Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
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Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News
Pharmaguy curates and provides insights into selected drug industry news and issues.
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Pharma Showers West Virginia with Oxycontin: 433 Pills for Every Man, Woman, & Child!

Pharma Showers West Virginia with Oxycontin: 433 Pills for Every Man, Woman, & Child! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

In a town hall televised by MSNBC Monday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders called out the pharmaceutical industry for pumping addictive opioids into small, rural towns—parts of the country already devastated by disappearing jobs and crumbling infrastructure.


“I’ve got to tell you, I’m not a great fan of the pharmaceutical industry in general,” Sanders said, according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. “For them to make to make billions in profits by getting young people addicted and ruining their lives … we have to start holding them accountable.”


The event was held in McDowell County, West Virginia, which has one of the highest per capita fatal drug overdose rates in the country. Not by coincidence, West Virginia coal country was the target of a concerted push by the pharmaceutical industry to bring addictive painkillers to poor, rural regions.


In December, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that out-of-state pharmaceutical companies went to extreme lengths to sell drugs in West Virginia, including McDowell County. In one case, just one pharmacy in a town of 392 received 9 million hydrocodone pills over the course of two years.


“In six years, drug wholesalers showered the state with 780 million hydrocodone and oxycodone pills, while 1,728 West Virginians fatally overdosed on those two painkillers,” the investigation found. “The unfettered shipments amount to 433 pain pills for every man, woman and child in West Virginia.”


Further Reading:

  • “Secret Internal Sales Documents Reveal Abbott's Despicable "Crusade" to Sell OxyContin” in West Virginia:
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The Pain in Spain: OxyContin Sales Shrink in U.S., So Purdue #Pharma Goes Global!

The Pain in Spain: OxyContin Sales Shrink in U.S., So Purdue #Pharma Goes Global! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

With the nation in the grip of an opioid epidemic that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, the U.S. medical establishment is turning away from painkillers. Top health officials are discouraging primary care doctors from prescribing them for chronic pain, saying there is no proof they work long-term and substantial evidence they put patients at risk.


Prescriptions for OxyContin have fallen nearly 40% since 2010, meaning billions in lost revenue for its Connecticut manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.


So the company’s owners, the Sackler family, are pursuing a new strategy: Put the painkiller that set off the U.S. opioid crisis into medicine cabinets around the world.


A network of international companies owned by the family is moving rapidly into Latin America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and other regions, and pushing for broad use of painkillers in places ill-prepared to deal with the ravages of opioid abuse and addiction.


In this global drive, the companies, known as Mundipharma, are using some of the same controversial marketing practices that made OxyContin a pharmaceutical blockbuster in the U.S.


The Pain in Spain

Seeking new patients in Spain, Mundipharma chose ambassadors guaranteed to attract attention: Naked celebrities.


A string of topless actors, musicians and models looked into the camera and told fellow Spaniards to stop dismissing aches and pains as a normal part of life.


“Don’t resign yourself,” Maria Reyes, a model and former Miss Spain, said in the 2014 television spot.


“Chronic pain is an illness in and of itself,” the pop singer Conchita added.


The one-minute ad was part of a nationwide campaign developed and financed by Mundipharma to raise awareness of chronic pain — Rebélate contra el dolor (Rebel against the pain).


Further Reading:

  • “Purdue #Pharma Doesn't Want Court to Unseal Oxycontin Marketing Documents. What's It Hiding?”:
  • “OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It”:
  • “The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic”:
Pharma Guy's insight:

I couldn't find the Spanish ad featuring topless celebrities mentioned in this article. :(

Aimee Washington's curator insight, July 8, 2018 5:16 PM
Ryan, Harriet, et al. “OxyContin Goes Global - ‘We're Only Just Getting Started.’” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times,

The graph shown above shows that Oxycontin sales increased and decreased over time. Family doctors have started to turn away from chronic pain medications. They have started to refer patients out to pain management doctors that can give the patient an injection in the site where the pain is, or give pain medications, but they monitor them closely. Oxycontin sales have dropped over time in the US so now Purdue Pharma has expanded globally to other countries. The countries are not prepared to deal with an opioid crisis, just like the US was not prepared. international companies named  Mundipharma has started targeting other regions globally.  Mundipharma is aggressively advertising pain medicine to  international places to make revenue since they are no longer making a substantial amount of money in America. Mundipharma developed an advertisement for pain medications with naked women and celebrities to bring in revenue. This is to promote chronic pain medications.  The target audience would be the general public for public knowledge on Oxycontin sales. The interest of the article would be geared towards pharmaceutical companies explaining that purdue is expanding internationally.
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Everyone Loses When Doctors Trust Pills Over Patients. Implications for Adherence.

