Will Opioid Distributor Hearings Turn Into Modern Equivalent Of Tobacco Company Reckoning In The ’90s?
Drug distributors are being hauled in front of Congress to answer questions about their role in the opioid crisis. Advocates want the hearings to mark a tidal change in public opinion on the companies.
'People Are Dying Every Day': Drug Distributors To Face Lawmakers
The nation's largest drug distributors spent millions on Washington lobbying last year. Now they're about to find out how much goodwill it has bought them in Congress. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is hauling in the executives of five drug distribution companies Tuesday after spending the last year investigating their role as middlemen between drugmakers and the hospitals and pharmacies that dispensed millions of pills in towns that are now ravaged by the opioid epidemic. (Meyer, 5/8)
The Associated Press:
Hill Panel Probing Opioids Abuse Targets Distributor Firms
Congressional investigators say wholesale pharmaceutical distributors shipped hundreds of millions of prescription opioid pills to West Virginia, a state disproportionately ravaged by deaths caused by the addictive drugs. Now, lawmakers want executives of those companies to explain how that happened. Current and former officials from five distributor companies are set to give sworn testimony on the subject Tuesday to a House subcommittee. Their appearances come during an election-year push by Congress to pass largely modest legislation aimed at curbing a growing epidemic that saw nearly 64,000 people die last year from drug overdoses, with two-thirds of those deaths involving opioids. (Fram, 5/8)
House Holds Opioid Hearing Marathon
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will begin marking up dozens of bills related to the opioid crisis on Wednesday, a day after four different hearings on the opioid crisis will be held. Energy and Commerce announced Monday that 33 bills will be considered this week with 26 related to the epidemic. The bills include legislation to safely dispose of opioids (HR 5041), a bill that would help physicians find out more easily if a patient has a drug abuse history (HR 5009), and legislation that would increase awareness of synthetic drugs (HR 449). Other bills that the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved are scheduled to be addressed at a May 17 markup. (Raman, 5/8)
In other news on the crisis —
5 Unintended Consequences Of Addressing The Opioid Crisis
The crackdown on opioids is having unintended consequences. The push for fewer opioid prescriptions at lower doses and for shorter periods has increased suffering for some pain patients including those near the end of life. The emphasis on opioids has also overshadowed other forms of substance abuse that require attention. (Karlin-Smith and Ehley, 5/8)
Walmart To Restrict Opioid Prescriptions At Its Pharmacies
Walmart pharmacies will soon limit the supply of first-time opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days, an effort aimed at clamping down on an epidemic killing more people per year than car crashes. The initiative will start within 60 days, the company announced Monday, and comes as an increasing number of states and entities in the health-care industry have placed limits on opioid prescriptions. (Roubein, 5/7)
Opioid Judge Demands Review Of Litigation-Funding Deals
The judge overseeing more than 600 lawsuits targeting opioid makers is demanding local governments’ lawyers turn over information about any litigation-funding agreements and provide assurance that lenders won’t gain control over legal strategy or settlements. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland issued the order Monday saying he wants to ensure the agreements don’t create conflicts of interest by affecting plaintiffs lawyers’ judgments in pursuing cases against opioid makers, such as Purdue Pharma LLP and Johnson & Johnson, and distributors such as McKesson Corp. and Cardinal Health Inc. (Feeley and Harris, 5/7)