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Chemists ID possible addiction-free pain reliever

May 16, 2019 |

Ken Hsu, a chemistry professor at the University of Virginia, and his graduate student, Myungsun Shin, has identified an enzyme that "chews up fat" molecules to produce chemical signals that control inflammation. The naturally occurring enzyme, called diacylglycerol lipase-beta, or DAGL-beta, is a possible new drug target for reducing pain. Hsu developed, during his postdoctoral training, selective molecules that inhibit DAGL-beta and reduce inflammation, similarly to aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS. However, unlike NSAIDs, DAGL-beta inhibitors can provide pain relief without gastrointestinal toxicity in preclinical models when used over a long term. And unlike opioids, DAGL-beta inhibitors do not exhibit addictive properties.

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Opioid crisis burning out doctors, study finds

May 6, 2019 | Medical Xpress

As the opioid crisis take a deadly toll in human lives, the complex needs of patients in chronic pain are also leaving their doctors increasingly exhausted and overwhelmed, a new Western-led study says. In their detailed interviews and clinic observations, researchers found many primary-care physicians are close to burnout in caring for patients in pain. "You are in between a rock and a hard place with this stuff," one doctor said in describing the quandary of prescribing opioids appropriately. "You are a compassionate individual who doesn't want to leave your patients in pain (but) you're also aware that if you continue down this road you run the risk of killing your patient. What an awful dilemma to be in." Other doctors said the crisis is teaching them to be suspicious of patients seeking opioids – leading some to perceive their pain-relief-seeking patients as either addicts or potential addicts.

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Opioid executive John Kapoor found guilty in landmark bribery case

May 2, 2019 | NPR News

A jury in Boston has found one-time billionaire and drug company executive John Kapoor and his four co-defendants guilty of a racketeering conspiracy. The verdict came Wednesday after 15 days of deliberation. The federal government accused Kapoor, the founder of Insys Therapeutics, and his co-defendants of running a nationwide bribery scheme. Between 2012 and 2015, Insys allegedly paid doctors to prescribe their potent opioid medication and then lied to insurance companies to ensure the expensive fentanyl-based painkiller was covered. Kapoor is among the highest-ranking pharmaceutical executives to face trial amid a national opioid epidemic. By pursuing this case, the federal government was seen as sending a message that it is holding drug companies accountable for their role in the epidemic.

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Nearly 60 Doctors, Other Medical Workers Charged In Federal Opioid Sting

April 17, 2019 | NPR News

Federal prosecutors are charging 60 doctors, pharmacists, medical professionals and others in connection with alleged opioid pushing and health care fraud, the Justice Department said Wednesday. The charges came less than four months after the Justice Department dispatched experienced fraud prosecutors across hard-hit regions in Appalachia. The cases involve more than 350,000 prescriptions for controlled substances and more than 32 million pills — the equivalent of a dose of opioids for "every man, woman and child," across Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia, said Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski. America's Opioid Epidemic THROUGHLINE America's Opioid Epidemic "You can rest assured, when medical professionals behave like drug dealers, the Department of Justice is going to treat them like drug dealers," added Benczkowski, who runs the DOJ's criminal division. Those charged include 31 doctors, seven pharmacists, eight nurse practitioners and seven other licensed medical professionals, the Justice Department said.

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US warns docs not to abruptly halt opioid pain treatment

April 9, 2019 | ABC News

U.S. health officials Tuesday warned doctors not to abruptly stop prescribing opioid painkillers to patients who are taking them for chronic pain ailments, such as backaches. The Food and Drug Administration said it will add advice to labels on how to taper opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and dozens of generic pills. Federal and state officials have been fighting a nationwide opioid epidemic, which includes not only legal painkillers, but also illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Fatal overdoses tied to opioids have dragged down U.S. life expectancy and killed more than 400,000 people since 1999, according to government figures. The new label will warn doctors that rapidly discontinuing opioids in patients who are dependent on them can cause withdrawal symptoms including uncontrolled pain, nausea, chills and anxiety. In the worst cases, these problems have been tied to suicide.

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