Sen. McCaskill demands internal documents from 5 leading opioid drugmakers

Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a ranking member on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has demanded internal documents from five leading opioid manufacturers to assess the companies' possible roles in perpetuating the nation's current prescription painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic, according to USA Today.

Sen. McCaskill specifically requested documents from Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Insys, Depomed and Mylan. The requested materials include internal studies on the possible risk of addiction related to opioids, marketing and business strategies and contributions made to third party groups that may have stifled efforts to strengthen opioid regulations.

"It's time to look at the manufacturers and find out what they knew about addiction ... (and) what marketing practices did they use to push these drugs," Sen. McCaskill told reporters in a conference call Tuesday, according to USA Today. "We want to get to the bottom of why all of a sudden opioids have been handed out like candy in this country."

Currently, Sen. McCaskill only has the support of democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. If the drug companies deny her request, she will need the backing of the committee's Republican chairman, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. Sen. McCaskill told reporters she was hopeful Sen. Johnson would work with her, according to USA Today.

"The opioid crisis is among our nation's top health challenges, which is why our company has dedicated itself for years to being part of the solution," said Bob Josephson, a spokesman for Purdue, the manufacturers of OxyContin, according to USA Today. "We are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology and advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs. We are reviewing Senator McCaskill's letter and will respond accordingly."

In 2007, Purdue paid $600 million in fines after pleading guilty to misleading consumers about the potential addictive qualities of OxyContin. In 2010, the drug maker released a harder-to-crush version of the pill. It became the first drug to receive the "abuse-deterrent" designation from the Food and Drug Administration. The release of the drug has been linked to the recent rise in heroin abuse, as addicts who previously abused OxyContin by crushing the pill to bypass the medications time-release mechanism were no longer able to do so.

More articles on opioids: 
North Shore Health Department releases guidelines to combat opioid abuse in the community 
ACP issues 8 public policy recommendations for the treatment of substance abuse 
Michigan governor introduces new legislation to combat opioid epidemic

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