Published since 1884 by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Editor-in-Chief, Robert West

We welcome suggestions and contributions from our readers. Send your material to Robert Calder, Addiction News Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom. E-mail jean@addictionjournal.org

Ongoing court cases in the US relating to opioid pharmacy companies

Posted 04-Jun-19

There are an estimated 2,000 current lawsuits and federal charges filed by patients, hospitals, US states and federal prosecutors against pharmaceutical companies relating to the supply, distribution and marketing of opioid medications. The cases allege that those companies have contributed to recent rises in opioid painkiller use, addiction, overdose and related fatalities. Many cite cases where pharmaceutical companies have marketed and distributed opioid painkillers in ways that have been deceptive, illegal, or harmful or that knowingly allowed illegal distribution channels to thrive. Some lawsuits have been filed by hospitals attempting to recover costs from treating addiction and overdose. There are now 39 states that have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma LP, the makers of OxyContin, citing their role in the US opioid epidemic.

Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/nyregion/opioid-crisis-drug-trafficking-rochester.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/24/us-drug-company-executives-charged-fuelling-opioid-crisis/

https://apnews.com/929ba9585cd0441db65ee6695427f609

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-opioids-purdue-pharma/five-more-u-s-states-sue-oxycontin-maker-purdue-pharma-over-opioid-epidemic-idUSKCN1SM1SV

Completed court cases in the US relating to opioid pharmacy companies

Posted 04-Jun-19

The US drugstore chain, CVS Health, has paid $535,000 to federal prosecutors to resolve allegations that it fulfilled prescriptions that it should have known to be fraudulent. The charges relate to the drug Percocet which contains the opioid oxycodone. The chain denies the charges and stated that it paid out to avoid the “delay, uncertainty and expense of litigation.” Also, the head of Insys Therapeutics, John Kapoor, and four company executives have been found guilty on charges relating to the distribution of Subsys, a fentanyl-based spray approved for terminal cancer patients. The court found that Kapoor had effectively bribed doctors to prescribe large amounts of Subsys to patients while the executives were convicted on charges related to racketeering. John Kapoor and the executives each face up to 20 years in prison.

Sources:  https://apnews.com/c9f2d0236db24b508aa21d7ee28a54ba

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/may/02/john-kapoor-opioids-billionaire-founder-guilty-of-bribing-doctors-to-prescribe

Denver votes to decriminalise magic mushrooms

Posted 04-Jun-19

The US city of Denver has voted to decriminalise magic mushrooms through a public vote that passed with a 50.6% majority. Magic mushrooms and their active ingredient, psilocybin, will remain illegal as a scheduled drug; however, police will no longer treat possession for personal use as a criminal matter. Denver is the first US city to pass such legislation for magic mushrooms; however, campaigns have started in the states of California and Oregon for similar public votes in 2020.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-48185366

US Federal court rules inmates must be provided with treatment for addiction

Posted 04-Jun-19

 A precedent has been set by a US federal court in Maine through a ruling that a state prison must provide treatment for opioid use disorder. Maine prison officials had initially informed lawyers that a prisoner’s buprenorphine prescription would be interrupted whilst in prison, causing him to experience withdrawal symptoms. The court ruling means that prison officials must now continue to provide buprenorphine. The ruling has been welcomed by treatment agencies; however, prison administrators have expressed concern over meeting the costs, citing the high numbers of people in US prisons who experience addiction.

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/05/04/719805278/setting-precedent-a-federal-court-rules-jail-must-give-inmate-addiction-treatmen

US state of North Carolina sues JUUL

Posted 04-Jun-19

North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the makers of pod-based e-cigarette JUUL, claiming that the company has marketed its products to children and has misled users about the addictive nature of its products. The suit follows an investigation by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein who previously requested information on sales and marketing from JUUL. Stein claims that marketing practices target young people by using social media ‘influencers’ and through flavours and products that are designed to be popular with teenagers.

Source: https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/15/health/north-carolina-juul-lawsuit-bn/index.html

IQOS tobacco product approved for US sales

Posted 04-Jun-19

Philip Morris’ heat-not-burn tobacco product, IQOS, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for sale in the US. The FDA noted that its approval does not infer that IQOS are safe to use, but that the approval process had considered how new products might influence smoking cessation and youth use of nicotine and tobacco. The FDA process evaluated appropriate marketing regulation and considered population level public health concerns. Phillip Morris states that they hope IQOS will help reduce cigarette addiction.

