Leading prescription opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue, Insys, Mylan, and Depomed, received a letter from Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill demanding documents and records dating back five years to show just how much the pharmaceutical companies knew of the drugs’ abuse risk, as well as documents involving marketing practices and sales presentations.
McCaskill’s investigation is just one of several efforts made by lawmakers, state attorneys general and others aimed at quelling the growing prescription drug epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths involving prescription drugs have increased fourfold since 1999, in step with sales of the medications.
Opioids are the most abused prescription drugs in the U.S. The drugs are intended for pain management but because they give patients a feeling of euphoria, they carry strong potential for abuse and dependence. They are also sold on the streets, often crushed and snorted or dissolved and injected to intensify the high.
“All of this didn’t happen overnight. It happened one prescription and marketing program at a time,” McCaskill said. “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.”