How America got hooked on a deadly drug

This article was published on June 14, 2018 on BenefitsPro, written by Fred Schulte, Kaiser Health News (Maria Fabrizio for KHN) . Photo Source: BenefitsPro.


Purdue Pharma left almost nothing to chance in its whirlwind marketing of its new painkiller OxyContin.

From 1996 to 2002, Purdue pursued nearly every avenue in the drug supply and prescription sales chain — a strategy now cast as reckless and illegal in more than 1,500 federal civil lawsuits from communities in Florida to Wisconsin to California that allege the drug has fueled a national epidemic of addiction.

Kaiser Health News is releasing years of Purdue’s internal budget documents and other records to offer readers a chance to evaluate how the privately held Connecticut company spent hundreds of millions of dollars to launch and promote the drug, a trove of information made publicly available here for the first time.

All of these internal Purdue records were obtained from a Florida attorney general’s office investigation of Purdue’s sales efforts that ended late in 2002.

I have had copies of those records in my basement for years. I was a reporter at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which, along with the Orlando Sentinel, won a court battle to force the attorney general to release the company files in 2003. At the time, the Sun-Sentinel was writing extensively about a growing tide of deaths from prescription drugs such as OxyContin.

We drew on the marketing files to write two articles, including one that exposed possible deceptive marketing of the drug. Now, given the disastrous arc of prescription drug abuse over the past decade and the stream of suits being filed — more than a dozen on some days — it seemed time for me to share these seminal documents that reveal the breadth and detail of Purdue’s efforts.

Asked by Kaiser Health News for comment on the OxyContin marketing files and the suits against the company, Purdue Pharma spokesman Robert Josephson issued a statement that reads in part:

“Suggesting activities that last occurred more than 16 years ago, for which the company accepted responsibility, helped contribute to today’s complex and multi-faceted opioid crisis is deeply flawed. The bulk of opioid prescriptions are not, and have never been, for OxyContin, which represents less than 2% of current opioid prescriptions.”

Purdue first marketed OxyContin for cancer pain but planned to expand that use to meet its multimillion-dollar sales goals.

The marketing files show that about 75 percent of more than $400 million in promotional spending occurred after the start of 2000, the year Purdue officials told Congress they learned of growing OxyContin abuse and drug-related deaths from media reports and regulators. These internal Purdue marketing records show the drugmaker financed activities across nearly every quarter of medicine, from awarding grants to health care groups that set standards for opioid use to reminding reluctant pharmacists how they could profit from stocking OxyContin pills on their shelves.

Purdue bought more than $18 million worth of advertising in major medical journals that cheerily touted OxyContin. Some of the ads, federal officials said in 2003, “grossly overstated” the drug’s safety.

The Purdue records show that the company poured more than $8 million into a website and venture called “Partners Against Pain,” which helped connect patients to doctors willing to treat their pain, presumably with OxyContin or other opioids. Continue reading

Drug Overdose Deaths Rising


According to preliminary government data, U.S. deaths involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids fueled a 21% jump in annual drug overdose deaths during 2017. The increase from 9,945 opioid deaths in 2016 to 20,145 during 2017 reflected the sharpest one-year increase since the U.S. began experiencing a widespread opioid addiction. CDC data shows that deaths involving heroin and prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, are also increasing.



New York, Connecticut among worst in hospital safety, survey finds

This article was published on May 23, 2018 on Westfaironline, written by Aleesia Forni. Photo Source: Westfaironline.

New York and Connecticut ranked among the worst states in the nation in terms of hospital safety, according to a recent survey.

According to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey covering the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, New York ranked 48th in the nation, coming in ahead of Alaska, Delaware and North Dakota, which were tied for last in 49th place. New York’s ranking at 48 marks a drop from last year’s rank of 47th in the country. Connecticut fared similarly, ranking 46th in the nation; the state fell 16 spots from its 2017 ranking of 30th.

As part of the survey, Leapfrog assigned letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety. States were then ranked based on the number of “A” hospitals they have compared with the total number of graded hospitals.

Hospital providers in Westchester and Fairfield counties were given mixed grades.

While no hospitals in Westchester earned an A, Northern Westchester Hospital was one of two in the county to receive a B grade. Leapfrog noted that the hospital had a lower number of MRSA infections than expected given its number of patients. However, the hospital had a higher number of infections in the urinary tract and the blood than expected given its patient count. The hospital’s grade remained flat from its fall rating, which fell from a consistent A grade it had received since 2016.