Everyone Loses When Doctors Trust Pills Over Patients. Implications for Adherence. | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Treating pain is a notoriously tricky business. But it’s even harder if the medications on which we rely are inappropriately marketed. Last month, a Los Angeles Times investigation of Purdue Pharma asserted that for years, the company falsely elevated the efficacy of its twice-daily OxyContin, a powerful opioid pain reliever. The L.A. Times’ review of evidence—including three decades of court cases, investigations, patient and sales rep testimonies—provides good data that the drug's effect may not, as claimed by Purdue, last for 12 hours across the board (read “OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It”; ).


In other words, OxyContin may not be the magical drug that provides longer-lasting pain relief than all other oral opioids. Purdue has argued that the L.A. Times’ claims are not valid, and it remains to be seen whether there will be federal investigations into this claim as recommended by Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey.


In the meantime, as a doctor who bought the hype about OxyContin’s twice-daily efficacy for decades, I’m frustrated. While my gut sense that someone was pulling the wool over my eyes was correct, I was casting blame in the wrong direction—toward my patients.

Pharma Guy's insight:

When drugs don't work as advertised - especially if they have side effects that are downplayed by sales reps - it impacts what the drug industry terms the "problem" of lack of adherence. Patients will stop taking drugs that don't work or have side effects and thus they will be labelled as non-adherent and seen as the problem that has to be solved by more advertising or by more adherence apps and programs, when in fact it is the drug that is the problem. That's why I say “Medication Adherence Won't Get Better Unless Pharma Marketers Accept Some Blame”;

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Judge Orders Release of Secret Purdue #Pharma OxyContin Marketing Documents - But Don't Hold Your Breath!

Judge Orders Release of Secret Purdue #Pharma OxyContin Marketing Documents - But Don't Hold Your Breath! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Secret documents about the marketing of the potent pain pill OxyContin will be unsealed next month under an order issued Wednesday by a Kentucky judge.

STAT filed a motion in March to unseal the records in Pike Circuit Court in Kentucky. They include the deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, a former president of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and a member of the family that owns the privately held Connecticut company.

OxyContin has been blamed by many for helping to ignite the scourge of opioid abuse in the United States that began with prescription painkillers and has progressed to heroin and fentanyl.

“The court sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” Judge Steven Combs said in his ruling.

He ordered that the documents be unsealed in 32 days, which would be June 12. He said he would stay the release of the records if any party files an appeal before then.


“The national opioid epidemic is killing 30,000 people a year, and we are pleased that the court moved so swiftly to bring to light records that can inform the public’s understanding of Purdue’s role in this crisis,” said Rick Berke, STAT’s executive editor. “We see pursuit of this story as integral to STAT’s central mission to hold institutions and individuals accountable.”

Purdue’s chief litigation counsel, Richard Silbert, said in a statement, “We look forward to appealing this ruling.”

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Federal Pain Panel That Bashed Anti-Oxycontin Over Rx Plan, Rife with Links to #pharma

Federal Pain Panel That Bashed Anti-Oxycontin Over Rx Plan, Rife with Links to #pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Nearly a third of the members on a government panel that made headlines by calling an effort to curb overprescribing of OxyContin and other painkillers "horrible," have drug-industry ties.

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee is a government advisory panel of federal scientists, outside academics and patient representatives. Of the 18 committee members at a recent meeting to discuss government handling of pain issues, at least five had financial connections to painkiller manufacturers.

One, a pain specialist from Duke University, has received thousands of dollars in payments from drugmakers, including OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals, which sells generic painkillers. Another, a patient advocate, holds a nonprofit position created by a $1.5 million donation by Purdue.

The revelation comes after the committee last month bashed a federal plan to recommend doctors scale back on prescribing painkillers for chronic pain. The guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are intended to curb deadly overdoses tied to highly-addictive opioid drugs, including Percocet and Vicodin.

At the time, various committee members called the proposal "ridiculous," ''horrible," and "shortsighted." A week later, the CDC said it would seek more public input on its guidelines — which were largely written behind closed doors.

The apparent conflicts of interest on the panel underscore the pervasive reach of pharmaceutical-industry dollars, even among federal advisers who are supposed to be carefully vetted for such connections before serving. Financial payments from drugmakers have been shown to shape doctors' medical decisions and researchers' conclusions. Concerns about that influence led the federal government to begin posting drug-industry payments to doctors in 2014.

Industry critics say the panelists should have disclosed their financial ties publicly at the meeting on Dec. 3, and in some cases, recused themselves from the discussion.

