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How Big Pharma Fueled the Opioid Crisis That Killed 500,000 and Counting via Democracy Now

As the U.S. continues to deal with the fallout from devastating the opioid epidemic that has killed over 500,000 people in the country since 1999, we speak with Academy Award-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney, whose latest documentary, “The Crime of the Century,” looks at the pharmaceutical industry’s methods in promoting and selling these powerful drugs. “I realized that the big problem here was that we had been seeing it as a crisis, like a natural disaster like a flood or a hurricane, rather than as a series of crimes,” says Gibney. “You had these terrible incentives, where the incentive is not to cure the patient. The incentive is to just make as much money as possible.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says U.S. drug overdose deaths skyrocketed to a record 93,000 last year — a nearly 30% increase. It is the largest one-year increase ever recorded, with overdoses rising in 48 of 50 states.

“Crime of the Century”: How Big Pharma Fueled the Opioid Crisis That Killed 500,000 and Counting – by Democracy Now — slaveofjesuschristdotme

Vaccination as a Condition of Employment: Evaluating Legal Risks of Mandatory Vaccine Policies During the Pandemic — Strategic HR Solutions

With coronavirus vaccines receiving their emergency use authorizations from the FDA and being rapidly rolled out, employers will need to evaluate a mandatory vaccination policy that balances employee rights with novel business realities and pre-existing legal frameworks lacking clear guidance in the face of COVID-19.

Under existing federal law and regulations, employers may be able to institute mandatory vaccination policies to protect health and safety in the workplace. Although a mandatory vaccine policy is not completely free from legal risk, courts more recently have upheld vaccination requirements when an employer shows that the need for vaccine-acquired immunity is job-related, consistent with business necessity, and not more intrusive than necessary. Other constitutional challenges to the vaccine may occur, but such challenges could be influenced significantly by government and public sentiment likely to affect an outcome with the courts.

Current CDC guidance has identified frontline healthcare workers, workers in essential industries, and other high-risk individuals based on individual health factors as groups that will likely receive the earliest allocations of COVID-19 vaccines if demand outpaces supply, as expected. Employers with workers in the first two categories will likely have the strongest case for job-relatedness and business necessity when instituting a mandatory vaccination policy. But employers in other sectors may also be able to make a compelling case for mandatory vaccinations.

Proactive Consideration of Medical and Religious Accommodations

All employers implementing mandatory vaccine policies should consider (and train staff for) employees’ potential requests for medical or religious accommodations. For employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mandatory medical “examinations” (including a requirement that employees receive vaccines) may require reasonable accommodations for employees with certain disabilities, unless the employer can show that the employee poses a “direct threat” (i.e., a significant risk of substantial harm that cannot be reduced or eliminated by reasonable accommodation) to their own health or to others in the workplace. Similarly, employers covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may need to accommodate, absent direct threat, employees with religious objections to vaccination generally or to the specific production method of the then-available COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined in March 2020 that COVID-19’s “direct threat” to workers’ health justified employers’ medical examinations of employees, including more in-depth health-related questions, medical screening before allowing employees to report to work, and other similar conduct. This same finding of the direct threat posed by COVID-19 in the workplace may justify a mandatory vaccination policy for most employees as well.

When faced with employees requesting medical or religious accommodations (supported by appropriate documentation), employers will need to determine whether any potential accommodation either (a) would not sufficiently reduce or eliminate the direct threat posed by the pandemic or (b) would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

But these standards of accommodation, threat, and hardship will vary both under federal law and in the relevant factual scenarios of each employer. Under the ADA, for instance, undue hardship requires an employer to show that a reasonable accommodation for a medically-objecting employee would cause significant difficulty or expense after consideration of several factors. Under Title VII, undue hardship for religious accommodations need only meet a “de minimis test,” meaning that an employer would show that the accommodation imposed a more than minimal cost to demonstrate undue hardship in accommodating an employee objecting to vaccination on religious grounds. Because of these variations, federal law could require an employer to accommodate a disabled employee but not an employee demanding an accommodation for religious observance.

Further complicating these matters are the patchwork of state and local regulations of the workplace. For instance, in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) provides greater protection for an employee making a request for a religious accommodation than under Title VII. Rather than the federal “de minimis” test for undue hardship of religious accommodations, California employers will need to evaluate the hardship presented by accommodations under a significant difficulty or expense factor-test similar to the federal ADA standard.

