Crisis

health

Life after COVID-19: Crisis may be over, but ailments don’t always disappear

Months after his hospitalization for COVID-19, Gary Degrijze still can’t grasp a coffee cup handle. Ron Panzok suffers from pain in his left foot. Shirelle White needs supplemental oxygen to breathe.

The three are among the many COVID-19 patients who are enduring the effects of the disease months later. The virus is so new in humans that scientists don’t know how long patients will continue experiencing debilitating long-term effects and whether some of them will have complications the rest of their lives.

“It leads to a lot of frustration,” said Dr. Ewa Rakowski, a pulmonary critical care doctor at Stony Brook Medicine, which is preparing to open a specialized center for those with long-term COVID-19 complications. “They want an explanation and want to know when they can expect to feel back to normal, and we just don’t really have that yet.”

It’s not just those who were hospitalized with severe symptoms of COVID-19 who are still struggling.

“We are also seeing patients who didn’t require hospitalization or really much medical care, and they’re still coming in with the prolonged symptoms of shortness of breath, fatigue, persistent cough and mental fogginess,” Rakowski said.

Degrijze, of Bellport, doesn’t fit most people’s image of someone who almost died of COVID-19. He’s 49 and had to pass a strenuous physical exam every year for the Army Reserve.

“I’ve been perfectly healthy for the majority of my life,” said Degrijze, who was a United States Postal Service letter carrier for 26 years and hopes to one day return to delivering mail.

He spent 2 1/2 months at Stony Brook University Hospital — most of that time on a ventilator — and another two weeks in rehabilitation.

Degrijze’s breathing has greatly improved, but, “I have good and bad days,” he said. “There are days I might walk halfway around the block and I’m like, ‘I’m starting to feel a little out of breath.’ “

Joint pain means he can’t stand or walk for long, and sitting too much leads to lower back pain.

“I have very limited strength in my right arm” because of nerve damage,” he said. “I barely have any strength in my wrists. It’s like my fingers are jammed at the knuckles. It’s almost as if I had a stroke, and I didn’t.”

Degrijze goes to physical therapy three times a week. Doctors don’t know if his arm and hand will ever fully heal.

“They tell me they don’t know how much strength and mobility in my arm and hand I can get back,” he said. “It may be 90%, it may be 70%. They just don’t know.”

Like ‘walking on rocks’

Other than high blood pressure, Panzok, 66, had no major health problems before COVID-19. He, too, almost died from the virus. He spent about two months in a coma

Read More
health

Walmart sues US government in dispute linked to opioid crisis

Retail giant Walmart filed suit Thursday against the US Justice Department over what it said was an unfair attempt to hold it legally responsible for certain sales of opioid drugs.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle linked to the opioid crisis in the United States, where widespread abuse has led to government efforts to address the problem and hold drugmakers accountable.

In its lawsuit brought before a federal court in Texas, the US retailer says its pharmacists and pharmacies were being put “in an untenable position” by the government.

The suit, which also names the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), says Walmart was acting preemptively to head off a separate civil suit that the Justice Department has been preparing to file against it.

Walmart said the government’s rules were unclear and that pharmacists could not be expected to know when a prescription written by a licensed doctor should not be filled.

“Walmart and its pharmacists should not be held responsible for the government’s failures to address the opioid crisis,” the suit says.

With the help of aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies, particularly through doctors, prescriptions for highly addictive opiate painkillers that had previously been reserved for serious cases skyrocketed in the late 1990s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses — both prescription and non-prescription — since 1999.

Walmart accuses the DEA of seeking to pass blame for its failures.

It alleges the agency “authorized manufacturers to produce ever-increasing quantities of the drugs, and largely abandoned its most potent enforcement tools against bad actors.”

It also said that “nearly 70 percent of the doctors whose prescriptions” the government intends to challenge “maintain their DEA prescription privileges to this day.”

Walmart alleges the government has spent years and considerable amounts of money on a criminal investigation that has not produced an indictment and was now turning to a civil lawsuit instead.