Pharma Guy's insight:

You might also be interested in reading this: "OxyContin Been Very Very Good to Sackler Family, Owners of Purdue #pharma"; 

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OxyContin Been Very Very Good to Sackler Family, Owners of Purdue #pharma

OxyContin Been Very Very Good to Sackler Family, Owners of Purdue #pharma | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The richest newcomer to Forbes 2015 list of America’s Richest Families comes it at a stunning $14 billion. The Sackler family, which owns Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma, flew under the radar when Forbes launched its initial list of wealthiest families in July 2014, but this year they crack the top-20, edging out storied families like the Busches, Mellons and Rockefellers.

How did the Sacklers build the 16th-largest fortune in the country? The short answer: making the most popular and controversial opioid of the 21st century — OxyContin.

Purdue, 100% owned by the Sacklers, has generated estimated sales of more than $35 billion since releasing its time-released, supposedly addiction-proof version of the painkiller oxycodone back in 1995. Its annual revenues are about $3 billion, still mostly from OxyContin. The Sacklers also own separate drug companies that sell to Asia, Latin America, Canada and Europe, together generating similar total sales as Purdue’s operation in the United States.

Forbes estimates that the combined value of the drug operations, as well as accumulated dividends over the years, puts the Sackler family’s net worth at a conservative $14 billion.

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The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic

The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |
Between physician databases, incentive-happy sales reps, and an aggressive blitz package of promotional ephemera, Purdue's multifaceted marketing campaign pushed OxyContin out of the niche offices of oncologists and pain specialists and into the primary care bazaar, where prescriptions for the drug could be handed out to millions upon millions of Americans. The most scathing irony is that what allowed OxyContin to reach so many households and communities was the claim that it wasn't dangerous.

Whatever the gray areas on OxyContin's many paths to perdition, the statistics on the first decade of this century bear out a staggering epidemic. From 1999 to 2010, the sale of prescription painkillers to pharmacies and doctors' offices quadrupled. In the exact same time span, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers also quadrupled, rising to almost 17,000.

To call this a coincidence would be analogous to declaring no connection between loosening enforcement on drunk driving laws and observing a sudden increase in deaths caused by drunk driving. It goes almost without saying that these figures dovetail seamlessly with the release of OxyContin and Purdue's marketing timeline, which hit hardest in the early 2000s.

Pharma Guy's insight:

Meanwhile, FDA, in its quest to approve more and more drugs and despite no votes from its advisory committee, continues to approve powerful addictive painkillers such as Zohydro, "an opioid so powerful that a single dose could kill a child," according to Public Citizen, is the most recent.

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The Pain in Maine = Purdue #Pharma, Doc Payments and Opiate Addiction

The Pain in Maine = Purdue #Pharma, Doc Payments and Opiate Addiction | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Today’s nationwide epidemic of opiate addiction was spawned in part by doctors who, with the best of intentions, wanted to help patients in pain, and by drug companies that said they had just the remedy – long-lasting, effective painkillers with none of the addictive qualities of their predecessors.

Hundreds of millions of prescriptions later, we know all three of those company claims to be false. Medications such as OxyContin have proved ineffective in treating the kind of chronic pain for which they are most often prescribed, and they have been widely successful at fostering addiction, setting the stage for the cheap and potent heroin that has devastated communities in every corner of the country.

Still, the companies that own these pain medications continue to push the old narrative, and still, they are finding friendly doctors to help them advance it.

And while it’s not surprising that companies are repeating what has worked when it comes to selling their products, it’s troubling that some doctors are so willing to go along.

Federal data analyzed by the Maine Sunday Telegram show that while policymakers and health and law enforcement officials were contending with an escalating opioid crisis, drug companies selling opioids were increasing payments and visits to doctors. Between August 2013 and December 2015, the bulk of all payments by prescription opioid manufacturers to doctors in Maine went to one physician, Doug Jorgensen of Manchester, who received $42,522. Another doctor received more than $13,000, while others received a few hundred dollars each.

These sorts of payments are legal, but they are discouraged by the Maine Medical Association and criticized by medical ethicists as a clear conflict of interest. Even small payments, they say, can affect – subconsciously even – what a doctor ultimately prescribes, a decision that should be guided by medical knowledge and patient needs, not whether a pharmaceutical company bought a doctor dinner.

The report follows a Los Angeles Times investigation showing how Purdue Pharma, the company behind OxyContin, is reacting to a 40 percent drop in prescriptions for that drug since 2010. Purdue, the Times reports, is trying to open new markets across the globe, using paid-off doctors to pitch the same script it used in the U.S., overselling the benefits and downplaying the risks of opiate medication (read "The Pain in Spain: OxyContin Sales Shrink in U.S., So Purdue #Pharma Goes Global!":

Those countries will find out soon what most Americans know now.


