Pubdate: Thu, 19 May 2016
Source: Asbury Park Press (NJ)
Copyright: 2016 Asbury Park Press
Author: Alex N. Gecan


NEPTUNE - Gov. Chris Christie addressed more than 200 medical and 
law-enforcement professionals about opioid and opiate addiction, 
treatment and recovery Thursday, joining a dais that included a 
pharmaceutical manufacturer, a Massachusetts police chief and an 
addiction specialist.

Christie made it personal.

The governor retold a story - about his law school friend, now dead 
after an apparent overdose on opiates complicated by alcohol - that 
went viral in November.

He said his friend - whom he has never named - was at the head of his 
law school study group and the first to find success after 
graduation, and nobody could have foreseen his descent into 
prescription drug abuse and the implosion of his personal and 
professional lives.

"We can't make these judgments anymore based on old stereotypes about 
who this disease affects," said Christie.

He offered veiled criticism of prescribing habits. He said that at as 
a college sophomore, his daughter had received a prescription for 30 
Percocet pills after getting two wisdom teeth removed.

"I took the 30 Percocets and I said, 'Take Advil and put an ice pack 
on your face, and you're not taking these things,'" said Christie. 
"The fact is, we've got to get a lot smarter about what we're doing 
in every aspect of this and stop with the old mores and the old thoughts."

Scientific American publisher Jeremy Abbate moderated a panel, which 
swung back and forth between personal anecdotes to policy proposals.

Sharing the stage with Christie was Behshad Sheldon, CEO of Braeburn 
Pharmaceuticals. She said the manufacturer was working on a subdermal 
implant to deliver a six-month supply of medication for recovering 
addicts. She said the implant could help prevent drug users from 
facing withdrawal if they had to begin a jail or prison sentence and 
did not have immediate access to treatment.

Effective treatment, she said, was important to prevent relapse, 
which could prove fatal.

"One mistake will kill you - the brain forgets what it was used to," 
said Sheldon. "They go out and they use the same amount they used 
just to get high and it will kill them because they've lost their tolerance."

Treatment for drug addiction, she said, had become "a civil rights issue."

Also on the dais was Leonard Campanello, the chief of the Gloucester 
Police Department in Massachusetts, which recently rolled out a 
diversion program to put addicts seeking recovery into treatment.

Dr. Andrea Barthwell, who was former President George W. Bush's 
deputy director for demand reduction at the Office of National Drug 
Control Policy, rounded out the panel.

Christie brushed aside a question from Abbate about the social and 
economic fallout from what lawmakers have called an epidemic of 
opioid addiction.

"You put a group of economists in a room and they come up with a 
number and it's meaningless," said Christie. "The way we need to 
address this is to get away from even that question. Social, economic 
impact, is like a professor's question and not a real-life problem."

Instead, the governor said, the focus should rest on the side effects 
that the families of addicts suffer.

"I think the way we need to start looking at this is, get away from 
the academic discussion and get down to what you'd feel like, what is 
the impact if it was your child who came home with an addiction to 
heroin, what would the impact be if it's your spouse, what would the 
impact be if it was your parent," said Christie. "You can't calculate 
it. It takes your life and turns it completely inside-out and turns a 
functional family into not a dysfunctional family but a nonfunctional family."

Dr. Adam Kaplan, an internist, said that due to pricing, patients on 
Medicaid or without money to spend out of pocket get stuck with 
cheaper opioids instead of other nonaddictive options, laying the 
blame on what he saw as profit-driven pharmaceutical companies who 
didn't care much for yanks at their "heartstrings."

"We as physicians in this room who are here realize how hard it is to 
get somebody with back pain a Lidoderm patch, which is not addictive, 
which may help them get to physical therapy - if they can get there 
with their coverage and pay their copays - instead of giving them a 
$5 opioid prescription," said Kaplan.

Lidoderm is a brand name for a topical lidocaine anesthetic patch.

Christie batted the remarks away.

"It's very easy to take shots at corporations because corporations 
don't speak, so it's very easy to say, 'Well they don't care.' It's 
not my experience that they don't care. Now, if we want to set up 
different economic incentives in a capitalist system, then that's 
something we need to have a conversation about," said Christie.

The governor suggested that pharmaceutical companies would not even 
come to the table until their critics dialed down their condemnations.

"The issue has to be, on all of this stuff, that we have to change 
our rhetoric," said the governor. "You don't punch someone in the 
face and say, 'What will you do to help me?'"
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom