FDA continues to turn blind eye to pain drug problems

Yesterday, I told you about the former FDA Commissioner who faces a federal racketeering lawsuit that alleges she used her government position to reap financial gain. The lawsuit also alleges she ignored pleas from public health experts, researchers, doctors, and patient organizations to place “black box” warnings on deadly and dangerous drugs.

Thankfully, not all of medicine suffers from such high-ranking corruption. I know of many well-meaning health professionals on the front lines who still try to do the right thing.

In fact, in February, 41 leaders from state and community health departments petitioned the FDA to add “black box” warnings about the potential dangers of taking powerful opioid pain drugs together with anti-anxiety drugs known as benzodiazepines.

Overwhelming evidence shows that taking these drugs together is especially dangerous because it can slowly depress the respiratory system to the point where the patient stops breathing. It happens all too often — and increases the chance of fatal overdoses in pain patients.

Already a recipe for disaster

Of course, opioid pain drugs — such as oxycodone and hydrocodone — already contribute to the deadly, nationwide epidemic of addiction and abuse. In fact, the CDC recently reported that fatal overdoses from prescription opioid drugs increased to nearly 19,000 in 2014, the most recent year for which data is on record.

As I also reported earlier this year, these opioid drugs directly contributed to the first decrease in overall longevity ever witnessed in any population group,  among white, middle-class, middle-aged adults. This deadly development reversed more than a century of progress — with a 37 percent decrease in longevity in this group over the past generation.

Meanwhile, according to a recent study, fatal overdoses have also been skyrocketing among Americans who use benzodiazepines — including Ativan, Valium, Lorazepam and Xanax. In fact, overdose deaths related to these anti-anxiety medications have increased almost five-fold since 1996. As of 2013, benzodiazepine overdoses were responsible for nearly one-third of all prescription drug overdose deaths.

Research indicates that both types of drugs become even deadlier when taken together. Trouble is, doctors often prescribe an opioid pain drug together with a benzodiazepine as a relaxant for associated muscle spasms or anxiety.

FDA’s black box isn’t enough

“Black box” warnings alert patients and doctors alike to potential dangers. But only the FDA can issue such warnings. And the FDA’s non-response to the doctors’ petition sounded like more bureaucratic, mealy-mouthed, mumbo-jumbo excuses for inaction.

But as I said, some professionals are taking action themselves. The emergency room at St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in New Jersey has stopped doling out opioid pain drugs. It treats pain patients with alternatives like trigger-point injections, acupuncture, laughing gas (nitrous oxide), energy healing, ultrasound, and even music therapy.

And there are many more non-drug, effective natural alternatives for pain. I am just finishing a new book on the topic. In addition, my new online Arthritis Relief & Reversal Protocol gives an in-depth look at all of the scientifically proven ways you can end pain without the deadly side effects of opioid pain pills.

There are also many natural, non-drug approaches for anxiety and mood — including mindfulness meditation and mind-body therapies. You can learn more about these approaches in my books Your Emotional Type and New World Mindfulness.

It’s sad that the mainstream’s “go to” treatments for pain and anxiety require an ominous “black box” warning. Sadder yet, the FDA refuses to provide the warnings.

Well, I suppose we know who wears the “black hat” around these parts.


“Health officials push FDA to add ‘black box’ warnings about using opioids, benzodiazepines together,” Washington Post (www.washpost.com) 2/22/2016

An E.R. Kicks the Habit of Opioids for Pain,” New York Times (www.nytimes.com) 6/14/2016