Further Reading:

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Secret Internal Sales Documents Reveal Abbott's Despicable "Crusade" to Sell OxyContin

Secret Internal Sales Documents Reveal Abbott's Despicable "Crusade" to Sell OxyContin | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Sales reps were trying to get through to a doctor to prescribe their potent painkiller. But he wasn’t taking their calls. Then his staff tipped them off: The doctor liked sweets. So they lined a box with doughnuts and snack cakes arranged to spell out the word “OxyContin” and dropped it off at his office. The gambit worked: The surgeon listened to the sales talk. Each week after that, the sales reps were back, asking him to switch more patients to OxyContin.


That’s one scene described in a trove of internal documents from Abbott Pharmaceuticals that STAT reporter David Armstrong uncovered in West Virginia. They show how Abbott sales representatives, under a boss who called himself the “King of Pain,” wooed doctors across the country with free meals, free books — and misleading information that downplayed the risk of addiction and had no basis in science. With Abbott's help, OxyContin became a billion-dollar blockbuster — and one of the most abused prescription opioids in the country.

Pharma Guy's insight:

“Purdue #Pharma Doesn't Want Court to Unseal Oxycontin Marketing Documents. What's It Hiding?”;

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Purdue #Pharma Doesn't Want Court to Unseal Oxycontin Marketing Documents. What's It Hiding?

The maker of the pain pill OxyContin filed an appeal on Monday of a Kentucky judge’s decision to unseal records related to how the drug was marketed and what company officials knew about the addictive properties of the potent opioid.

The notice of appeal by Purdue Pharma, filed in Pike Circuit Court in eastern Kentucky, triggered the beginning of the appeals process and did not contain any legal arguments challenging the judge’s decision. After a month to six weeks of procedural matters, it is expected both sides will begin arguing the case in briefings to the Kentucky Appeals Court. That process could take up to five months. The appeals court, consisting of three judges, will then decide to either conduct oral arguments on the case or rule on the matter based only on the briefings.


Meanwhile, “Secret Internal Sales Documents Reveal Abbott's Despicable ‘Crusade’ to Sell OxyContin”;

Pharma Guy's insight:

You might also like to read these:


Judge Orders Release of Secret Purdue #Pharma OxyContin Marketing Documents - But Don't Hold Your Breath!;


Iraq War Veteran Lawmaker Calls for Scrutiny of Purdue Pharma's Role in Opioid Abuse Epidemic;


OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It;


The History of Purdue's Marketing of Oxycontin & Its Connection to the Opiate Epidemic;

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OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It

OxyContin's 12-hour Problem: Misrepresentation of Efficacy Leads to Addiction & Purdue Knew It | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

The drugmaker Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin two decades ago with a bold marketing claim: One dose relieves pain for 12 hours, more than twice as long as generic medications.


Patients would no longer have to wake up in the middle of the night to take their pills, Purdue told doctors. One OxyContin tablet in the morning and one before bed would provide “smooth and sustained pain control all day and all night.”


When Purdue unveiled OxyContin in 1996, it touted 12-hour duration.


On the strength of that promise, OxyContin became America’s bestselling painkiller, and Purdue reaped $31 billion in revenue.

But OxyContin’s stunning success masked a fundamental problem: The drug wears off hours early in many people, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. OxyContin is a chemical cousin of heroin, and when it doesn’t last, patients can experience excruciating symptoms of withdrawal, including an intense craving for the drug.


The problem offers new insight into why so many people have become addicted to OxyContin, one of the most abused pharmaceuticals in U.S. history.


The Times investigation, based on thousands of pages of confidential Purdue documents and other records, found that:


  • Purdue has known about the problem for decades. Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren’t getting 12 hours of relief. Since the drug’s debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.
  • The company has held fast to the claim of 12-hour relief, in part to protect its revenue. OxyContin’s market dominance and its high price — up to hundreds of dollars per bottle — hinge on its 12-hour duration. Without that, it offers little advantage over less expensive painkillers.
  • When many doctors began prescribing OxyContin at shorter intervals in the late 1990s, Purdue executives mobilized hundreds of sales reps to “refocus” physicians on 12-hour dosing. Anything shorter “needs to be nipped in the bud. NOW!!” one manager wrote to her staff.
  • Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own. Research shows that the more potent the dose of an opioid such as OxyContin, the greater the possibility of overdose and death.
  • More than half of long-term OxyContin users are on doses that public health officials consider dangerously high, according to an analysis of nationwide prescription data conducted for The Times.
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Drug Overdose Death Epidemic Near 80's H.I.V. Peak Death Level!