White Plains Hospital was also awarded a B and reported lower than expected numbers of MRSA, blood and urinary tract infections. The hospital’s marks improved from last year’s grade of a C.

Elsewhere, Phelps Memorial Hospital in Sleepy Hollow, Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, Montefiore New Rochelle Hospital, New York-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, and New York-Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital were each awarded a C, as were St. John’s Riverside Hospital in Yonkers and the St. John’s Riverside Hospital Dobbs Ferry Pavilion.

Unity Hospital in Rochester, Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley-Broadway Campus in Kingston, and MidHudson Regional Hospital of Westchester Medical Center in Poughkeepsie each earned a C grade.

In Fairfield County, Stamford Health earned a B rating, while Bridgeport Hospital, Danbury Hospital, Greenwich Hospital, Norwalk Hospital, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and Yale-New Haven Hospital earned C grades.

Five hospitals in New York state received an A grade. Those hospitals were Catholic Health-Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Highland Hospital of Rochester, Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson, NYC Health Hospitals-Metropolitan, Oneida Healthcare Center, St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, and St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in Syracuse. Putnam Hospital Center in Carmel was the only hospital in the Lower Hudson Valley to receive the top grade.

In Connecticut, only two hospitals received the top grade: Bristol Hospital and The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.

The worst grades in New York were saved for five hospitals. Interfaith Medical Center, Brookdale Hospital Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in Patchogue, and Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island each earned an F.

Founded in 2000, The Leapfrog Group is a nonprofit that collects and reports hospital performance. More than 2,600 hospitals were issued a grade, which is derived from an analysis of publicly available data.


What’s in a Wellness Program?

scaleThe thought of a corporate wellness program conjures up visions of apples and scales. The notion that wellness programs are built only to keep weight in check barely scratches the surface of what wellness can do. A well thought-out program takes the health needs of your employee population into consideration, but also envelopes the bigger wellness picture.

Supporting overall wellness is a carefully-orchestrated act that requires regular attention to a variety of topics beyond just diet and exercise. While these things are important, a great wellness program exceeds screening for health issues and takes into consideration the social, financial, spiritual, intellectual and emotional factors that make up overall well-being. Ignoring these and solely focusing on biometrics would be like trying to fix a broken pipe without turning off the water!

Wellness programs are fun!
Engaging activities are a great way to educate and motivate employees to make positive lifestyle changes. Creativity is king in corporate wellness. Delivering information in a meaningful way could utilize table displays, interactive presentations, health fairs and field days, one-on-one health coaching and much more.

Extracurricular activities during the workday improve employee morale and show that the company cares. The result is a happier, more productive and more engaged work force. A company that values employee wellness has a greater ability to attract and retain key employees, enhancing their business overall. Focusing a wellness program where employees need the most help has the potential to lower the cost of healthcare and reduce absenteeism and presenteeism over time.

A truly successful wellness program shifts company culture to a healthier place. It takes cooperation from all parties within the company to instill significant change in wellness culture. Creating a healthy and happy work environment is a daily affair that is within reach with the help of a professional wellness partner.

If starting a wellness program for your company has you scratching your head, call to set up a consultation with Corporate Fitness and Health! What works for one company’s employees may not work for another. Each program is tailored to the needs and budget of the group. Our experienced staff can help determine your company’s needs and develop a unique program designed with your employees in mind.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month – Why Your Company Should Care

This article was published on May 4, 2018 on Corporate Fitness & Health’s blog. Photo Credit Corporate Fitness & Health.

Given that most of us spend a good amount of our time at work, it should come as no surprise that our work environment plays a significant role in our mental health and overall well-being. Despite the role that office culture plays in employee health, companies rarely, if ever, mention mental health.

As mental health issues become more prevalent in the workplace, employers should consider taking ownership, and learn how to best combat the stressors that are particular to their workforce.

2016 Work and Well-Being survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that less than half of the 1,501 workers surveyed felt their organization supported employee well-being, and one in three reported being chronically stressed on the job.

Mental Health Problems Cost Employers

Less than one-third of Americans are happy with their work. Half of the workforce is “checked-out.”  18% are unhappy with their current position with some even sabotaging the success of their workplace. An unhappy or unhealthy work environment is bad for a business’ bottom line and bad for employees.

