Yesterday we talked about the lack of compassion and relevant experience and training among some members of the judiciary and other important government and law enforcement figures. One other area we discussed, because of the relevance to this discussion, is the implementation of drug-courts in the United States. We recently discussed that while drug courts seem like a step in the right direction, and while drug-courts have undoubtedly helped many people who were able to avoid the regular justice system, drug-courts originally drew criticism from experts because of the lack of actual scientific data behind the implementation of many of these alternative courts.
I also believe that drug courts may just be a proverbial “band aid” for a huge problem that needs much more serious attention, but today we will look at a study that touches on some of the issues that exist with drug courts. The issues looked at by this new study are a possible lack of training amongst drug-court staff members and possible conflicts of interest in the drug-court system, including possible financial benefits for drug makers. This article is brought to you by the incredible people at Florida Springs Wellness and Recovery Center, the best drug and alcohol rehab in Florida, located in Panama City, Florida. If you or a loved one might need treatment from the best drug and alcohol rehabs around Florida, Florida Springs in Panama City is the best place to start for valuable information from a professional and caring drug and alcohol treatment staff.
Conflicts of Interest in Florida Drug Courts
When looking at the data and the possible conflicts of interest among drug-courts in the State of Florida, there is one pharmaceutical drug that came up again and again. Vivitrol, the brand name for extended-release naltrexone, and its creator Alkermes, seem to be the most active lobbyists among the Florida Drug-Court community. This fact did not surprise me, as my home state of Indiana has seen aggressive and arguably deceiving lobbying tactics by Alkermes that have seemed to work in the past, and Vivitrol was the first ever drug for Opioid and Alcohol addiction that was approved by the Indiana Assembly. There were other states that were similarly won over by the money Alkermes was spreading around in political circles. As a public, we believe our court system and our medical establishment should rise above these financial conflicts and lobbying efforts, but it seems that even our justice system has fallen prey to drug-maker lobbying. When I first reported on the problems with drug-courts, selling out to pharmaceutical companies was not one of the problems I looked at, and there are deeper issues with Alkermes being so involved in our legal system.
Unlike methadone, Suboxone, and some other drugs that are used for the treatment of substance use disorder, Vivitrol has little to no real buy-in from experts in the substance use disorder treatment field. I, for one, would never recommend that a friend or family member should seek help from Vivitrol. Rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous, and various other medications would cross my mind well before I ever thought of recommending Vivitrol. Like many people, I was under the impression that Alcoholics Anonymous was the dominant form of treatment recommended by drug courts and the justice system at large, but these strong lobbying efforts and large amounts of cash could be changing all of that. According to the authors of this study,
“This is the first study, to our knowledge, to examine the prevalence and associations of receipt of training from a medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) manufacturer among criminal problem‐solving court or dependency court staff. Slightly fewer than half of our sample reported training from at least one MOUD manufacturer, with the manufacturer of XR‐naltrexone (Vivitrol) being the most frequently reported source.”
In my humble opinion, these efforts by Alkermes and Vivitrol to win over drug-courts in Florida will be incredibly damaging to patients. It will also likely lead to death, suffering, and prison time for many Florida residents, as Vivitrol simply has not shown the benefits that have been shown by other treatment methods. If a person in drug-court is put on a less effective drug, especially someone seeking treatment for opioid use disorder in 2022, their chances of relapsing and dying from a fentanyl overdose are greatly increased, not to mention the harm caused by relapses that do not result in an overdose. 43% of drug-court employees were trained by reps from pharmaceutical companies rather than medical personnel, and 37% of drug-court employees were specifically trained by representatives seeking to increase the use of Vivitrol. Vivitrol has never shown efficacy in any study that was peer-reviewed or conducted by scientists outside of Alkermes itself.
This is a stunning conflict of interest that is growing worse each day that the public does not take notice and put a stop to it. This is certainly a subject we will be talking more about later in the week, as Florida drug-courts are putting lives and families at risk for financial gain without any coverage from the media or response from professionals. This study did not discuss whether drug-courts sought out representatives from drug companies for these trainings because of the opioid crisis or were approached themselves. We will look more into that question in the coming days, but I would be even more stunned if we found out that drug-courts were seeking training for dealing with opioid use disorder and thought the best place to go was the maker of an unproven drug that is largely unused by real professionals in the field. However, it is also extremely concerning of courts are being approached by lobbyists and subsequently selling out to a drug-maker despite their obvious responsibilities to the residents of Florida.
If you or a loved one has been to drug court and/or needs help with drug or alcohol addiction, the best drug and alcohol rehab is Florida Springs in Panama City. Call us today at the phone number listed above for more information.
By T.A. Cannon
“Receipt of training about medication for opioid use disorder from pharmaceutical manufacturers: A preliminary study of Florida criminal problem-solving and dependency court staff.” By: Andraka-Christou B, Atkins D, Madeira J, Silverman RD, Drug and alcohol review, 1465-3362, 2020 Jul, Vol. 39, Issue 5