Drug Overdose Death Epidemic Near 80's H.I.V. Peak Death Level! | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Deaths from drug overdoses have jumped in nearly every county across the United States, driven largely by an explosion in addiction to prescription painkillers and heroin.

Some of the largest concentrations of overdose deaths were in Appalachia and the Southwest, according to new county-level estimates released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of these deaths reached a new peak in 2014: 47,055 people, or the equivalent of about 125 Americans every day.

The death rate from drug overdoses is climbing at a much faster pace than other causes of death, jumping to an average of 15 per 100,000 in 2014 from nine per 100,000 in 2003.

The trend is now similar to that of the human immunodeficiency virus, or H.I.V., epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Robert Anderson, the C.D.C.’s chief of mortality statistics.

Pharma Guy's insight:

It's clear the so-called "War on Drugs" has been lost - except for municipalities collecting millions in fines and legal fees and federal funds to incarcerate people. At least one municipality - Goucester, MA - has a different approach. For more on that, read "Perfect Storm: Gloucester Police Targets #Pharma as Next Step Against 'War on Drugs'"; 

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‘Prescription Thugs’: Tribeca Review

‘Prescription Thugs’: Tribeca Review | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Thugs offers a damning summary of the FDA approval process as a closed loop in which one hand washes the other and crucial data can remain hidden. With its reference to ghost-written “expert” articles, the film touches upon territory covered in depth in the recent documentary Merchants of Doubt. And there are startling statistics: Someone dies from an accidental overdose every 19 minutes; oxycodone revenue plunged 80% after its crushable — i.e., easily abusable — form was discontinued.

Bell and Alexander have compiled an introduction to a huge subject, hitting on many of its facets without the time to delve deeply. But they make their points about the toxicity of drugs, the moneymaking machinery that drives their overuse, and the relative safety of alternative options like homeopathy. Psychiatrist David Healy, a pharma gadfly, weighs in, as does reformed Big Pharma sales repGwen Olsen, full of an insider’s fury. Richard Taite, director of the Cliffside Malibu rehab facility, takes a more distanced stance. Like Bell, but less naïve, he’s interested in the quick-fix culture of addiction.

At its most trenchant, Thugs suggests that the very definition of quackery needs to be reexamined, along with the supposed legitimacy of legal drugs, licensed physicians and pharmaceutical manufacturers. In its wide-ranging examination, the film excels at placing demonized street drugs and medically dispensed pharmaceuticals on a continuum. Coming at the subject from a variety of angles, Bell and his interviewees make clear that Adderall, Ritalin and OxyContin are variations on meth and heroin — neatly packaged and never targeted by the so-called war on drugs.

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Rahm Emanuel's War on Drugs

Rahm Emanuel's War on Drugs | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Seven years ago, the maker of OxyContin pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it had promoted the painkiller for off-label uses and played down its risk of addiction. The settlement, which cost Purdue Pharma $600 million, was supposed to stem the dramatic rise of prescription painkiller abuse that has swept the U.S. since OxyContin hit the market in 1996.

In the years since the settlement, America’s opioid problem has only gotten worse. Deaths involving prescription painkillers tripled in the first decade of the 21st century to more than 40 per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which called the problem an epidemic in 2011.

State and local officials have asked the Food and Drug Administration to stop opioid makers from marketing the drugs for long-term pain management, but the FDA hasn’t acted and neither have the drugs’ manufacturers. So local governments are taking pharmaceutical companies to court. Civil lawsuits filed in the past month by Chicago and California’s Santa Clara and Orange counties accuse Purdue and four other drugmakers of soft-pedaling the risks of the medications. Both suits seek to force “defendants to cease their unlawful promotion of opioids and to correct their misrepresentations” as well as pay unspecified damages.

Emanuel says he’s fed up with FDA officials and industry executives who try to shift blame for the problem. “Everybody at the top wants somebody else to be accountable,” he says. “They want to act like they bear no responsibility for what’s happened.” The aim of the lawsuits, he says, is to force that accountability. The goal isn’t to punish drugmakers, says Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “What we’re after here is to change [their] conduct, not to break companies.”

Pharma Guy's insight:

Meanwhile, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani earned millions of dollars defending Purdue Pharma against charges of illegal promotion of its pain drug, OxyContin, the abuse of which DEA claims has killed hundreds of people -- mostly teenagers.

Giuliani's OxyContin (and PhRMA) Money
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