Practical Considerations

While employers await guidance on COVID-19 vaccination from applicable state and federal authorities, there are some practical issues employers should consider now regarding an approach to vaccination, including:

  • While mandating vaccination presents challenges related to medical and religious accommodations, the absence of a mandatory policy is not without cost. Without adopting a vaccination program, employers may face claims under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), or tort or workers’ compensation claims for failing to meet the obligation to provide a safe and healthy work environment.
  • Employers should encourage and incentivize workers to get vaccinated. Measures to promote employee vaccination could include: (1) outreach to company group health insurers to inquire whether the vaccine is covered by the group policy, (2) stipends or reimbursements for vaccination, (3) guidance on where to get vaccines (when vaccines become more widely available), (4) allowing employees to use PTO and other applicable leave to provide time off necessary to get vaccinated, and (5) demonstrations of personal commitment by company executives (e.g. sharing educational materials or testimonials concerning vaccination). Such incentives are particularly germane for those employers who decide that a mandatory vaccination policy may not fit with business necessity or company culture.
  • Create a thoughtful vaccination policy and enforce this policy as consistently and uniformly as possible. While employers should work within existing frameworks to consider religious and medical accommodations on a case-by-case basis, selective enforcement of a vaccination policy could lead to disparate treatment discrimination claims.
  • Stay mindful of state and local laws, regulations, and orders concerning vaccinations and reopening plans. Employers with locations across multiple jurisdictions will have to tailor policies to account for variations among state and local authorities.
  • Employers in a unionized setting will need to consider how a vaccination policy will fit within applicable collective bargaining agreements or trigger bargaining obligations.

In the vacuum of clear and controlling federal, state, and local guidance and with many questions unanswered as to the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for those who receive doses, employers considering vaccine mandates as part of their return-to-work plans or as an enhancement to workplace health and safety as the vaccines become increasingly available should consult with our team of HR professionals to evaluate appropriate policies and accommodations issues.

With coronavirus vaccines receiving their emergency use authorizations from the FDA and being rapidly rolled out, employers will need to evaluate a mandatory vaccination policy that balances employee rights with novel business realities and pre-existing legal frameworks lacking clear guidance in the face of COVID-19. Under existing federal law and regulations, employers may be able […]

Vaccination as a Condition of Employment: Evaluating Legal Risks of Mandatory Vaccine Policies During the Pandemic — Strategic HR Solutions

Purdue Pharma Maker of OxyContin agrees to Settlement in Oklahoma via WHNT.com

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed Tuesday to pay a groundbreaking $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller.

It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma that threaten to push the company into bankruptcy and have stained the name of the Sackler family, whose members are among the world’s foremost philanthropists.

“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we’re doing something about it today,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said.

Nearly $200 million will go toward establishing a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, while local governments will get $12.5 million. The Sacklers are responsible for $75 million of the settlement.

In settling, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company denied any wrongdoing in connection with what Hunter called “this nightmarish epidemic” and “the worst public health crisis in our state and nation we’ve ever seen.”

The deal comes two months before Oklahoma’s 2017 lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other drug companies was set to become the first one in the recent barrage of litigation to go to trial. The remaining defendants still face trial May 28.

Opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs like OxyContin, were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma recorded about 400 opioid deaths that year. State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahomans have died from opioids than in vehicle crashes.

Other states have suffered far worse, including West Virginia, with the nation’s highest opioid death rate. It had over 1,000 deaths in 2017.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the money that will go toward addiction studies and treatment in Oklahoma will help people across the country. CEO Craig Landau said the company is committed to “help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, welcomed the deal, saying: “That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem. Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

But some activists were furious, saying they were denied the chance to hold Purdue Pharma fully accountable in public, in front of a jury.

“This decision is a kick in the gut to our community,” said Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from opioid addiction. “We deserve to have our day in court with Purdue. The parents, the families, the survivors deserve at least that. And Oklahoma stripped that from us today.”

Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in the 1990s and marketed it hard to doctors, making tens of billions of dollars from the drug. But the company has been hit with lawsuits from state and local governments trying to hold it responsible for the scourge of addiction.

The lawsuits accuse the company of downplaying the addiction risks and pushing doctors to increase dosages even as the dangers became known. According to a court filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, proudly told the audience at a launch party for OxyContin in 1996 that it would create a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Earlier this month, Purdue Pharma officials acknowledged that they are considering bankruptcy . But Oklahoma’s attorney general said the company gave assurances it will not take such a step in the near term. And he said the settlement money is “bankruptcy proof” — that is, “it’s not at risk in the event Purdue declares bankruptcy.”

