Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) is investigating the role drug companies may have played in fueling the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, demanding internal documents from five leading drugmakers on the marketing tactics for opioid painkillers and what, if anything, the companies knew about the dangers of those drugs, USA Today reports. Yesterday, she requested reams of information from the nation’s top five opioid manufacturers, including any internal studies that may have detailed the possible risks of addiction and abuse associated with painkillers such as OxyContin and other powerful opioid medications, marketing and business plans to increase sales of opioids, and contributions to third-party advocacy groups that may have worked to block efforts to increase regulation of opioids.
“It’s time to look at the manufacturers and find out what they knew about addiction … (and) what marketing practices practices did they use to push these drugs,” McCaskill said. “We want to get to the bottom of why all of a sudden opioids have been handed out like candy in this country.” Her initial effort will focus on five companies that have the largest volume of opioid sales: Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., Insys, Depomed and Mylan. The makers of opioid drugs have strongly defended their practices in the past, saying they have worked to lessen the risks of opioid abuse. “The opioid crisis is among our nation’s top health challenges, which is why our company has dedicated itself for years to being part of the solution,” said Bob Josephson of Purdue, which makes OxyContin. He said OxyContin accounts for “only 2 perecent of the opioid analgesic prescriptions nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology and advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs.”