It is calling on the court to state that the company and its pharmacists are not subject to the legal responsibility with which the government is seeking to brand it.

Other large companies, including drug distributors Cardinal Health and McKesson, have been targeted in lawsuits by local and state authorities that accuse them of turning a blind eye to millions of opioid prescriptions despite knowing their addictiveness.

A settlement was reached between three distributors and two Ohio counties in October 2019, raising the possibility of a larger settlement.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the drug OxyContin, had agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal worth some $8.3 billion.

cat/mjs/to

Source Article

Read More
health

As Purdue Pharma Agrees to Settle with the DOJ, Revisit Its Role in the Opioid Crisis | Opioids, Inc. | FRONTLINE | PBS

In the latest chapter of a complex legal battle over who is responsible for the nation’s opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the notorious painkiller OxyContin, has arrived at an $8.3 billion settlement with the federal government, pending court approval.

Announced in an Oct. 21 Department of Justice press conference, the settlement, if approved, resolves the federal government’s civil and criminal probes into Purdue Pharma, which is currently in bankruptcy; an additional settlement resolves a federal civil case against Purdue Pharma’s owners, the Sackler family.

“It’s also important to note that this resolution does not prohibit future criminal or civil penalties against Purdue Pharma’s executives or employees,” Jeffrey A. Rosen, the U.S. deputy attorney general, said at the press conference.

Under the settlement, Purdue Pharma admits guilt on three felony charges involving conspiring to defraud the U.S. and break anti-kickback regulations in how it marketed opioids. The settlement involves a $3.5 billion criminal fine and a $2 billion criminal forfeiture, as well as a civil payment of $2.8 billion, though actual monetary payments could be substantially less, once the company’s value is factored in. Separately, the Sacklers themselves will make a $225 million payment to the U.S.

The settlement “will require that the company be dissolved and no longer exist in its present form,” Rosen said, with the Sacklers barred from any controlling or owning role moving forward. Instead, if the settlement is approved by bankruptcy court, the company’s assets would become “owned by a trust for the benefit of the American public,” Rosen said. The new company would still be able to manufacture opioid drugs but would also be required to produce large quantities of medicines to treat and respond to addiction and overdoses, and would need to offer the latter as donations or “at cost.”

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue Pharma’s board, said in a statement.

In a separate statement, Sackler family members who served on the Purdue Pharma board said they had “acted ethically and lawfully” and that they “reached today’s agreement in order to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings.”

The statement also said, “Regarding the plea agreement between the government and Purdue, no member of the Sackler family was involved in that conduct or served in a management role at Purdue during that time period.”

A number of states’ attorneys general spoke out against the terms of the proposed settlement as inadequate and vowed to continue to pursue cases against the company and the Sacklers, which the federal settlements do not resolve.

Purdue Pharma has long been accused of being a driver of America’s opioid crisis. FRONTLINE’s 2016 documentary Chasing Heroin investigated how that crisis came to be, examining allegations about Purdue Pharma’s role in the early years of what has been called the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.

Read More
health

Worsening opioid crisis overshadowed in presidential race

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Like millions of Americans, Diane Urban watched the first presidential debate last month at home with her family. When it was over, she turned off the television and climbed into the bed her 25-year-old son Jordan used to sleep in.

It was where she found Jordan’s lifeless body after he overdosed on the opioid fentanyl one morning in April 2019.

After watching President Donald Trump target the son of former Vice President Joe Biden for his history of substance abuse, Urban was reminded again of the shame her son lived with during his own battle with addiction.

“I just think that Trump doesn’t understand addiction,” said Urban, 53, a Republican from Delphos, Ohio, who voted for the president in 2016.


The exchange over Hunter Biden’s struggle with addiction was brief, and neither candidate was asked a follow-up question about their plan to tackle the nation’s drug addiction and overdose crisis.

