health care

Bondi, other AGs target drug industry in opioid probe

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and other attorneys general are targeting drug manufacturers and distributors as well as the insurance industry, in an effort to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the country, with 52,404 fatal overdoses reported in 2015, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Opioid addiction drove the epidemic with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers and 12,990 deaths related to heroin.

Florida, where overdose deaths have spiked over the past two years, is one of the epicenters of the opioid crisis, fueled in part by the widespread use of fentanyl, a deadly painkiller sometimes mixed with heroin.

Bondi and a group of attorneys general are demanding documents and information from pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors related to their opioid business.

The information requests are part of an effort by 41 states to crack down on the opioid crisis.

Bondi, who was appointed by President Donald Trump to serve on the White House’s Opioid and Drug Abuse Commission, has made prescription drug abuse one of her top priorities since she took office in 2011.

“Florida citizens continue to become addicted to opioids and die daily—meanwhile, prescription drug manufacturers, distributors and the medical profession all point fingers at each other as the cause of this national crisis,” Bondi said in a press release issued Tuesday. “This far-reaching multistate investigation is designed to get the answers we need as quickly as possible. The industry must do the right thing. If they do not, we are prepared to litigate.”

On Monday, Bondi joined a separate group of attorneys general who want insurers to make it easier for patients to receive alternative pain management treatments.

Another Fla Dems-backed TV ad starring Trump

Florida Dems are unleashing a TV ad using the man who is sure to become Democrats’ most popular whipping boy — President Donald Trump — in the battle for an open Miami-Dade County state Senate seat.

Democrat Annette Taddeo and Republican Jose Felix Diaz are duking it out over SD 40 after emerging as the winners in last month’s special election primaries. The redrawn Senate seat became available when former state Sen. Frank Artiles, a Republican, was forced to step down after a profanity-laced and racially charged outburst at a private club midway through this year’s legislative session.

The ad, released in English and Spanish in the district where 75 percent of the population is Hispanic, links Diaz — a supporter of the president who once appeared on his TV show, “The Apprentice” — opens with Taddeo watching the now-infamous clip of Trump slamming a bad guy in a WWF stunt.

“Families are too busy to worry about this drama,” Taddeo says, after turning off the TV.

She later alleges that “Jose Felix Diaz supports Trump’s every move,” highlighting services for seniors and coverage of pre-existing medical conditions that would be lost if Trump gets his way and kills the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”

The Florida Democratic Party announced the launch of the ad not long after national Dems said they intend to fork over $150,000 in the SD 40 race.

Yesterday, state Democrats released an ad tying former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker to Trump. Baker is trying to unseat incumbent Democrat Rick Kriseman.

Jeb Bush, Dr. Oz, urge Trump to deem opioid crisis a national emergency

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and TV sensation Mehmet Oz, better known as “Dr. Oz,” are urging President Donald Trump to declare the opioid epidemic sweeping the country a national emergency.

Bush, Oz and a handful of advocates penned an op-ed for HuffPost, urging the president to heed the advice of the White House Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, created by Trump earlier this year.

“The declaration of a National Emergency would give this epidemic the full attention it deserves and allow states to access federal resources to act swiftly and definitively to save the lives of more than 33,000 Americans annually through evidence-based treatments and programs that have been proven to work,” Bush and the others wrote.

Jim Hood, CEO of Facing Addiction, was among those pleading with Trump to take action.

The non-profit organization has launched an online campaign asking people to sign a letter to Trump — who’ll get a briefing on the issue today from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price — and the members of the commission asking for a national emergency declaration.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican mulling a run for governor, will help host an event in Palm Beach County today focused on curbing deadly opioid abuse in Florida, one of the state’s hardest hit by what some advocates are calling a pandemic.

Deutch leads charge to keep funding for teen pregnancy prevention program

Congressman Ted Deutch, a Palm Beach County Democrat, is blasting President Donald Trump’s administration for cutting funding to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, or TPPP.

Department of Health and Human Services is eliminating $213.6 million in spending on the program, launched by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2010.

The money for the program — reauthorized by Congress just a few months ago — has been distributed to 81 organizations throughout the country, including Fort Lauderdale-based OIC of South Florida and Trinity Church in Miami, according to a press release from Deutch, and was supposed to last for another two years.

Deutch and more than 100 other members of Congress wrote to HHS Secretary Tom Price, asking for an explanation of what they called an abrupt cancellation of the program, eliminated by Trump in his proposed budget.

“The callousness of this overreach can also not be overstated. At a time when young people are most in need of information and education to protect their sexual and reproductive health, this Administration is denying evidence and science. Young people deserve better,” the lawmakers wrote.

Read the letter here.


Watch Bill Nelson rail against health care vote

Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a former state insurance commissioner, urged his colleagues not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, but to instead work on a bipartisan fix.

Nelson’s comments on the floor came before Senate Republicans approved a measure that would advance floor debate on the repeal-and-replace proposal.

Ben Carson returns to Sunshine State

Carson official headshot

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson sold his West Palm Beach home for nearly $1 million earlier this year, but the onetime presidential candidate is returning to the Sunshine State next week.

Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon tapped by President Donald Trump as HUD chief , will be the keynote speaker at LeadingAge Florida’s annual convention  at Championsgate — a luxury resort outside Orlando — on Monday.

LeadingAge is a non-profit association whose members include  nursing homes, assisted living facilities and affordable-housing providers for seniors.

“LeadingAge Florida is honored to host the Secretary, who can speak to issues across the continuum of care for seniors, and particularly to the crisis of affordable housing for seniors in Florida,” LeadingAge Florida President & CEO Steve Bahmer told us in an email Thursday morning. “From his personal story to his work as HUD Secretary, we’re looking forward to Dr. Carson sharing his unique knowledge and experience with our members.”