Just days after declaring his administration would throw law enforcement resources at the opioid crisis, The Donald referred to the crisis as a national emergency. According to an article by NPR, that stops juuuust a bit short of an official declaration of emergency status, which would carry with it access to specific legal authorities and access to government coffers for a more wide-spread, wholistic approach to dealing with the crisis. The President has indicated the official designation is forthcoming. This is significant. National emergency status has historically been used for things like natural disasters (i.e., hurricanes) and communicable diseases (i.e., the Zika virus). Here’s a list of declared U.S. public health emergencies. Once official, expect states like Ohio and New Hampshire—among the hardest hit—to seek federal funds for help.
If you don’t get that reference, you’re doing TV / life wrong. A report from The Globe and Mail states that Canada’s federal government is considering action against U.S.-based Purdue Pharma over “potentially illegal activities in the marketing of OxyContin in Canada.” InsightCity covered instances of U.S. states going after Purdue (see Ohio and Washington), but a neighboring country’s federal government getting involved means the trouble is far from over. In 2007, Purdue paid out $634.5 million in the U.S. to settle similar charges, and the Canadian government wants a similar outcome for their opioid crisis dating back 21 years. As in Westeros, there’s a situation brewing with the neighbors in The North. New episode of Thrones this Sunday at 9pm…HBO, give me free stuff.
Oklahoma recently became the fourth US state to file a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, and they won’t be the last. States like Delaware have even begun asking for RFPs from private law firms. The uptick in lawsuits against opioid producers has many drawing comparisons to lawsuits against Big Tobacco in the 90s. Those ended up costing the involved companies over $200 billion. If there’s something similar coming down the road for “Big Pharma” (which is not only a conspiracy theory, but also apparently a game?) then it won’t be a mere drop in the bucket. The entire pharma industry made $778 billion in prescription sales last year, so a similar fine against a small group of companies could leave them hurting.
For the first time, the FDA is requesting that a drug maker remove its product from the market for public health reasons. Endo Pharmaceuticals’ Opana ER—an opioid designed to continuously manage moderate to severe pain—has already faced scrutiny for being easy to abuse via snorting. Turns out addicts aren’t too fond of the ‘extended’ aspect of the drug. To combat this, the company added a coating that made the drug harder to crush… so abusers injected it instead. Not only did this reformulation not meet the FDA’s standards of officially being abuse-deterrent, but the rise in injection abuse is also tied to an HIV/Hep C outbreak caused by needle sharing. God save us from people who mean well.
The formula for rising healthcare costs in the US is filled with a bunch of pointed fingers lately. One finger is being pointed at drug maker Kaléo (no, not that Kaleo) by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. They’re suing Kaléo over its price hikes on a heroin/painkiller overdose treatment. According to Express Scripts, these hikes triggered price protection rebates owed to Express Scripts, which total around $14 million—most of the lawsuit. The PBM has successfully sued larger drug companies like Horizon, so Kaléo may be at a bit of a disadvantage here. Especially since Express Scripts could use the extra cash to deal with the fingers pointed at it, including one $15B lawsuit by its (soon-to-be former) largest customer, the insurance provider Anthem.