‘Guam has an opioid addiction problem’

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While Guam undoubtedly has been battling a methamphetamine crisis, creeping up close behind is the threat of opioid addiction. The Attorney General’s Office has indicated that Guam has an opioid problem and they are now suing the big pharma company Purdue Pharma L.P. for their use of deceptive marketing practices.

“All the hard drugs bring a hard price, it’s hard to get off of and these dealers that are out there they actually take advantage of the fact that people become slaves to their addictions and therefore, a slave to the substance.”

That statement was made two years ago when PNC News sat down with a drug dealer who at the time of the interview was engaging in the consumption of opiates and he shared this information as he inhaled the substance.

But it appears that not all drug dealers are from the streets. On Tuesday, the Office of the Attorney General announced that they had filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P., the large pharmaceutical company that has engaged in deceptive practices since the 90’s in the advertising of a re-branded formula of Oxycontin as an “abuse deterrent.” Despite a lack of evidence to support the claim Purdue allegedly promotes the drug as safe while downplaying the dangers of addiction with long term use.

Assistant AG Janice Camacho said the Guam OAG is asking for three types of relief, the first being injunctive relief or equitable relief.

“We are asking that Purdue end or stop its deceptive promotional practices of Oxycontin. In addition to that, we are actually asking that Purdue pay $5,000 in fines per each violation. We can’t provide you with a solid number now of what that damage amount may be. We are going to leave that up to court to decide once that obviously gets to that stage,” she said.

In addition, the AG is also asking for punitive damages to penalize Purdue for their deceptive practices. While the complaint indicates that there were over 97,000 opioid prescriptions dispensed on Guam, the AG acknowledges the need for Guam to collect statistics moving forward. AG Leevin Camacho says that there were over a thousand prescriptions dispensed over a three-year period and that when taking into account the potential damage caused in the community, they are looking at the number of doses as opposed to people.

According to the 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment in 2015, 10.7 percent of high school students reported taking a prescription drug, such as OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax, without a doctor’s prescription.

“We understand and we recognize that there is an opioid problem here so we are interested in, as an example, the number of Naloxone antidotes that they are giving in doses. The government of Guam is paying for that right now for people who are suffering from opioid overdoses. They are paying for it and it shouldn’t be the case. It should be Purdue, if they are the ones who are responsible for this problem. They should be paying all of it or a portion of it,” the AG said.

Assistant AG Janice Camacho says that the civil action lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of Guam is based on the consumer protection statute and was done so in hopes that the suit will result in Purdue being ordered to cease and desist their “deceptive marketing practices designed to mislead doctors, patients and the public.”

Meanwhile, the Purdue Pharma website emphasizes that Oxycontin is FDA-approved and also appears to place the blame of opioid addiction on abusers stating, “To help address this problem, Purdue spent nearly a decade and hundreds of millions of dollars to reformulate OxyContin to make it more difficult to abuse by snorting or injection.”

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.