Source: https://csnews.com/fda-approves-philip-morris-heat-not-burn-iqos-us-market

Canada to implement tobacco plain packaging

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Canadian Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, has announced new plain packaging regulations for tobacco. The regulations include standardised colours and bans on brand colours, slim cigarettes, cigarettes over 85mm in length, and branding or promotions on the cigarettes themselves. The regulations stipulate a ‘slide and shell’ format and will ensure that packets sold in Canada will carry the largest health warnings in the world.  The regulations are due to be implemented in November 2019.

Source: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/canada-now-has-the-best-tobacco-plain-packaging-regulations-in-the-world-821342826.html

Seventy-nine percent of cannabis sales in Canada still take place on the illicit market

Posted 04-Jun-19

Data from Statistics Canada show that most of the cannabis trade in Canada remains on the illicit market. In the last quarter of 2018, 79% of transactions were not conducted through official sources. The data show that illicit sales are declining and comprised 90% of cannabis sales in the previous quarter. Many cite the price of cannabis as the reason for a persisting illicit market in cannabis, with legal cannabis estimated to be around 40% more expensive than cannabis bought on the illicit market.

Source: https://qz.com/1605614/canadas-black-market-for-weed-is-thriving-even-after-legalization/

Mexico plans to decriminalise all drugs

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has announced plans to decriminalise all drugs. The statement was accompanied by a five-year policy document outlining the government’s intention to end its prohibitionist approach to illicit drugs. The proposed change in policy follows Obrador’s stated intention to end Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ which has seen 150,000 gang-related killings since 2006. Decriminalisation would see drug arrests replaced with referrals for treatment and funds re-directed from law enforcement to detoxification and rehabilitation programmes. Obrador has said that he hopes to negotiate with the US and the UN to encourage an international end to prohibition approaches.

Sources: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/10/illegal-drugs-in-mexico-could-be-decriminalized-in-government-plan.html
http://www.drugpolicy.org/press-release/2019/05/mexico-announces-plans-end-prohibition-drugs-and-allow-legal-supply-through

Brazil sues Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco Plc to recover costs from tobac

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Brazil solicitor general’s office (AGU) has announced a lawsuit against Philip Morris International (PMI) and British American Tobacco Plc (BAT) with the intention of recovering costs accrued from treating 26 tobacco-related illnesses and diseases over the last five years. Tobacco is estimated to kill over 156,000 people in Brazil and to cost Brazilian healthcare systems around 57 billion reais ($14.1bn) each year. The suit refers to the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) in calling for compensation and civil liability related to tobacco harms and has been publicly supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Source: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-tobacco-lawsuit/brazil-sues-top-tobacco-firms-to-recover-public-health-costs-idUKKCN1SS2DN

Ecuador sends army to prisons to quell fights over drug trafficking territory

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Vice President of Ecuador, Otto Sonnenholzner, has announced that army forces have been sent to several prisons to increase security. Violence and gang warfare have erupted in several regional prisons in Ecuador with rival gangs apparently fighting for control of drug trafficking both on the streets and within those prisons. Ecuador’s prisons are reportedly understaffed and have ongoing issues with corruption with 21 prison guards found smuggling drugs or alcohol for prisoners in the first half of 2019.

Source: https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/ecuador-sends-troops-prison-gang-violence/

Opioid painkiller packaging in the UK to carry prominent health warnings

Posted 04-Jun-19

The UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has announced that opioid medications are now to carry prominent warnings about their potential for addiction. The announcement was made in response to a reported 60% increase in opioid prescriptions and a twofold increase in codeine-related deaths in the last 10 years. The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will oversee the implementation of new packaging regulations and will identify to which medicines they will be applied. It is hoped that the warnings will enable patients to avoid addiction and harms associated with opioid medication.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/27/opioid-painkillers-addiction-warning-uk-matt-hancock?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Belgium announces set up of new cannabis bureau

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Belgian government has announced a new organisation to oversee cultivation, import and export of medical cannabis. The new Belgian cannabis bureau will sit within the Belgian Federal Agency for Medicine and Health Products and is due to oversee government tenders for cannabis cultivated for research purposes. The Belgian government has also announced extra funding for research into the potential health benefits of cannabis.

Sources: https://www.greenmarketreport.com/belgium-steps-up-medicinal-cannabis-plans-with-new-government-bureau/

https://www.healtheuropa.eu/medicinal-cannabis-production-stepped-up-by-belgium-with-new-government-bureau/91557/

Medical Cannabis bill approved in Croatia

Posted 04-Jun-19

Amendments to current drug legislation in Croatia have liberalised cultivation and production of low THC cannabis in Croatia. The amendments to the Act on Combating Drugs Abuse allows for Croatian companies to apply for licences to produce and distribute medical cannabis products which, until now, had been imported from outside Croatia. Licences will be granted by the Croatian Agency for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (HALMED) and approved by the Croatian Ministry of Health in a process that will be finalised through an Ordinance due to be published in late 2019.

