Newly released documents reveal extent Mallinckrodt pushed opioids

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals relied on hundreds of physicians to write a "steady stream" of painkiller prescriptions at the height of the opioid epidemic, The Washington Post reported May 10.

The insights into Mallinckrodt's opioid sales tactics come from recently released documents the drugmaker turned over in 2020 as part of a $1.7 billion bankruptcy settlement. The Post was given exclusive access to the files, which are stored in a digital repository of documents from state and federal opioid lawsuits managed by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University and the University of California San Francisco.

Three findings:

1. In 2013, Mallinckrodt ranked 239 clinicians as its top opioid prescribers, about a quarter of whom were later disciplined for accusations of wrongdoing related to their medical practices. That same year, more than 14,000 people died of fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S.

2. Managers at Mallinckrodt pressured sales representatives to identify physicians who would write large volumes of opioid prescriptions and continue business with them, the documents show. After a sales representative warned leaders that a dozen physicians in his region were running pill mills, the company still kept five of them on its list of preferred prescribers, according to the Post.

3. From 2006-14, Mallinckrodt made up 27 percent of the opioid market, based on an assessment of pill potency versus solely volume. Purdue Pharma, which has received more attention for its role in the opioid epidemic, accounted for 18 percent of the market, according to the Post

"While Mallinckrodt does not agree with the allegations regarding decade-old issues, it has spent the past three years negotiating a comprehensive, complete and final settlement that resolves the opioid litigation against it, provides $1.725 billion to a trust serving affected communities and allows Mallinckrodt to continue to serve patients with critical health needs under an independently monitored compliance program," a spokesperson told the Post.

View the full report here.

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