Senate Committee Investigating Practices of Top Five Opioid Drug Manufacturers

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Senate Committee Investigating Practices of Top Five Opioid Drug Manufacturers

The marketing and sales practices of five drug manufacturers are being investigated by a Senate Committee, in reference to the opioid epidemic and increasing number of people becoming addicted to and dying from prescription opioids and heroin. The companies are Purdue Pharma, Janssen, Insys, Mylan, and Depomed.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) of the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee issued letters this week to the companies asking for information on their sales and marketing materials, studies on addictions, and specifics on their compliance with law settlements and donations to advocacy groups.

The targeted companies are the manufacturers of the top opioid drugs by sales.

According to a press release:

“The investigation will explore whether pharmaceutical manufacturers…have contributed to opioid over-utilization and over-prescription as overdose deaths in the last 15 years have approached nearly 200,000.”

The statement also cites statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such as the more than 30,000 people who died from opioid-related overdoses in 2015.

In the letters, McCaskill wrote:

“This epidemic is the direct result of a calculated sales and marketing strategy…pursued over the past 20 years to expand…market share and increase dependency on powerful – and often deadly – painkillers.”

“To achieve this goal, manufacturers have reportedly sought…to downplay the risk of addiction to their products and encourage physicians to prescribe opioids for all cases of pain and in high doses.”

Her letters also note that Purdue was forced to pay out $645 million in fines in 2017, as part of a settlement on civil and criminal charges involving misrepresentation of OxyContin’s addictive potential. Also, Purdue, Janssen, and other opioid manufacturers were sued by the city of Chicago in 2015 for similar reasons.

Janssen and Purdue Pharma have denied the claims. Mylan expressed hope that McCaskill would broaden her interest “to include the top 10 suppliers of opioid drugs to the U.S. market” further stating that the company represented “approximately 1 percent of the entire U.S. opioid market.”

At the time of this writing Depomed and Insys had yet to respond or comment.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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