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REVIEW: The Opioid Crisis in America Course from Harvard University

Over 700,000 people died in the U.S. from a drug overdose between 1999 to 2017. That’s about 130 American deaths daily. At PharmacyChecker, we are dedicated to helping fight this epidemic by learning more about the crisis and spreading awareness. I recently obtained certification for The Opioid Crisis in America course offered by Harvard University.

According to a report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the main channels that people obtain opioid drugs illegally are from a friend or relative for free; buying from a friend or relative; or buying from a drug dealer or stranger.

As our main focus is often online pharmacy and importation, it’s notable that Harvard did not identify online pharmacy or importation as contributors to the opioid epidemic.

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NABP-Accredited Rochester Drug Cooperative Pleads Guilty to Illegal Opioid Drug Sales

Rochester Drug Cooperative, a large pharmacy wholesaler accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), pleaded guilty last week to illegal sales of opioid drugs, including oxycodone and fentanyl. The NABP operates a program called Verified Authorized Wholesale Distribution (VAWD). According to its website, NABP VAWD accreditation helps “ensure that the wholesale distribution facility operates legitimately, is licensed in good standing, and is employing security and best practices for safely distributing prescription drugs from manufacturers to pharmacies and other institutions.”

The nation’s largest pharmacy wholesalers, McKesson, Amerisource Bergen, and Cardinal Health – companies with many NABP-accredited facilities – have all paid fines related to civil or criminal charges of illegal opioid drug sales, including fentanyl. Along with large drug companies, like Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Insys Therapeutics, the main arteries of American’s “legitimate” drug distribution supply chain are accused of causing the opioid epidemic with 218,000 opioid-related deaths over the last 20 years.

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Pill Presses and Counterfeit Prescription Narcotics: Supporting the STEER Act

In their opposition to drug importation legislation, the myriad “non-profit” groups funded by drug companies often cynically invoke the evils of counterfeit drugs. We’ve seen this as recently as this week, when an importation bill triumphantly passed in Florida (Prescription Drug Importation Programs HB19). One such group, the Partnership for Safe Medicines, was called out by PolitiFact for essentially lying that the new state law would “allow” imports from China “without FDA inspection,” tacking on that “too many have already died from counterfeit drugs.”

The Florida drug importation bill builds in so many regulatory checks that it may in fact make importation from Canada into Florida safer than our “regular” drug supply chain, but that’s for another post. As it happens, no one has ever been reported killed by a non-controlled prescription drug imported from a pharmacy that required a valid prescription.

PolitiFact is right to call out PSM, but I’m sad to report that, yes, there is a very real counterfeit drug problem in the United States. But, unlike the fake counterfeit drug facts propagated by groups like PSM to scare people away from buying lower-cost medicines online, it comes in the form of illegal fentanyl ingredients used to make counterfeit prescription narcotics.

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