. Some individuals may perceive that cannabis has some health benefits and is otherwise benign. Our research highlights to those using – or considering to use – cannabis, that this behavior is associated with important negative health events.”
New, Dangerous Synthetic Opioid in D.C., Emerging in Tri-State Area
The DEA Washington Division is warning area residents of a new drug emerging in the D.C. metropolitan area that is as dangerous and deadly as fentanyl.
The DEA Washington Division brought local news outlets into their regional laboratory to see and discuss a dangerous class of drugs they are seeing emerge in the region: nitazenes. A drug that was never approved for medical use, nitazines are being sourced from China and being mixed into other drugs.
Isotonitazene (aka nitazene or "ISO”) is a particular synthetic opioid the DEA is seeing move into the area. First identified around 2019 in the Midwest, this dangerous drug has moved into the Southern states and, more recently, along the Eastern seaboard. Much more potent than heroin and morphine (similar to fentanyl), ISO is being mixed into and marketed as other drugs to make drugs more potent and cheaper to produce. The major concern is that this drug can and has caused deadly overdoses in unsuspecting victims.
In powder form, ISO can appear yellow, brown, or off-white in color. DEA regional forensic laboratories have seen this drug mixed into heroin and/or fentanyl and marketed as common street drugs with deadly consequences. However, in other parts of the country, ISO has already been seen pressed into counterfeit pills and falsely marketed as pharmaceutical medication like Dilaudid "M-8" tablets and oxycodone "M30" tablets.
New Documents Show McKinsey’s Role in Opioid Epidemic
The Opioid Industry Documents Archive (OIDA), a project of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Johns Hopkins University, released more than 114,000 documents related to McKinsey & Company’s work as a management consulting firm for the opioid industry. They show how McKinsey advised opioid makers Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson and Mallinckrodt to help them increase sales, despite the growing public outcry over the opioid epidemic. The documents come from the company’s files between 2004 and 2019 and are being released under the terms of the $573 million settlement that McKinsey reached with 47 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia in February 2021.
The two research universities launched the OIDA in March 2021 as a free resource for anyone interested in learning more about the circumstances leading to the opioid crisis. The archive’s mission is transparency – to deliver to the public a wealth of information that those who have been personally affected, as well as researchers, policymakers, and others can now analyze to gain insights into the epidemic.
Materials include scopes of work, proposals, and invoices; presentations prepared for internal discussion and for clients (including Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals); spreadsheets outlining project staffing; and emails responding to news about increased restrictions on opioids. The collection also houses letters from regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in response to new drug applications from opioid manufacturers; preparation materials for regulatory advisory committee meetings; opioid-related transition documents for state and federal agencies; and other internal files.
“Researchers can leverage these litigation documents to see patterns of industry behavior that could be regulated to protect public health,” said Dorie Apollonio, PhD, MPP, a professor of clinical pharmacy in the UCSF School of Pharmacy. “This will be critical to identifying reforms that can protect against future epidemics like this.”
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