U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) recently started an inquiry to find out more about the opioid epidemics and found many drugmakers guilty of corruption. During her recent probe, the Senator asked several large pharmaceutical companies and distributors such as Teva Pharmaceuticals, McKesson, Allergan, and others, to explain how they actively monitor suspicious orders of painkillers. The results of this investigation showed how some Big Pharma paid well over $10.5 million in the last few years to promote the use of opioid painkillers to healthcare practitioners and patient advocacy groups. The life-threatening consequences and long-term risk of addiction of opiates, however, was willfully downplayed, in order to inflate their record profits.
Many of these groups were funded in an “insidious” way that “lacked transparency”, according to the report. It came to no surprise that this year those groups objected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)‘s recommendation to restrict the use of opiates only to the most severe cases. In the meanwhile, prescription drug overdoses kill more people than homicides and auto accidents. Up to 75 of the over 64,000 fatalities reported in 2017 by the CDC were due to opioid painkillers, in what has been defined a true epidemic. Rural areas are even more vulnerable, with millions of doses of drugs being sold every day, such as in Eastern Kentucky, where Attorney General Andy Beshear recently filed another lawsuit to stop the spiraling death count.
In the third suit filed by Beshear, the Attorney General alleges that Cardinal Health kept distributing uncontrolled amounts of oxycodone despite the large volume of requests might have raised several red flags. The pharmaceutical supplier allegedly failed to report many suspiciously large shipments filed by pharmacies and customers, looking only for their own profits. The volume of pills supplied was so high, that they were estimated to be enough to provide 302 pills for every man, woman and child in the county.
Opioids overprescription caused by these overly aggressive marketing tactics happens through the whole country, and many other states such as Delaware already filed a lawsuit to hold the drugmakers and suppliers liable for all the damage caused.