Though Biden’s campaign has a policy paper on addiction, the issue has barely registered in this year’s presidential campaign, overshadowed by the human and economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak and the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic. Yet drug addiction continues its grim march across the U.S., having contributed to the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans over the past two decades.

And it’s only getting worse.

After a one-year drop in 2018, U.S. opioid overdose deaths increased again in 2019, topping 50,000 for the first time, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That accounted for the majority of the 71,000 fatal overdoses from all drugs. While national data isn’t available for most of 2020, The Associated Press surveyed individual states that are reporting overdoses and found more drug-related deaths amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ohio, a battleground state in the presidential contest, is on track to have one of its deadliest years of opioid drug overdoses. More residents died of overdoses in May than in any month in at least 14 years, according to preliminary mortality statistics from the state health department.

As Trump nears the end of his first term, some supporters, including Urban, feel left behind by his administration’s drug policies.

During Trump’s first two years in office, 48 of the 59 Ohio counties with reliable data saw their overdose death rates get worse, according to an analysis of CDC data by The Associated Press. The data was compared to overdose death rates in 2015 and 2016, the last two years of the Obama administration.

What that looks like on the ground is mothers donating to GoFundMe accounts and Facebook campaigns so other mothers can bury their children who’ve overdosed. Some parents even reserve a casket while their child is still alive so they are prepared for what they believe is inevitable.

Others become legal guardians of their grandchildren. Among them are Brenda Stewart, 62, and her husband, who adopted their grandchildren a decade ago as their son struggled with addiction. That led Stewart to start

Read More
health

Will Canceling Thanksgiving Cause A Mental Health Crisis? People May Feel Isolated, Lonely, Defeated

KEY POINTS

  • U.S. coronavirus infections are increasing by tens of thousands a day and the death toll is nearing 220,000
  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans should “bite the bullet” and cancel this year’s gatherings
  • Mental health experts warn being deprived of Thanksgiving gatherings could increase feelings of loneliness and isolation

Last Thanksgiving people worried about how to prevent political blow-ups around the dinner table and whether the surly uncle would behave. In 2020, they’re worrying about whether to put on a Thanksgiving dinner at all with coronavirus cases increasing across the country.

Thanksgiving is Americans’ second favorite holiday behind Christmas. Unlike Christmas and Easter, there are no religious overtones. Unlike Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day, it’s not associated with politics.

But this year, fears of infecting loved ones has would-be hosts worrying about what to do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns the more people who are invited, the greater the risk of spreading the disease that has killed about 220,000 Americans since March – especially if those gatherings are held indoors. Infections have been rising by the tens of thousands a day.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, says people should just cancel the annual celebration.

“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected,” he said in a CBS interview.

Taking that step, however, likely will be hard on a lot of people, psychologist Souzan Swift of Heal telemedicine practice told International Business Times.

“Family and friends look forward to coming together to celebrate so now that we are unable to do so, it’s going to leave a lot of people feeling more isolated and lonely,” Swift said. “It’s not just about the holiday but about coming together, socializing, connecting with our loved ones, and overall self-care. Having to cancel our plans and/or traditions takes a lot of that away and we are left feeling lonely and disconnected from the world we knew.”

Addiction Treatment Services at Phoenix Behavioral Health recommends hosting virtual events if in-person gatherings are off the table.

“Those who may have a mental health disorder will be able to maintain the connections they crave while also lowering their risk of contracting COVID-19,” said Olivia Feldman, project manager at Addiction Treatment Services, citing the increased danger of turning to drugs or alcohol to assuage the isolation and loneliness.

Swift said canceling Thanksgiving, and potentially other winter holidays, may leave people feeling discouraged and defeated. Adjusting to a “new normal” is tough, she said.

“Unfortunately, the merriment we crave — eating, drinking and singing together in a cozy room — are among the highest-risk scenarios for transmitting COVID-19,” M. Kit Delgado, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, told MarketWatch.

In his CBS interview, Fauci noted his children had canceled his family gathering “because of their concern for me and my age … even

Read More