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“Anecdotes With Made-Up Details”: Maine’s LePage Fails To Defend The Indefensible

It was the sort of story that made Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) look so awful, he managed to even surprise his critics. In mid-April, the far-right governor vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have allowed pharmacists to dispense an effective anti-overdose drug without a prescription. But it was LePage’s explanation that added insult to injury.

“Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose,” LePage said in a written statement. As we discussed at the time, the governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case that those struggling with opioid addiction don’t have lives worth saving.

Maine’s legislature soon after overrode LePage’s veto, but the governor recently hosted a town-hall meeting at which he defended his position. The Bangor Daily News reported:

“A junior at Deering High School had three Narcan shots in one week. And after the third one, he got up and went to class. He didn’t go to the hospital. He didn’t get checked out. He was so used to it. He just came out of it and went to class,” LePage said.

That’s quite an anecdote, which the Republican governor appears to have completely made up.

The Huffington Post reported yesterday that the principal at Deering High School described LePage’s story as “absolutely not true,” adding that the anecdote doesn’t even make sense – because Narcan isn’t available at the school.

On Monday, the governor again insisted the story was accurate, and pointed to Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck as someone who could verify the incident.

Soon after, Sauschuck also said every relevant detail of LePage’s story is wrong.

Circling back to our previous coverage, Naloxone – sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan – is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that counteracts overdoses. The point is not to cure someone of an addiction, but rather, to prevent them from dying.

The treatment is inexpensive; it’s easy to administer; and it’s harmless to others. Common sense suggests it should be readily available, especially in areas where the addiction crisis is especially acute.

LePage, however, said he’s principally concerned with not “perpetuating the cycle of addiction.” If that means more of his constituents will overdose and die, so be it.

And if defending this posture lead Maine’s Tea Party governor to share anecdotes with made-up details, apparently that’s all right, too.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 25, 2016

May 26, 2016 Posted by | Drug Addiction, Maine, Paul LePage | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Addicts Lives Don’t Matter”: LePage’s Callousness Takes An Ugly Turn, Even By LePage Standards

Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s (R) ridiculous antics have made him something of a national laughingstock in recent years, with many observers inclined to laugh at his clownish behavior. But occasionally, the far-right governor’s actions are more repulsive than funny.

The Portland Press Herald reported yesterday, for example, on a LePage position that’s likely to literally cost lives.

Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill Wednesday that would allow pharmacists to dispense an anti-overdose drug without a prescription, saying that allowing addicts to keep naloxone on hand “serves only to perpetuate the cycle of addiction.”

The Legislature passed the bill “under the hammer” – or unanimously without a roll call – this month as part of lawmakers’ attempts to address Maine’s growing opioid addiction epidemic.

In a statement explaining his rationale, the Republican governor argued, “Naloxone does not truly save lives; it merely extends them until the next overdose.”

Note, this was a written statement, not an off-the-cuff comment made during a press conference or an interview. LePage actually thought about his specific position, and argued that a life-saving drug treatment that prevents overdoes “merely extends” the lives of addicts – and he’s against that.

Maine’s governor, in a rather literal sense, made the case in writing that those struggling with opioid addiction don’t have lives worth saving. If LePage is convinced these people’s lives shouldn’t be extended, practically by definition, he’s making the case that their lives should be curtailed.

As long-time readers may recall, Naloxone – sometimes known by its brand name, Narcan – is a safe and effective life-saving treatment that prevents overdoses. It’s inexpensive; it’s easy to administer; and it’s harmless to others. Common sense suggests it should be readily available, especially in areas where the addiction crisis is especially acute.

And yet, Paul LePage is principally concerned with not “perpetuating the cycle of addiction.” If that means more of his constituents will overdose and die, so be it.

The Portland Press Herald’s article noted that the state legislation was actually recommended by CVS, which received a letter from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), himself a former governor, “asking the chain to expand the availability of the antidote. The bill got support from both law enforcement and health organizations during the legislative hearing.”

It’s probably why the bill passed the legislature without objection. One would have to be callous to a frightening degree to object to such a proposal.

As for the next step, Maine’s legislature – the state House is led by Democrats, the state Senate is led by Republicans – will meet next week to consider overriding some of the bills vetoed by the governor. Don’t be surprised if this bill is among those that become law whether LePage likes it or not.
* Correction:  I’d originally identified Sen. Angus King as a Republican. This was a typo. The senator is, of course, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 22, 2016

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Drug Addiction, Paul LePage, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“How To Stop Heroin Deaths”: Up To 85 Percent Of Users Overdose In The Presence Of Others

Philip Seymour Hoffman who died of an apparent heroin overdose on Sunday, was just one of hundreds of New Yorkers who fall victim to this drug each year. Heroin-related deaths increased 84 percent from 2010 to 2012 in New York City and occur at a higher rate — 52 percent — than overdose deaths involving any other substance.

I am an emergency physician at NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital, but I rarely see victims die of heroin overdose because most fatalities occur before patients get to the hospital. Overdoses often take place over one to three hours. People just slowly stop breathing; often they are assumed to be sleeping deeply, or they are alone.

The most frustrating part is that each of these deaths is preventable, because there is an antidote to heroin overdose that is nearly universally effective. Naloxone, an opioid antidote, is a simple compound that has been in clinical use for more than 30 years. It can be administered via needle or as a nasal spray, and it works by displacing heroin from its receptors in the brain and rapidly restoring the overdose victim to consciousness and normal breathing.

An analysis in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year suggested that up to 85 percent of users overdose in the presence of others. This provides an opportunity for friends, family and other non-health care providers to intervene. In New York State, it has been legal to distribute naloxone to ordinary citizens since 2006. But the distribution has to be done with medical supervision. Naloxone is purchased by the city and state health departments, which then distribute the antidote through hospitals, harm-reduction programs and other outlets at no cost to patients.

Some New York City hospitals are now distributing kits containing naloxone to users and their friends and families. For the past three years, the New York City Department of Homeless Services has administered naloxone in shelters. And a new pilot program on Staten Island — which has the highest rate of heroin overdose deaths in New York City — is supplying the antidote through the Police Department’s 120th Precinct there.

The city’s health department is conducting a large study following people who get naloxone to assess how frequently the antidote is used to reverse overdose. In 2012, the health department filed a public letter to the Food and Drug Administration recommending that the F.D.A. approve naloxone for over-the-counter use. The letter stated that more than 20,000 kits had been distributed in New York City. It also noted that more than 500 overdose reversals had been reported by civilians who had administered the antidote.

Some people might argue that the widespread distribution of a safe, effective and inexpensive antidote might actually encourage drug use. But that’s like suggesting that air bags and seatbelts encourage unsafe driving. Naloxone is a public-health method of intervening when a life is in the balance. Its distribution is endorsed by the American Medical Association.

A new bill that would make it easier for users to obtain naloxone was introduced in the New York State Legislature just last week, and on Tuesday it passed the State Senate Health Committee. It would increase access to the antidote by allowing doctors and nurses to write standing orders — prescriptions that can be used for anyone — and issue them to community-based drug treatment programs. The programs would then train people on the signs of overdose and provide them with the naloxone kits. This means that the programs would not have to have a doctor present to distribute the antidote, overcoming one major hurdle that impedes widespread distribution.

This bill empowers a community to protect itself and others. If the bill becomes law, it would be one step closer to making naloxone available over the counter — as it already is in Italy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related fatalities in the United States, ahead of motor-vehicle collisions and firearms accidents. We make cars safer by having speed limits, seatbelts, crumple zones and D.W.I. laws. We make it harder to buy a firearm with background checks and waiting periods, and we teach gun safety and sometimes mandate trigger locks. We can make heroin safer, too, by supplying methadone or buprenorphine as medications to treat physical dependence, providing clean needles to help prevent the spread of hepatitis and H.I.V., and facilitating the wide availability of naloxone to counteract overdoses.

While Mr. Hoffman’s death was without a doubt a tragedy, it is also emblematic of a societal need to take action to prevent the hundreds of deaths that otherwise go largely unnoticed. We can’t control heroin — that’s the job of law enforcement — but we can make it safer.

By: Robert S, Hoffman, Emergency Physician, NYU Langone Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital; Director of the Division of Medical Toxicology at New York University School of Medicine, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, February 6, 2014

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Public Health, Public Safety | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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