Pubdate: Wed, 18 Feb 2015
Source: Boston Globe (MA)
Copyright: 2015 Globe Newspaper Company
Author: Steve Annear


Gloucester Police Chief Urges Dialogue With Pharmaceutical Executives

Gloucester police, taking an unconventional approach to fighting the
state's opioid epidemic, are imploring people to contact chief
executives at five pharmaceutical companies and ask what they're doing
to curb the drug scourge.

In a Facebook post this week that was shared more than 500 times,
Police Chief Leonard Campanello listed names and contact information
for the leaders at Abbott Laboratories, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Eli
Lilly and Co., and Merck & Co.

The feisty post exhorted the department's nearly 10,000 followers to
reach out directly to the corporate chiefs to start a conversation
about drug abuse prevention.

"Now . . . don't get mad," Campanello wrote. "Just politely ask them
what they are doing to address the opioid epidemic in the United
States, and if they realize that the latest data shows almost 80
percent of addicted persons start with a legally prescribed drug that
they make."

Campanello said he believes that the executives could play a key role
in finding a solution to the epidemic, but they "might need a little
push" in the form of phone calls and e-mails.

Since the police's Angel Program began on June 1, 30 addicts have been
fast-tracked into rehab.

"Gotta go make some calls," the chief wrote.

Several of the companies spotlighted by Campanello responded that they
had already taken steps to help prevent prescription drug abuse.

A spokeswoman from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of
America, or PhRMA, a trade group representing US pharmaceutical
companies, said the industry is "dedicated to supporting a range of
policy approaches . . . and expanding and improving awareness,
education, and training related to prescription drug abuse."

Priscilla VanderVeer acknowledged that the improper use of
prescription drugs is a public health crisis.

"Helping to ensure the appropriate use of these medicines while also
making sure patients with legitimate medical needs have access to
their medicines is a key priority for the innovative biopharmaceu
industry," she said in a statement.

While the phone numbers listed for the offices of the chief executives
worked, messages to some of the e-mails shared on the Facebook post
bounced back when a Globe reporter wrote to them.

One of the companies, Abbot Laboratories, said in a statement that the
company "doesn't sell pharmaceuticals in the United States." A
spokesman for a second company, Pfizer, directed an inquiry about the
chief's post to PhRMA.

Amy Jo Meyer, a spokeswoman from Johnson & Johnson, did not directly
address Campanello's post, but said the company also supports the need
to eliminate the abuse of potent painkillers.

"The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson have
developed educational programs aimed at increasing awareness in
patients and health care professionals alike," she said in a statement.

The remaining companies did not return requests for

Campanello would not speak further about the department's Facebook

John Guilfoil, a spokesman for Gloucester police, said the department
is letting the information shared online "speak for itself."

"[The chief] wasn't making an accusation or encouraging people to get
angry. He is taking aim at the industry as a whole, and encouraging
people to wonder what this industry is going to do about this
epidemic," Guilfoil said. "He is speaking collectively about the
industry. He is casting a wide net."

This isn't the first time Gloucester police have used innovative
methods in their fight against addiction. In June, the department
launched the Angel initiative to help addicts find adequate treatment.
The program allows addicts to come to the police station, hand over
their drugs, and then ask for placement in a detox facility - without
being put behind bars for drug possession.

Like the department's latest push, that plan started with a simple -
but sharply focused - Facebook message.

As of August, Gloucester police say they have helped more than 100
people struggling with addiction through the program. Arlington,
Methuen, and Andover police have launched similar programs since.

Wednesday's Facebook message about the pharmaceutical industry drew
high praise from some commenters, who pledged to reach out to the companies.

"I seriously love this police chief. He is saving lives everyday," one
person wrote.
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MAP posted-by: Matt