Employees with untreated mental illnesses cost employers billions of dollars each year. An estimated 217 million days of work are lost annually due to productivity decline related to mental illness and substance abuse, according to the Center for Prevention and Health Services.

Workplace Stress

Stress is on the rise. More than half (54%) of employees are reporting high stress levels, up five points from last year. Further, 37% say their stress levels are higher than the previous year, according to the 2017 National Business Group on Health/Aon Hewitt Consumer Health Mindset Survey.

The good news? There are a number of ways employers can help combat stress, such as creating an emotional fitness strategy to reduce stigma and address stressful, top-of-mind issues.

If we recognized that all of us deal with our mental health every day – from personal health or family stressors, to work demands, to upsetting world events – we would understand the value in protecting it and promoting our personal resilience to deal with whatever life presents to us.

Who is your population? Evaluate your work environment to address issues that negatively impact employees’ emotional health and train leaders and managers to spot the subtle warning signs of a suffering employee.

Those in unhealthy work environments tend to gain more weight, have more healthcare appointments, and have higher rates of absenteeism. Stress from work can also impact their family life, mental health and even increase risks for chronic illnesses and heart attacks.

Mental Health Awareness Month Is an Opportunity

People aren’t considered either mentally healthy or mentally ill. Mental health is a continuum, and an organization’s culture can greatly impact where an employee falls on that continuum.

Nearly 1 in 5 people experienced a diagnosable mental health problem in the last year, and many other people are at risk, according to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration). The vast majority of people struggling with issues like depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses suffer in silence.

Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportune time for employers to open up the conversation about mental health issues in the workplace. Implementing stress awareness, or a corporate wellness program are just a few ways companies can promote positive mental well-being in their workplace.

The Diversified Group family of companies includes Corporate Fitness & Health. With over 30 years of experience, CF&H can help your organization implement a wellness program that will keep your employees happy, healthy and engaged.

May is Employee Health & Fitness Month

May is National Employee Health & Fitness Month! Diversified Group’s wellness consulting and services company, Corporate Fitness & Health (CF&H), celebrates employee health and fitness all year long. But, they want to encourage all organizations to use this month to show their employees how much they care about their well-being. With chronic illnesses (and the expensive medical claims that go with them) on the rise, employers have started to take it upon themselves to help encourage employees to focus on their health. However, employee wellness programs are not just about saving money on medical claims. It’s about taking care of the people you rely on for your business to be successful.

So, What Can You Do to Celebrate?

Here is a list of things you can do to encourage employee wellness at your organization:

  • Provide employees with a company-wide walking break. Even just 20 minutes of walking can do wonders for the heart and the mind.
  • Provide a healthy breakfast or luncheon. Many companies are quick to bring in pizza for their employee luncheons, but if you have been trying to educate employees on good nutrition, providing healthy sandwich and salad options sends a stronger message that you really believe in it. More and more places are now offering healthier catering options such as Subway, Panera, Cosi and B.GOOD (locations vary).
  • Provide an onsite seminar or display. Give your employees a chance to learn something new about their health or an opportunity to practice some healthy behaviors. Corporate Fitness & Health can offer a variety of educational opportunities with topics ranging from exercise to stress to nutrition.
  • Host an onsite blood pressure clinic. A simple blood pressure check takes less than 2 minutes, but it can potentially save a person’s life if they haven’t been to see their doctor in a few years.
  • Kick off a wellness challenge. Sometimes a little competition goes a long way when it comes to motivating people to focus on their health. Challenges can cover a variety of health habits, such as walking or other exercise, fruit and veggie consumption, weight loss, hydration challenges and more.

And, don’t forget that May is also Mental Health Awareness month. So, it is also a great time to try offering meditation breaks. CF&H has skilled staff members who can lead guided meditation sessions and teach valuable breath-work techniques to help reduce stress.

Corporate Fitness & Health

Beware of Facility Fees

Members would be well advised to keep an eye out for a new wrinkle in provider billing – facility fees, resembling resort fees often tacked on to daily room charges at upscale hotels. These fees, being charged by some hospital-owned clinics in addition to the charge for physician services, are said to be the result of hospitals acquiring more and more physician practices. They are also one more reason to look closely at provider billing.