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U.S. senator launches probe into five top opioid drugmakers

Staff Writer |
Opioid manufacturers will be the subject of a new, wide-ranging investigation being launched by U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

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McCaskill is requesting information from the manufacturers of the nation’s top five prescription opioid products by 2015 sales, including sales and marketing materials, internal addiction studies, details on compliance with government settlements and donations to third party advocacy groups.

In letters to the heads of Purdue, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Insys, Mylan, and Depomed, McCaskill requested:

- Documents showing any internal estimates of the risk of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, diversion or death arising from the use of any opioid product or any estimates of these risks produced by third-party contractors or vendors.

- Any reports generated within the last five years summarizing or concerning compliance audits of sales and marketing policies.

- Marketing and business plans, including plans for direct-to-consumer and physician marketing, developed during the last five years.

- Quotas for sales representatives dedicated to opioid products concerning the recruitment of physicians for speakers programs during the last five years.

- Contributions to a variety of third party advocacy organizations.

- Any reports issued to government agencies during the last five years in accordance with corporate integrity agreements or other settlement agreements.

The investigation will explore whether pharmaceutical manufacturers—at the head of the opioids pipeline—have contributed to opioid overutilization and overprescription as overdose deaths in the last fifteen years have approached nearly 200,000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, reached over 30,000 in 2015 alone, and sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999.

"I hear it everywhere I go—drug overdose deaths, the vast majority of them related to prescription opioids or heroin, are single-handedly destroying families and communities across Missouri and the country, and I refuse to just stand by and watch—we have an obligation to everyone devastated by this epidemic to find answers,” McCaskill said.

"All of this didn’t happen overnight—it happened one prescription and marketing program at a time. The vast majority of the employees, executives, sales representatives, scientists, and doctors involved with this industry are good people and responsible actors, but some are not.

"This investigation is about finding out whether the same practices that led to this epidemic still continue today, and if decisions are being made that harm the public health."

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