Tuesday, September 19, 2017

S.C. attorney general joins 40 other states in demanding evidence from opioid distributors

‘Opioid addiction is a public health menace to South Carolina’

Posted by Dustin Waters on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 2:19 PM

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South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has joined top attorneys in 40 other states in requesting that distributors of prescription opioids hand over documents detailing the companies’ marketing and sales practices.

Citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, Wilson’s office says that opioids played a part in the deaths of 761 South Carolinians in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled across the country since 1999. In investigating the role that drug manufacturers and distributors may have played in the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, Wilson and other attorneys general have sent demand letters to AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson requesting documents about their opioid distribution business.

“Opioid addiction is a public health menace to South Carolina. We cannot let history record that we stood by while this epidemic rages,” said Attorney General Wilson.

This newest step in the nationwide look at how prescription painkillers are doled out across the nation comes just more than a month after Wilson’s office filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, alleging deceptive marketing tactics, which fueled South Carolina’s opioid epidemic. According to the attorney general’s lawsuit filed in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, OxyContin is Purdue’s best-selling opioid, with annual sales fluctuating between $2-3 billion since 2009. According to the complaint, OxyContin accounts for approximately 25 percent of spending nationwide across the entire prescription opioid market.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that prescriptions for opioids in South Carolina roughly exceed the total state population. In its lawsuit against Purdue, the state Attorney General’s Office claims that Purdue spent hundreds of millions of dollars each year to “falsely deny or trivialize the risk of addiction and overstated the benefits of opioids” and was able to persuade doctors that opioids were not addictive.

In 2007, Purdue and three of the company’s executives pled guilty to federal charges of misleading doctors, patients, and regulators regarding the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin, but attorneys claim that the legal battle did little in the way to curb Purdue’s alleged wrongdoings. According to the Attorney General’s Office, South Carolina has spent $15.8 million on Purdue opioids through its Medicaid program since late 2007 and more than $28 million from the State Health Plan has gone to Purdue opioids since 2010.

“In 2015, health care providers wrote enough opioid prescriptions to medicate every American around the clock for three weeks, and on the average day, more than 650,000 opioids prescriptions are dispensed in the U.S.,” wrote the Attorney General’s Office. “In South Carolina, for each year from 2012 through 2016, there has been more than one opioid prescription for every resident in the state. In 2016, South Carolina ranked ninth in the nation in opioid prescribing rates.”

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