Lance Lang, a 36-year-old recovering user from Oklahoma City, said he is glad some of the settlement will go toward helping those still suffering from addiction.

“My heart breaks for those that we’ve already lost. I’ve buried several myself,” said Lang, who now helps recovering users find housing. “But I also know we have waiting lists of dozens and dozens for our facilities, and the state has waiting lists of hundreds and hundreds of people who need help right now.”

But Cheryl Juaire, whose 23-year-old son Corey died of an overdose in 2011, said she was devastated to hear about the settlement.

Jauire, who lives in Marlborough, Massachusetts, had been organizing a group of hundreds of mothers to go to the first day of the trial and stand outside with photos of their dead children. She said a complete airing of the facts is the only way to fully hold Purdue to account.

A settlement is “a huge disservice to the tens of thousands of families here in the United States who buried a child,” she said. “That’s blood money from our children.”

Members of the Sackler family are defendants in some of the lawsuits but were not actually parties to the Oklahoma case. The company said the family nevertheless voluntarily contributed to the settlement. “We have profound compassion for those who are affected by addiction,” the family said in a statement.

The Sacklers are major donors to cultural institutions, and the family name is emblazoned on the walls at many of the world’s great museums and universities. In the past few weeks, as the accusations have mounted, the Tate museums in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have cut ties with the family, and other institutions have come under pressure to turn down donations or remove the Sackler name.

A Massachusetts court filing made public earlier this year found that Sackler family members were paid at least $4 billion from 2007 until last year.

Purdue Pharma has settled other lawsuits over the years, and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2007. But this is the first settlement to come out of the surge of litigation in the past few years that focuses largely on the company’s more recent conduct.

More than 1,400 federal lawsuits over the opioid crisis have been consolidated in front of a single judge in Cleveland who is pushing the drug makers and distributors to reach a nationwide settlement.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed Tuesday to pay a groundbreaking $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller. It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave…

via Maker of OxyContin agrees to $270M settlement in Oklahoma — WHNT.com

‘The Suffering Is Staggering.’ Victims Could Get $4.1 Million After Needless Cancer Treatments via TIME

(DETROIT) — An expert is recommending approval of $4.1 million in claims, including $2rodwin million in funeral costs, filed by victims of a Detroit-area doctor who committed fraud by putting hundreds of patients through needless cancer treatments.

Randi Roth gave an update Tuesday to a judge who is overseeing the case of Dr. Farid Fata. She said 81 percent of 741 claims are fully or partly eligible for restitution.

Fata is serving a 45-year prison sentence for fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. He admitted putting patients through grueling chemotherapy — even when they didn’t have cancer.

Fata’s victims can seek reimbursement for funeral costs, remedial health care and mental health treatment. Out-of-pocket costs paid to the doctor and his clinics are also eligible for repayment.

Pain and suffering and lost wages, however, aren’t covered.

“The suffering is staggering,” said Roth, an attorney in St. Paul, Minnesota, who specializes in deciding claims in large-scale litigation. “All of us want to help as much as possible but the law is strict.”

Final approval in the months ahead rests with U.S. District Judge Paul Borman. The restitution process includes a way for patients or their family to appeal if Roth determined a claim wasn’t eligible.

“This is a huge situation with tragic consequences. I’m going to be on top of it,” Borman said.

The judge said patients and families are first in line for restitution, followed by insurance companies and the federal government’s Medicare program.

Outside court, Teddy Howard, 57, of suburban Detroit said he’s frustrated. He said his claim has been rejected because his doctors won’t certify that some of his subsequent health care was related to the harm caused by repeated doses of chemotherapy ordered by Fata.

Howard said he had a liver transplant and has also lost eight teeth.

“I didn’t think I’d be crawling around, begging. This is crazy,” he said.

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(DETROIT) — An expert is recommending approval of $4.1 million in claims, including $2 million in funeral costs, filed by victims of a Detroit-area doctor who committed fraud by putting hundreds of patients through needless cancer treatments. Randi Roth gave an update Tuesday to a judge who is overseeing the case of Dr. Farid Fata.…

via ‘The Suffering Is Staggering.’ Victims Could Get $4.1 Million After Needless Cancer Treatments — TIME

Vote NO on SB 277 to stop Mandatory Vaccinations

SB 277 No More Public Education = DiscriminationPicture

Dr. Discusses the Importance of being Informed about Pharmacuetical Dangers & Side Effects, Including Death

Alex Jones welcomes Dr. Andrew Wakefield to the studio to talk about his war with vaccines.

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