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tv   Fault Lines  Al Jazeera  January 16, 2016 7:00am-7:31am EST

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>> we're here to fully get into the nuances of everything that's going on, not just in this country, but around the world. getting the news from the people who are affected. >> people need to demand reform... >> ali velshi on target. >> [ ♪ ] buried. >> right next to her. >> mm-hmm six years ago his wife died after overdosing on prescription pain-killers. she was 60.
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>> it should have never happened in what is being called a hidden epidemic, a growing number of elderly americans are dying after taking too many narcotics. when you remember about her, how do you think about her, as the woman you married? >> i think about the woman i married and the fun we had and also cause to pause about the times that weren't so great. i try to put those in the far corners of my mind when she was on the pain-killers? >> yeah. further corners of my mind. she
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is between here, i couldn't see her face. i rolled her over and the pills were on top. a grabbed the telephone and i started doing cardiac massage and called 911 and from there it is history. this is horrible on the day before thanksgiving in 2009 he came home to find his wife of 38 years collapsed on the floor of their den >> she basically stopped breathing carol was dead. it wasn't the first time roy found her passed out. >> this is the back door of the house and she is unconscious laying over the shoe thing way? >> yeah asleep? >> she is not asleep. she is out. you have to shake her and shake her and shake her to get her to
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wake up. would you consider this a normal sleeping position? same thing here, same thing here. she is totally out. no idea what's going on. she had been eating oatmeal and she went out while she was consuming the oatmeal and you can see that it's coming out of her mouth. it is a miracle that she didn't choke to death. you can see that she was watching television and she was using the remote control and passed out hoy said he took the pictures to-- roy said he took the pictures to prove to the doctor that she was over dozing again and again. she started taking pain-killers after a car accident and had several spine surgeries.
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she went to a pain clinic in 2008 and was prescribed seven different drugs, including pain killsers and antidepressants >> the two big ones that stand out are the oxycodone and peshg set and you know those are both opiates, so why is she on two? we are talking about 224 fills of observation co don't and we're talking about-- oxycodone and we're talking about 112 peshg sets over the next year her doubled. at the moment she died he she was taking 600 fills a month. >> that is a message. totally, completely out of control. she didn't overdose because she was depressed or anything like that. it was simply because she would take the medication and it was enough to make her confused and she would take more what was she like on all of this medication?
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>> she was withdrawn, she didn't leave this room much at all. she spent much of her in pyjamas, didn't leave the house for anything after repeated trips to the er for taking too many pills carol's family finally convinced addiction. >> two weeks into that program she was managing her pain on tylenol, nothing else, and she was happy. that was the neat thing, she was happy. she was in control of her life but that didn't last long. soon they were back at life train, meeting with her pain doctor >> we were ushered into a room and he informed me that a chronic pain sufferer could not be an ad dikt this is dr webster? >> yes.{enter} q. then he told me that he was her physician and that he would
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prescribe what he felt was appropriate. period. from there it went downhill. the result of which is she died. >> i'm not going to respond to any of my former patients. that would be a violation. it is always tragic when somebody dies. if people over take their medication they can get foggy and they take more medicine. that is a risk and it can end in death when that happens. ideally-- who is responsible for that? >> the patient themselves has to be sure that they don't take more than what is prescribed would you prescribe opioids after coming out of rehabilitation? particularly being adicked on i yoits? -
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i opioids. >> that would depend he was sued and there was a settlement out of court. as many of 20-- as many as 20 of his patients overdosed. he into longer sees patients as he sold his clinic in 2010. >> should have stopped him then. should have stopped him. it has been so hard to deal with because i literally regret every day that i didn't do something different. >> understanding the epidemic. >> it was terrifying. >> it's like navigating a minefield. >> go inside the new medical breakthrough. >> you had quite a reaction there. >> that's crazy. >> i really feel my life changing. >> the freedom is unbelievable. >> techknow's team of experts show you how the miracles of science... >> this is what innovation looks like. >> ...can affect and surpise us.
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>> i feel like we're making an impact. >> let's do it. >> techknow, where technology meets humanity... >> only on al jazeera america.
