HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Legal Drug Hell
Pubdate: Mon, 09 Aug 2004
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2004 The Calgary Sun
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)
Bookmark: (Methadone)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Contradictions Abound In World Of Substance Abuse

Some have lost homes and families to their addictions.

Others have been stripped of their careers and control of their lives,
some their freedom for unlawfully chasing another inhaled or injected

To kick the habit, users have been known to seek treatment, delivered
under rigid regimens.

Lives have been lost in despair.

The legacy of a street drug, peddled on some dark corner?

Actually, it's the injected or nasally inhaled Stadol, a synthetic
opiate produced by pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb for the
treatment of migraines.

And according to Calgary class-action suit specialist Clint Docken,
it's a drug that's wrought its own headaches -- pains that are now
coming home to roost in a number of ways.

The company has agreed to a $12-million settlement with Canadians
unfortunate enough to fall under Stadol's sway.

Alberta's connection to Stadol is a powerful one, given the province
is second in total numbers only to Ontario in its reliance on
prescription drugs, says Docken.

We're a medicated lot, but don't dare decriminalize that weed.

"Stadol's used for short-term pain relief and it turned out to be kind
of like snorting cocaine," said Docken.

"We have clients who've lost everything."

The drug first went on the market in 1992 and after problems arose, it
became a controlled substance five years later, meaning it required a

So far, only 50 people have jumped aboard the Stadol class-action suit
- -- one of the first of its kind in Canada -- though Docken expects
dozens more to sign on.

The province is also to be compensated for medical/treatment costs
related to Stadol, notes Docken, but I'll bet the sum won't come close
to fully covering those.

How much cash each claimant receives depends on a points scale, though
anyone with the purchase of three bottles under their belt is eligible.

"If treatment involved methadone for a period of longer than six
months, add an additional 25 points," states a Docken & Co. guideline.

"Documented suicide attempt(s) during the period of Stadol addiction
and/or dependence: 50 points. If resulted in death, add 75 points," it

A criminal conviction related to Stadol use merits 50 points.

Fortunately for Stadol's manufacturer, they're a large corporation,
not a drug pusher.

There's no threat of police drug units raiding their factories or
offices, seizing computer discs.

They may be subject to a tax cut or writeoff, though.

Docken said it's his belief the class-action agreement also includes
the removal of Stadol from shelves in Canada.

But a call to a Calgary pharmacy last week revealed the drug is still
readily available.

"How many prescriptions? Brand name or generic?" responded the
pharmacist on duty.

Whatever money is paid by the targeted manufacturer can be made up

Then there's the painkiller Oxycontin, the so-called "hillbilly
heroin" accused of driving up crime rates in places such as
Newfoundland and, allegedly, Rush Limbaugh's household.

Now, police in Newfoundland say they want access to information on
prescription drug abuse to combat the problem.

The war against drugs can be so complicated, especially when police
can't go to the source.

And those addicted to Stadol and other pharmaceuticals aren't treated
like criminals, unless they forge prescriptions.

The precedent set by settlements such as the Stadol case is producing
a whole host of similar claims, reports Docken.

Some would argue the users bring misfortune on themselves, but the
drugs' packaging often assures the product's pristine safety. That
should count for something.

By settling a class-action suit, pharmaceutical companies avoid
ultimately more expensive individual actions.

It's the cost of doing business.

Dealers of illicit street drugs can cut plea bargains.

It all brings to mind the hypocrisy of the infamous 1970 visit to the
Nixon White House by Elvis Presley -- addled on legal dope and
offering his services in the war on drugs.

Meanwhile, we're still treated to the sight of Grant Krieger being
arrested for delivering medicinal marijuana to ailing folks who insist
pharmaceuticals just don't cut it for them.

It's a wonderful world.
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