Senator Expands Probe Into Opioid Addiction Crisis -- 2nd Update

By Jeanne Whalen Features Dow Jones Newswires

The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee expanded a probe into the opioid addiction crisis, asking four more drug companies and three drug distributors to provide documents.

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Sen. Claire McCaskill (D.-Mo.) sent letters Wednesday to drugmakers Mallinckrodt PLC, Endo International PLC, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Allergan PLC, as well as to distributors McKesson Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc.

The letters request information about steps the companies have taken to prevent the diversion of prescription painkillers into the black market, including to so-called pill-mill clinics that dispense or prescribe painkillers for no medical purpose.

"We've seen numerous reports that potentially hundreds of millions of opioid pills wound up on the black market, fueling a nationwide epidemic, " Sen. McCaskill said in a statement. "We need a better understanding of how committed these companies are to preventing this type of drug diversion or whether they are turning a blind eye."

AmerisourceBergen said it would respond to the letter and continue to work with regulators and others "to do our part in combating prescription drug abuse."

Mallinckrodt said it had previously met with the senator's staff to discuss the company's efforts to prevent prescription diversion and "will continue working with her office on the important issue of prescription drug abuse and misuse." Teva said it would continue to work with regulators and others to "find solutions that address opioid abuse and misuse."

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McKesson said it would answer the senator's questions and agreed "too many opioids" are prescribed and abused. It added: "However, we do not prescribe medicine; rather, we fill orders placed by DEA-licensed pharmacies as prescribed by DEA-licensed physicians." Endo said it continues to "fully support all efforts to reduce opioid diversion, abuse and misuse." Allergan said it would respond, adding it has a "history of and commitment to anti-diversion efforts." Cardinal Health declined to comment.

Sen. McCaskill is asking the drugmakers to describe their monitoring programs for suspicious opioid orders from distributors or pharmacies, and to detail any notifications of suspicious orders the companies have sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration, among other information.

The letters to distributors also request details on notifications the companies have sent the DEA about suspicious opioid orders from pharmacies or distributors. They also seek a list of each distributor's facilities for which the DEA has suspended or revoked registration, and a description of how opioid revenue and adherence to corporate compliance issues affects executive compensation.

Sen. McCaskill launched the probe in March by requesting details about marketing practices from Purdue Pharma L.P., Johnson & Johnson, Depomed Inc. and other firms. The companies said they planned to respond. A spokesman for the senator said Wednesday that she has received tens of thousands of documents from the companies.

Write to Jeanne Whalen at jeanne.whalen@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2017 09:48 ET (13:48 GMT)