Tag Archives: War on Drugs

SF tech biz forks out $146m in fines, settlements after painkiller makers bribed it to design medical software that pushed opioids to patients

A US software developer must cough up $145m in fines and settlements – for building an application that counseled doctors to prescribe highly addictive pain pills against medical guidelines after it was bribed by painkiller manufacturers to rig the system.

Practice Fusion had developed a cloud-based medical record management service that generated alerts if patients’ symptoms or circumstances matched certain criteria. These alerts would suggest courses of action that doctors could add to people’s care plans.

One alert in particular would pop up asking for the patient’s level of pain. If the pain persisted, another alert would ask for a more detailed description of the discomfort. Finally, if the patient’s pain continued above a certain level, a third alert would appear recommending a treatment plan be set up, with a drop-down menu suggesting various options, from physical therapy to opioids.

These alerts, as prosecutors politely put it, “did not always reflect accepted medical standards.” Instead, the pop-ups were bought and paid for by drug makers to push doctors into prescribing powerful opioids – a class of highly addictive painkillers that kill more than 130 people through overdoses every day in America alone.

According to court documents [PDF] filed in a Vermont federal district court this week, Practice Fusion deliberately and secretly engineered its software’s user interface this way, even though the advice was not medically sound, after pocketing bungs from at least one opioid manufacturer, and doctors and patients were none the wiser.

Specifically, prosecutors said the San-Francisco-based developer accepted “sponsorship” payments to include opioid therapy in its alert-generating clinical decision support (CDS) tool. One unnamed drug maker in particular, referred to as Pharma Co. X, slipped $1m in kickbacks to make this happen. The tech bros estimated Pharma Co. X could expect an extra 2,777 new patients per doctor as a result of its user-interface dark pattern, which would net roughly $8.46m to $11.23m in revenues.

In a statement, prosecutors described how CDS was designed to manipulate doctors into pushing painkillers to patients:

In exchange for “sponsorship” payments from pharmaceutical companies, Practice Fusion allowed the companies to influence the development and implementation of the CDS alerts in ways aimed at increasing sales of the companies’ products. Practice Fusion allegedly permitted pharmaceutical companies to participate in designing the CDS alert, including selecting the guidelines used to develop the alerts, setting the criteria that would determine when a healthcare provider received an alert, and in some cases, even drafting the language used in the alert itself.

The CDS alerts that Practice Fusion agreed to implement did not always reflect accepted medical standards. In discussions with pharmaceutical companies, Practice Fusion touted the anticipated financial benefit to the pharmaceutical companies from increased sales of pharmaceutical products that would result from the CDS alerts. Between 2014 and 2019, health care providers using Practice Fusion’s EHR [electronic health records] software wrote numerous prescriptions after receiving CDS alerts that pharmaceutical companies participated in designing.

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/01/31/practice_fusion_opioids/

Mexico’s Masked Vigilantes Defy Drug Gangs—And the Law

1. US Government gives guns to Mexican Drug Lords.
2. Citizens use their own guns to oppose drug lords (more effectively than government).
3. Government bans guns.

open quoteYUTLA, Mexico—Masked men, rifles slung over their shoulders, stand guard on a lonely rural road, checking IDs and questioning travelers. They wear no uniforms, flash no badges, but they are the law here now.

A dozen villages in the area have risen up in armed revolt against local drug traffickers that have terrorized the region and a government that residents say is incapable of protecting them from organized crime.close quote (Read more)

Raid Of The Day: Drug Cops Take Over Jerome, Arizona — arrest police chief, councilors, former mayor

open quoteOn October 15, 1985, more than 100 law enforcement officers swarmed the entire town of Jerome, Arizona. The historic hilltop hamlet was a boomtown in the 19th and early 20th century after copper deposits were discovered nearby.

Once the copper was gone, Jerome atrophied into a ghost town by the early 1950s. But some counterculture hippies rediscovered the town in the mid-60s, and for 20 years it served as an artsy, bohemian enclave.

Jerome also loved its pot. Residents grew the drug in the nearby hills, and legalization sympathizers had taken over the local government. Jerome officials took a live and let live approach to marijuana. That is, until an informant moved in and began recording his conversations around town for state and federal anti-drug agencies.

The team of state cops and federal agents moved in early that autumn morning. One resident told The New York Times, “To bring 100 policemen into a small town at 5 o’clock in the morning, dragging women and children out of bed, scaring them half to death, to get 9 or 10 pounds of marijuana is asinine.”