Source: http://www.mondaq.com/x/806340/food+drugs+law/Liberalization+Of+Cultivation+And+Production+Of+Medicinal+Cannabis+In+Croatia

Luxembourg plan to legalise recreational cannabis

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Health Minister and Justice Minister for Luxembourg, Étienne Schneider and Félix Braz, have visited Canada to discuss issues and processes necessary for legalising recreational cannabis. A date has not yet been set for any legislation; however, recreational cannabis is expected to be legalised in Luxembourg during the current legislature. The Ministers said that a preliminary concept is due to be established in late 2020 along with a ministerial task force to oversee any changes and to ensure public health concerns are addressed. There are no details yet about how regulations regarding possession, consumption or trade will be implemented; however, taxes raised by legalisation are due to be invested in education and drug prevention initiatives.

Source: https://today.rtl.lu/news/luxembourg/a/1349215.html

Kenya announces crackdown on illicit alcohol production

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Kenyan Ministry of Internal Security has published a white paper on measures to address contraband and counterfeit alcohol manufacture and distribution. The paper proposes to increase surveillance and promote public awareness campaigns that highlight the health risks of consuming illicit alcohol. Currently counterfeit alcohol constitutes around 30% of the alcohol consumed in Kenya with consumption concentrated in rural areas and among low income groups.

Source: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-04/30/c_138025621.htm

Malawi bans tobacco companies from growing tobacco

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Malawi president Peter Mutharika has announced that tobacco buyers will be banned from growing tobacco themselves in a move intended to protect tobacco farmers’ income. Mutharika said that tobacco buyers had started to grow their own crops and had stopped buying from Malawi farmers, who have subsequently struggled with low demand for their tobacco crops.

Source: http://www.maravipost.com/malawi-president-mutharika-stops-tobacco-companies-from-growing-crop/

Report estimates 25,000 children smoke in Nigeria

Posted 04-Jun-19

A report published by the Tobacco Free Nigeria Campaign has estimated that 25,000 children aged between 10 and 14 use tobacco products daily. The report follows recent surveys suggesting that one in four tobacco vendors in Nigeria would sell tobacco products to children despite regulations stipulating a minimum age of 18 for purchase of cigarettes. The report suggests that existing laws are sufficient to prevent child use of tobacco products, but that those laws are not routinely implemented.

Source: http://www.tobaccojournal.com/index.php?id=55211

Zambia to investigate role of child labour in tobacco cultivation

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) in Zambia has reported that children are being routinely used as cheap labour in tobacco cultivation. The findings accord with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 1.3 million children under the age of 14 work in tobacco fields. The CTPD executive director Isaac Mwaipopo has called on the government to investigate the full extent of child labour in Zambian tobacco cultivation along with an assessment of the health risks to which they are exposed.

Source: https://diggers.news/local/2019/05/17/ctpd-report-exposes-child-labour-in-tobacco-cultivation/

Sustainability funds from Zimbabwe's tobacco tax unspent since 2015

Posted 04-Jun-19

Revenue from a tobacco tax designed to raise money to improve the sustainability of tobacco production in Zimbabwe has not been spent, with delays attributed to administrative problems. The fund was designed to help the Zimbabwe tobacco industry meet 2020 Global Tobacco Cigarette Companies Guidelines on sustainable production. Accordingly, programmes for tobacco farmers to extend forest regions and to establish woodlots should already be underway, but farmers claim that they are unable to start due to a lack of financial support.

Source: https://allafrica.com/stories/201904230153.html

Egypt state employees face prosecution after mandatory drug testing

Posted 04-Jun-19

Following a series of drug tests, over 500 government employees were referred to the Administrative Prosecution Authority in Egypt, having tested positive for illegal drugs. In March 2019 the Egyptian government introduced legislation for mandatory drug testing of all government employees including government ministers. Any people refusing such tests are liable to have their employment terminated. Egypt has a mandatory one-year prison sentence for people caught using drugs.

Source: https://www.talkingdrugs.org/hundreds-of-egypt-state-employees-face-prosecution-after-drug-tests

Japan schoolteachers to give lessons on gambling addiction

Posted 04-Jun-19

The education ministry in Japan has drawn up reference documents to help improve school teachers’ understanding of mental disorders including addiction. The curriculum materials are to be used in physical education settings and include specific references to gambling addiction. The reference documents contain information about the symptoms of addiction and appropriate recovery strategies. They are designed to help teachers prevent addiction in children and are due to be implemented in 2022. 