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[ ♪ ] every year at least 16,000 americans die after over dozing on opioid pain-killers, more than cocaine and heroin combined. there are just a few rehab centers in the country that focus on treating elderly patients addicted to pain-killers. we travelled to florida to visit one of them >> i think many people think of the opioid problem as something that is affecting young people who are abusing pain-killers that were not prescribed to them. we see the highest rate of drug overdose death in alloweder americans-- older americans and when you look at the groups that have had the greatest increase
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in problems associated with prescription opioids, for example, visits to hospital emergency rooms because of opioid misuse, it is americans over 65 that have the largest increase hilarry. thanks for meeting me he came here six years ago to treat his addictio pain-killers. >> i was on my way to recovery here. i think it is a better life it was his family that pushed him to get help, staging an intervention. his wife of 40 years even threatened to leave him. >> i detoxed from here. the first night i came here, they checked my luggage and made sure i wasn't sneaking in anything he had been taking pain-killers for 10 years,
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mainly oxycodone and hydrodcodone. >> i was ataking exactly what the doctor prescribed his family hated the medication side effects, anger, volatility and depression how many grandchildren do you have? >> three t two grandsons and a grand-daughter. before the drugs i could reason with anyone. on the drugs, no, i would confront you in a heart beat and didn't care of the outcome and would treat my family to the point that i learned that my grandchildren were afraid to be around me. which to this day breaks my heart. it took away years of time that i could have spent with them and really been happy and because of drugs trying to ease my pain. no, that's horrid who should have stopped it? who should have said it had gone too far?
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>> the doctors. i did not know that maybe there were alternatives to it. i was just doing what the doctors were telling me to do >> musts musts the pain killers made him so foggy that he says he was misdiagnosed with early onset alzheimer's disease. his pain hasn't gone away, but he has learned to live with it this is peaceful >> yeah. this is the things that you can't really enjoy when you're on drugs. everything is hazed over. it is just nothing. you go from having veil over your eyes to this, sun beating down and breeze on your face and
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all of this nature and everything, being alive. from where you were which is down in a deep, deep hole . [ ♪ ] as more and more seniors get addicted to prescription pain-killers, the question is who is responsible? here in california drug manufacturers are being sued. it targeted vulnerable groups like the elderly. the lawsuit says drug companies overstated the benefits of opioid drugs and downplayed the risks. especially when it comes to treating kroonk pain like migraines, back pain and joint pain. hronic pain. >> hi. in paragraph 9 alleges that there were defendant's marketing
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and not break through that racialised prescribing pain. the result has been catastrophic. before the 1990s, opioids were rarely prescribed except for acute pain and for palliative care in treatment for cancer pain. in order to change that culture. this explanation how the companies implemented a decade-long scheme to alter the prescribing habits of doctors as well as the drug use of patients who suffer from chronic pain the county say the companies made record profits by creating a mark for opioids amongst a massive group of chronic pain sufferers, a market that should never have existed. they claim the elderly in particular were targeted because they're not likely to suffer from chronic pain and they're well insured. according to the plaintiffs, the
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efforts paid off. since 2007 opioid prescriptions for the elderly have grown at twice the rate as those for middle aged adults. the lawsuit says in the process older patients were misled about the risks of taking opioids. this is an example of the marketing that the companies engaged in >> that's right. this is one of the publications that is cited in our lieu suit it lifts what maths and facts are. the medications are always addictive. it says that's not the case. they're rarely addictive. >> as explained in our lawsuit, that's one of the examples of the deceptive messages that drug companies disseminated about the drug use. that is not born out by the scientific evidence. in fact, you are seeing increases in the rates of addiction among the elderly none of the five opioid drug
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manufacturers would speak to us on camera and only one spended. the lawsuit are both legally and factually unfounded was the response we got. the case was put on hold until the food and drug administration completed a study on the safety and efficacy of drugs. another major claim by the county said that they had help from key opinion leaders, doctors. >> they simply didn't hire these individuals to talk about the drugs. they actually influenced work with and used them to spread that their deceptive messages about the risk and benefits of these drugs for the treatment of chronic pain that? >> the lawsuit explains in detail about the various ways that they worked with these individuals, including sponsorship, money, as well as
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editing control over their messaging can you name some of these lawsuit? >> one is dr lyn webster. >> i would like to see the evidence. i've looked at their document. i don't see anything in the document that says i was promoting the use of opioids the lawsuit claims that you were the author of numerous education programs sponsored by the drug companies that contained virtually all of the defendants misrepresentations that are described in the lawsuit and at the same time you're receiving significant funding from the drug companies. >> do you have a question? is that a conflict of interest? >> no. i was never receiving significant funds of the tell me what significant is. i would be paid for an educational lecture by an educational group an independent group that gets money from a pharmaceutical company, they will contract with
