Sensi: Cannabis and the War on Opioids

Leland Rucker, Senior Editor at Sensi Magazine, takes a look at Arizona, which was the only state in 2016 that didn’t pass its cannabis legalization initiative.  Rucker says that happened, at least in part, because Insys Theraputics, an Arizona-based pharmaceutical manufacturer, spent half a million bucks on an advertising campaign claiming dangers to health and children.


“Five months later, the company received DEA approval to develop its own synthetic marijuana. Syndros was designed to treat nausea during chemotherapy and anorexia in Aids patients. Syndros is a lab-made liquid form of tetrahydrocannabinol, not the synthetic street marijuana called K2 or Spice, which involves chemicals sprayed on plants. Syndros’ list of potential side effects is amusing: euphoria, abnormal thinking, dizziness, paranoia, drowsiness, abdominal pain and, get this, nausea and vomiting, which is what it’s designed to help. And that Insys would be trying to push its synthetic product over one that grows naturally is mind-boggling.”


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Now it has been reported that John Kapoor, 74, founder and majority owner of Insys Therapeutics Inc., one of the country’s richest men, has been arrested and charged with the illegal distribution of a fentanyl spray intended for cancer patients, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. “Basically, he and some of his executives are charged with bribing doctors and defrauding insurance companies to market his company’s narcotic, Subsys, which contains fentanyl, a pain drug much more powerful than morphine and whose proliferation is linked at least part to the epidemic today.”
Kapoor and other executives are charged with conspiring to bribe medical practitioners, many of whom operated pain clinics, to get them to prescribe Subsys for patients not diagnosed with cancer in exchange for bribes and kickbacks. Kapoor and the former executives are also alleged to have misled and defrauded reluctant health insurers leery of prescribing it to non-cancer patients. Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb said, “We must hold the industry and its leadership accountable — just as we would the cartels or a street-level drug dealer.”


Rucker says that while that is laudable, it is interesting that the president pointedly did not mention dealing with the crisis on this level in his announcement last week. “His commission will increase access to addiction treatment and recovery programs, expand the availability of medication-assisted therapies and first responders’ ability to administer the life-saving overdose reversal drug, naloxone. In other words, try to catch the poor junkies at the end of the cycle, not at the beginning. They’re losers anyway, right?”


Rucker says that perhaps the federal government should be looking more carefully into this aspect of the opioid situation, “people might be unwittingly getting hooked on prescribed drugs through collusion between drugmakers and doctors rather than concentrating on stopping bad people who use cannabis and creating fancy advertising that will, in essence, ask Americans to just say no while the medical establishment says yes. Sad.”

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