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/05/national/education-ministry-draws-reference-guide-gambling-addiction-japans-schoolteachers/#.XNFGTOhKiUl

Nepal joins the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

Posted 04-Jun-19

Nepal has, for the first time, been elected by the United Nations to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), which works within the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The election is intended to boost the country’s ability to address drug trafficking and related crimes through international collaboration. Nepal will join 33 nations that currently sit on the CND.

Source: https://www.nepalisansar.com/government/nepal-now-34th-member-of-un-commission-on-narcotic-drugs/

Thailand opens cannabis research centre

Posted 04-Jun-19

Rangsit University in Thailand has launched what it claims to be Thailand’s first medical cannabis research centre. Prior to the legalisation of medical cannabis in Thailand this year, the university was the only institution authorised to carry out any cannabis related research. The new research centre plans to research how cannabis extracts can be used to treat cancer patients and which strains and types of cannabis are most appropriate for medical purposes.

Source: http://www.khaosodenglish.com/news/2019/04/23/rangsit-uni-launches-medical-marijuana-research-center/

Vietnam drug seizures triple in two years

Posted 04-Jun-19

The Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security announced that Vietnamese police have seized over six tonnes of drugs, including large quantities of methamphetamine, in the first quarter of 2019. This is more than was seized in the whole of 2018 and three times the amount seized in 2017. The increase is partially credited to the police having broken several drug trafficking rings in Vietnam early this year. The Ministry said that 20% of the seized drugs were intended for Vietnam with much of the rest destined for export to other countries.

Source: https://borneobulletin.com.bn/over-six-tonnes-of-drugs-seized-in-vietnam-in-first-quarter-of-2019/

New Zealand government recommend vaping to quit smoking

Posted 04-Jun-19

The government of New Zealand is to change its position on vaping by recommending e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking. The change from the Ministry of Health will run alongside a campaign to reduce smoking that will specifically target people in lower socio-economic status groups where smoking prevalence remains high. There are also provisions for encouraging smoking cessation among Māori women where smoking prevalence remains at 32.5% compared with the national rate of 13.8%. The change and the campaign align with New Zealand’s target to be smoke-free by 2025.

Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/112485473/government-recommends-smokers-dump-the-cigarettes-and-pick-up-the-vape

Vanuatu establishes cannabis industry

Posted 04-Jun-19

The government of Vanuatu has agreed to set up a cannabis industry to regulate cultivation. The decision means that any cultivation or trade will now operate within strict guidelines designed to ensure health and safety in the new industry. The government has announced that four departments will be involved, with The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity taking a lead role. Five private companies are due to be approved for cultivation licences through a tender process.

Source: https://www.vbtc.vu/en/latest-news/3529-vanuatu-government-agrees-to-set-up-a-cannabis-industry

Military watchdog claims US military no longer targets Afghanistan drug labs

Posted 04-Jun-19

The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John Sopko, has suggested that a US bombing campaign targeting drug labs in Afghanistan has ended, although no official announcement has been made. The operation began in 2017 following the US president’s national address in August of that year. The bombing campaign was part of attempts to restrict funding raised by the Taliban through heroin production. However, with opium production remaining high it has been suggested that targeting production labs has been ineffective and therefore discontinued.

Source: https://www.military.com/daily-news/2019/04/28/us-no-longer-using-f-22s-bomb-afghan-drug-labs-watchdog-says.html

Two cryptomarkets selling drugs dismantled

Posted 04-Jun-19

Forces from Germany, the US, Finland and France and Europol have collaborated to dismantle Wall Street Market and Valhalla (Silkkitie) cryptomarkets. Three people were arrested in relation to Wall Street Market and have been charged with supplying large quantities of drugs. Europol claim that Wall Street Market had over 1.1 million customer accounts and 5,400 vendors and sold stolen data and malicious software as well as illicit drugs.

Source: https://www.newsweek.com/cybercrime-dark-web-tor-wall-street-market-valhalla-market-silkkitie-europol-1413890

Phillip Morris suspends social media campaign

Posted 04-Jun-19

Tobacco producer Phillip Morris International Inc has suspended its social media campaign following an investigation by Reuters into the use of online ‘influencers’. The company’s marketing rules prohibit it from using celebrities who themselves are under 25 years old, or who might target youth audiences. The investigation by Reuters identified several paid ‘influencers’, one of whom was 21. Phillip Morris says that it has launched an internal investigation and maintains that it has not broken any tobacco or advertising laws.

Source: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-philipmorris-ecigs-instagram-exclusiv/exclusive-philip-morris-suspends-social-media-campaign-after-reuters-exposes-young-influencers-idUKKCN1SH02K?feedType=RSS&feedName=healthNewsMolt&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FUKHealth+%28News+%2F+UK+%2F+Health+%26+Drugs%29