Franklin County drug arrests, politics

Usually, drug arrest sweep stories are pretty straight forward in the North Country, so Miranda Orso’s report this morning for the Plattsburgh Press-Republican makes for some interesting reading.

Franklin County officials rounded up 20 individuals for allegedly using or selling drugs illegally.  That’s pretty standard fare for the region.  What’s unique is the narrative offered by officials for the source of the drug problem.

Malone’s village police pointed the finger at the growing problem of prescription drugs, particularly those purchased using Medicaid dollars.

“I would say prescription drugs are probably 60 percent of our arrests,” Malone Village Chief Chris Premo said.  “These are all prescription drugs that these people are being prescribed by local doctors.”

That’s serious stuff.  And while officials say they are investigating to determine whether Medicaid fraud occurred, there’s no word yet on any effort to investigate doctors.

Meanwhile, Franklin County district attorney Derek Champagne put forward another provocative argument for these arrests, suggesting that at least some were made necessary by reforms to the Rockefeller drug laws.

“It is unfortunate that changes to the laws would appear to have opened new markets for heroin and cocaine in rural upstate New York,” he said. “If the dealers believe they can distribute without facing significant incarceration, then we need to educate them to the contrary.” He said his office will continue to identify dealers who deserve state prison and work toward lengthy sentences.

The legislature’s decision to downscale lengthy mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenders was opposed by most district attorneys in New York.  But this is the first time I’ve heard a North Country official connect drug arrests to the change.

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23 Comments on “Franklin County drug arrests, politics”

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  1. Larry says:

    The original article also pointed out:
    “Police also said 10 of those under the spotlight of the sweep are also the focus of a joint investigation with the Franklin County Department of Social Services for receiving Medicaid benefits at the same time as allegedly selling drugs.

    “Most of these people are on public assistance. So basically, they are taking their prescription drugs that the taxpayers are buying for them and they are selling them back on the street,” Premo said.”

    That’s an interesting aspect to the situation and should provide some serious food for thought.

  2. mervel says:

    The problem comes from the idea that Prescription narcotics are medicine. What did we do 10 years ago before medical heroin was legal? I mean it must have been just a disaster right? The fact is medical heroin (vicodin, oxy etc) are big business and this is just another case.

  3. Larry says:

    Basic economics at work: get the drugs legally and for free; sale proceeds are all profit.

  4. mervel says:

    Addiction is a horrible thing and has ruined so many lives and these drugs are very very addictive.

    I would much rather have us totally legalize Pot than have these drugs anywhere on the market at all. But these drugs have an interest group, the companies that make them, the pot interest groups are not as well organized or as strong.

  5. mervel says:

    I mean sure El Choppo, is wealthy but I don’t think he has the access to congress that big Pharma does.

  6. Larry says:

    Marijuana and opiates, perscription or otherwise, should not be in the same discussion. Different issues.

  7. Walker says:

    Yes, Larry, you can look at this as a problem of welfare fraud. Pay no attention to the doctors writing these scripts, or to the drug company that made a killing selling the drugs and marketed them as a less addictive pain killer:

    Critics have accused Purdue Pharma of putting profits ahead of public interest by applying “significant political pressure” to attempt to reverse South Carolina’s requiring prior approval before a person with Medicaid can receive the drug;[52] for “fail[ing] to adequately warn consumers of the risks” of OxyContin such as dependence;[53] and for promoting the drug “aggressively” and by means such as “promotional beach hats, pedometers and swing-music CDs”.[53][54]

    In May 2007 Purdue Pharma “agreed to pay $19.5 million” in fines relating to aggressive off-label marketing practices of OxyContin in 26 states and the District of Columbia.[55] In specific, the company encouraged dosing more frequent than the recommended interval of 12 hours, and did not fully disclose the risk of hazardous or harmful use.

    Later in May 2007 Purdue Pharma and three of its top executives pled guilty in a Virginia federal court to charges that they misbranded OxyContin by representing it to have “less euphoric effect and less abuse potential” than it actually has, and by claiming that people taking the drug at low doses could stop taking it suddenly without symptoms of withdrawal. The FDA had not approved these claims. The company and the executives were to pay $634 million in fines for felony and misdemeanor misbranding.