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you to give a lecture? >> usually in educational forms, yes, that are see me continuing medical education there have been to be certified programs that are not - they're not biassed, they're academically based they're based for by the pharmaceutical companies >> well, you get grants. they get grant, yes the appearance of going to an election tour from someone who is essentially getting money from a pharmaceutical company saying here is how you manage pain and here is one of the tools opioids. they are a treatment of pain there is nothing wrong with using them for chronic pain the study released last year concluded that there's little evidence usings those drugs long-term is effective for treating pain >> when you talk about putting somebody on a highly adicktive drug, on a drug that is essentially april heroin pim and
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they're taking it on a daily basis, just about-- fill-- just about anyone can wind up getting addicted to it. what we should be teaching priners is-- prescribers is that opioids are not good drugs for patients with chronic pain. >> you know my name. lyn with webster. i'm the past president the lawsuit aalleges that cooperation went beyond key opinion leaders and that organizations like the one dr webster once led, the american add me of pain medicine, also received a lot of money from opioid manufacturers. the academy's foundation lists a main sponsor as a farmer, making of oxycontin. >> if you are a caregiver or even if you are a patient taking pain meds, opioids, you need to know what the signs of an overdose are his research focuses on
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developing alternatives to opioids, pain medication that he says won't be addictive. in the meantime, he argues that opioids should be prescribed despite the risks. >> we can abandon the treatment of people in pain. i think that would be inhumane. i think that would be beyond cruel to not try to treat their pain, but in order to eliminate all addiction from opioids would require we prohibit the use of opioids. if we did that, there are the only way to get better is to challenge yourself,
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>> i need to get that pill in me because i've been several hours without it during the night, you know. that's my percocet, and my oxycodone and vitamin d, and this is an oxycontin 10 they suggest i take in the night. >> shirley sharr is 86 years old and she takes a high dose of opioids every day, to deal with pain that began after she had knee replacement surgery 13 years ago. her morning dose is the most important. nighttime is the longest she goes without taking the medication. >> and then i take this with me when we leave to go on an errand or something. this is always in my purse. i cannot ever forget that or i'd be in trouble. >> shirley's daughter, cari, sets an alarm to remind her
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mother to take the next dose, in three and a half hours. over the years, shirley's doctors steadily increased her dosage because she was developing a tolerance to the medication... it wasn't as effective. >> does it still manage your pain? does it help? >> no. well it does. but i'm still always in pain. i'm never out of pain. >> i wanted to ask you about some of the side effects of the painkillers that you're on. shortness of breath to the degree that it can actually cause respiratory problems or respiratory failure. >> i'm concerned about that because i feel like i don't breathe as well. it makes me light-headed, you know, when i'm overdosed. >> so another side effect is slowing your heart rate down? >> when i take too much, i feel that. i feel like i'm not getting enough air. >> it sounds like you have to make a calculation every time you take your painkillers about how much it will help you and how hard it will be on you?
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>> oh, i do. mmhmm. i do. that leg is constantly swollen. and that's because i'm holding water, you know? i can't seem to dump it. >> is water retention from the pills? >> yup. >> even though she's been taking opioids for years, shirley says her pain is getting worse. >> so i'm going to take this pill. will you set my clock? where's my clock? >> so it's just been two and a half hours. >> sometimes i take it early when it's this bad. >> when she doesn't want to take any more medication, shirley has a different way of dealing with her pain, which she read about on the internet. it's called tapping. >> in the middle of the night, it's my savior. i just can tap the pain down to where i can go back to bed. and there are several places that you tap on your body, and i
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do it three times and within three or four minutes the pain is diminished. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. i have pain in my knees but i do love and respect myself. and the pain, i would say half the pain is gone. and i only do it when it's really bad so that helps but it's incredible. >> how does it work compared to painkillers? >> well, it's just as good as the painkiller i think. >> have you ever thought about reducing your painkiller dosage or going off of it and instead using tapping and using other methods to try to control the pain? >> no.
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>> but the tapping doesn't have any of these side effects like constipation and shortness of breath, and a lowered heart rate. >> that's true. that's true. it's just -- i don't know if i'd have the courage to stop it. >> i love sewing and that really takes my mind off my pain. so i take as little as i can to get by. i don't like it, but it sure solves my problem with pain. i wish they'd come up with something else that would be more helpful that isn't so addicting. and i guess i'm addicted. i don"t know. i've done this for several years. >> while doctors and patients debate the best ways to deal with chronic pain, millions of senior citizens continue to fill new prescriptions for narcotics. a growing number of them suffering devastating consequences, leaving families
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struggling to make sense of deaths they believe could have been prevented. >> there isn't a day goes by that i don't think about her. i miss her so much. the memories of what i saw, what i found that day. they're hard to get rid of. i can't get rid of them. i don't think i ever will. and so i have to learn to live with those. i have to learn to put those aside and focus on the things that are pleasant and happy. because that's how we get through life. >> these are babies in prison. >> he stood in that bathroom and nobody went to help him. >> how many people have to get
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