Police later said the haul was closer to 50 pounds. They arrested over 20 people, including the police chief, two city council members, and the former mayor.close quote (Read more)

Holder Begs Court to Stop Document Release on Fast and Furious

open quoteAttorney General Eric Holder and his Department of Justice have asked a federal court to indefinitely delay a lawsuit brought by watchdog group Judicial Watch. The lawsuit seeks the enforcement of open records requests relating to Operation Fast and Furious, as required by law.

Judicial Watch had filed, on June 22, 2012, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking all documents relating to Operation Fast and Furious and “specifically [a]ll records subject to the claim of executive privilege invoked by President Barack Obama on or about June 20, 2012.”

The administration has refused to comply with Judicial Watch’s FOIA request, and in mid-September the group filed a lawsuit challenging Holder’s denial.close quote (Read more)

Ten Years After Decriminalization, Drug Abuse Down by Half in Portugal

open quoteDrug warriors often contend that drug use would skyrocket if we were to legalize or decriminalize drugs in the United States. Fortunately, we have a real-world example of the actual effects of ending the violent, expensive War on Drugs and replacing it with a system of treatment for problem users and addicts.

Ten years ago, Portugal decriminalized all drugs. One decade after this unprecedented experiment, drug abuse is down by half:close quote (Read more)

Penn Jillette Accuses Obama Of Class Warfare For Drug Policy, States’ Rights

open quoteIn a recent episode of his podcast “Penn’s Sunday School,” comedian Penn Jillette laid his opinions on the Obama drug policies out on the table.

Jillette, who has never done drugs or drunk alcohol in his life, expressed particular concern over the policies’ broad-sweeping, all-inclusive nature. Namely, that people are going to prison because of marijuana use.close quote (Read more)

Guns used in Mexico lawyer’s murder traced to Operation Fast and Furious

open quoteFirearms connected to Operation Fast and Furious were used in the 2010 slaying of the brother of the former Chihuahua state attorney general, according to a U.S. congressional report.

The report said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced two of the weapons suspected in the murder of lawyer Mario González Rodríguez, but did not report this fact to the Mexican government until eight months after the tracing.

The joint congressional staff report “The Department of Justice’s Operation Fast and Furious: Fueling Cartel Violence” was prepared for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., two lawmakers who are spearheading an ongoing investigation into the ATF’s controversial operation.close quote (Read more)

The President’s justification for his crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries has to be heard to be believed

open quoteHere’s part of the President’s answer:

I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it’s against federal law. I can’t nullify congressional law. I can’t ask the Justice Department to say, “Ignore completely a federal law that’s on the books” . . . .

The only tension that’s come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, “This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way.” That’s not something we’re going to do.

Aside from the fact that Obama’s claim about the law is outright false — as Jon Walker conclusively documents, the law vests the Executive Branch with precisely the discretion he falsely claims he does not have to decide how drugs are classified — it’s just extraordinary that Obama is affirming the “principle” that he can’t have the DOJ “turn the othe way” in the face of lawbreaking. As an emailer just put it to me: “Interesting how this principle holds for prosecuting [medical] marijuana producers in the war on drugs, but not for prosecuting US officials in the war on terror. Or telecommunications companies for illegal spying. Or Wall Street banks for mortgage fraud.”

That’s about as vivid an expression of the President’s agenda, and his sense of justice, and the state of the Rule of Law in America, as one can imagine. The same person who directed the DOJ to shield torturers and illegal government eavesdroppers from criminal investigation, and who voted to retroactively immunize the nation’s largest telecom giants when they got caught enabling criminal spying on Americans, and whose DOJ has failed to indict a single Wall Street executive in connection with the 2008 financial crisis or mortgage fraud scandal, suddenly discovers the imperatives of The Rule of Law when it comes to those, in accordance with state law, providing medical marijuana to sick people with a prescription.close quote (Read more)

Canada and U.S. singled out at summit over drugs, Cuba

open quoteCanada and the United States are finding themselves at odds with Latin American countries on two thorny issues — the war on drugs and the exclusion of Cuba — at a summit of hemispheric leaders in Colombia.

The event’s host, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, delivered a frank speech Saturday to the assembled heads of state and government in which he said it would be “unacceptable” to hold another Summit of the Americas without Cuba. The communist country was suspended from the Organization of American States, the main organizing body for the summits, in 1962.

Canada and the United States are the only two countries in the organization that have not lobbied to invite to Cuba to the events.close quote (Read more)