    In October 2007, officials in Kentucky filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for misleading health care providers and consumers “regarding the appropriate uses, risks and safety of OxyContin”; as of mid-2008, however, the case had been “consolidated with other lawsuits into a single multi-litigation suit” in a federal court in New York. Wikipedia/wiki/OxyContin#Marketing_and_misbranding

  8. Walker says:

    Sorry, let’s try that link again: Wikipedia

  9. Larry says:

    Brian, et al., Walker’s comment is a perfect example of what I have been complaining about. I qoute an article and mention that it provides food for thought and the next thing I know I read: “Yes, Larry, you can look at this as a problem of welfare fraud.” Well, that’s not what I said, nor how I look at it. If you’re going to take an accusatory tone at least be accurate and confine your comments to what I wrote, not what you think I meant. Stop trying to read my thoughts; you’re not that good at it.

  10. Larry says:

    Good job by the lawyers, exposing deceptive practices by pharma company officials. However, that should not shift responsibility away from those who fraudulently obtain prescription drugs and then sell them illegally. Nobody traffics in illegal drugs because of mis-branding by the manufacturer.

  11. Walker says:

    Well, Larry, it seemed pretty obvious where you were going with those quotes. So all you meant to say was that they provided “serious food for thought”? Gee! What thought? Don’t be so shy! Share!

  12. mervel says:

    Well its fraud all around I don’t think anyone should get a free pass on the deal, the users who are selling their medicaid prescriptions or the companies pushing the drugs or the government who thinks that narcotics are medicine worthy of medicaid dollars.

    I would not allow medicaid to be used for any narcotics.

  13. mervel says:

    Narcotics are not medicine.

  14. Larry says:

    You know, Walker, I’ve tried several times to respond to your comments without using the phrase “supercilious jerk” but it just keeps popping up. What can I do? I”‘ll leave you to decide if I really mean what I wrote this time.

  15. Larry says:

    I think, Mervel, that narcotics, in the scientific sense of the word, are medicines. What about patients with legitimate needs for certain medications? I think Medicaid should pay for that.

  16. Paul says:

    “Pay no attention to the doctors writing these scripts, or to the drug company that made a killing selling the drugs and marketed them as a less addictive pain killer”

    Yes, when someone does something stupid we always want to find someone else to blame. It is the new American way.

  17. Walker says:

    Gee, Larry, when all else fails, resort to name calling. That’s great. So I guess the “thought” those quotes were food for died of starvation, eh?

  18. Walker says:

    Paul, you don’t consider the doctors and the drug company’s actions worthy of attention? I didn’t say there was anything wrong with arresting those who illegally sold drugs. It’s just that these folks selling their own prescriptions are the smallest of small-fry. Let’s look at the rest of the problem.

  19. Larry says:

    You tell me what happened to “thought” Walker. You’re the one who “knows” what I mean. Lost in all this is your attempt to blame pharma companies for drug addiction. I begin to sense a theme here: individuals aren’t responsible for anything.

  20. Walker says:

    Talk about reading into a comment what isn’t there! Pot, meet kettle!

  21. mervel says:

    Well Larry, they do reduce pain I agree. But they have no impact on making anyone overcome an illness, drinking whiskey also reduces pain so does smoking a joint, the only difference with prescription heroin is that it is stronger and more addicting than whiskey or pot, that’s it. So yes, if whiskey and pot are medicine than so is prescription heroin.

  22. mervel says:

    They DO have a use and that is in end of life care. I think that they are more efficient than getting drunk or high on pot, it is a better high for sure than either of those and if you are dying with no chance for recovery then you should have the option of not dying in pain, I totally agree with that. But once again that would not be medicine in my mind.

  23. Walker says:

    Back in the day, both alcohol and opium were administered as medicine and commonly used in popular patent medicines of the day.

    Incredibly, Heroin was originally a trademark of the Bayer company, marketed from 1898 to 1910 as a cough suppressant and non-addictive morphine substitute, and even as a cure for morphine addiction! The company was embarrassed when it was discovered that it rapidly metabolized into morphine and was itself highly addictive.

    More here

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