Drug Distributors’ Role In Opioid Crisis Has Flown Under Radar, But A Reckoning Could Be Fast Approaching
As the financial muscle behind the opioid epidemic, drug distributors rank among the largest American companies by revenue, with the three leading companies distributing more than 90 percent of the nation’s drug and medical supplies. They've faced numerous accusations that they deliberately circumnavigated regulators in favor of profit. Now, in what could be a test case, the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and the DEA are wrapping up an investigation that appears likely to result in the first criminal case involving a major opioid distributor. In other news on the crisis: generic nasal spray for overdoses, involuntary commitment for addiction treatment, arrests, and disappointing news for a novel pain drug.
The New York Times:
The Giants At The Heart Of The Opioid Crisis
There are the Sacklers, the family that controls Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. There are the doctors who ran pill mills, and the rogue pharmacists who churned out opioid orders by the thousands. But the daunting financial muscle that has driven the spread of prescription opioids in the United States comes from the distributors — companies that act as middlemen, trucking medications of all kinds from vast warehouses to hospitals, clinics and drugstores. The industry’s giants, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, are all among the 15 largest American companies by revenue. (Hakim, Rashbaum and Rabin, 4/22)
The Associated Press:
FDA OKs 1st Generic Nasal Spray Of Overdose Reversal Drug
U.S. regulators have approved the first generic nasal spray version of Narcan, a drug that reverses opioid overdoses. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday OK'd naloxone spray from Israel's Teva Pharmaceuticals. Naloxone has been sold as a nasal spray in the U.S. since 2016 under the brand name Narcan. Pharmacists can dispense it without a prescription. It is also sold as a generic or brand-name drug in automatic injectors, prefilled syringes and vials. (4/19)
Prison For Forced Addiction Treatment? A Parent's 'Last Resort' Has Consequences
Robin Wallace thought her years of working as a counselor in addiction treatment gave her a decent understanding of the system. She has worked in private and state programs in Massachusetts and with people who were involuntarily committed to treatment. So in 2017, as her 33-year-old son, Sean Wallace, continued to struggle with heroin use — after years of coping with mental health issues and substance use — she thought she was making the right choice in forcing him into treatment. (Becker, 4/20)
When Opioid Prescribers Are Arrested, What Happens To Their Patients?
A pharmacist in Celina, Tenn., was one of 60 people indicted on charges of opioid-related crimes this week, in a multistate sting. John Polston was charged with 21 counts of filling medically unnecessary narcotic prescriptions. He was also Gail Gray's pharmacist and the person she relied on to regularly fill her opioid prescriptions. "I take pain medicine first thing in the morning. I'm usually up most of the night with pain," she says. "I hurt all the time." (Farmer, 4/19)
Disappointing Trial Results Dim Hopes For A New Class Of Pain Drugs
They were supposed to be novel pain treatment and future blockbusters. Instead it appears that hopes for a class of medicines called NGF inhibitors are increasingly dim. Pfizer (PFE) and Eli Lilly (LLY) announced late Thursday that their experimental NGF inhibitor didn’t meet its goals in a trial meant to support approval by the Food and Drug Administration. And, more damning, patients who got the drug had significantly more issues of joint damage — the big risk tied to NGF treatments — than those who got over-the-counter pain pills like ibuprofen. (Garde, 4/19)