New data has shown that American households and communities are inflated with pills worth 76 billion at the height of the opioid epidemic. In May 2008, the opioid crisis was ranging in the U.S. At this time, the largest opioid pain reduction pills manufacturer sent an Ohio wholesale distributor an email.
Victor Borelli, the national Mallinckrodt account manager, told the KeySource Medical sales vice-president, Steve Cochrane, to check inventories and order more if they are low. He urged him to place an order for a little more if they are okay. But, Borelli made a joke saying, “destroy this email…is it really possible?”
Borelli had previously described his job as “ship, ship, ship”. Excerpts from the email have been quoted in a filing by plaintiffs alongside thousands of documents that the judge ordered to be unsealed in a Cleveland landmark case against the largest firm in the drug industry.
Earlier in the same week, a database of the Drug Enforcement Administration had been released revealing that the nation had been inundated with 76 billion hydrocodone and oxycodone pills by the companies between 2006 and 2012. It’s not surprising that more people have been getting into and looking for AddictionResource residential drug addiction treatment facilityover this time due to opioid addiction.
Almost 2,000 counties, towns, and cities made allegations that the companies flooded opioids in their communities knowingly. This fueled the epidemic that has killed over 200,000 people since 1996.
The plaintiffs’ filing showed that profits drove the employees of some drug companies and knowledge of the havoc wreaked by their products countrywide did not deter them. The response of the defendants to this motion is expected on July 31st.
In a different email, Borelli said he had shipped 1,200 oxycodone bottles of 30mg tablets. Cochrane’s response was, “Keep them coming”. Adding that, it’s like individuals are addicted to them or something. In his response, Borelli said, “Just like Doritos keep eating. We’ll make more.”
When called on Friday night for comment, Cochrane and Borelli didn’t answer the calls. In a Friday night statement, the Mallinckrodt spokesman opted to distance the firm from the email. He termed the email as outrageously callous from a person that was not an employee of the company for years. He further noted that it was antithetical to the stand of Mallinckrodt and what it has been doing to combat the misuse and abuse of opioids.
The Law about US opioid crisis
According to the Controlled Substances Act, drug companies should have control against any diversion, design, and even operating systems for identifying suspicious orders. The act defines these orders as having an unusual size, deviating from the normal pattern substantially, and having an unusual frequency.
These companies should report the orders to the Drug Enforcement Administration and avoid shipping them unless after determining that the drugs are not likely to end up in the black market. In their filing, the plaintiffs alleged that these companies ignored the red flags and therefore, failed at all levels. And it’s this ignorance and failure that has seen many people go to inpatient drug rehab centers over the years.
In January 2008, Kerry Clark, the CEO of Cardinal Health, which is a large drug distributor in the U.S, wrote the senior officials an email stating that the result-oriented culture of the company was probably the cause of shortsighted and ill-advised decisions.
The filing alleges that Cardinal has lost almost $1 billion over the last 18 months in settlements, fines, and lost businesses following the multi-regulatory actions. Some of Cardinal’s distribution centers have also had their licenses suspended for lacking effective controls over opioid diversion. When reached for comment, Cardinal Health didn’t respond immediately.
On 31stAugust 2011, the regulatory affairs director at McKesson Corp, David B. Gustin, expressed concerns over the accounts with large gaps between hydro or oxy amounts that they were allowed to purchase and the required amount, the filing reported.
This gap increased the diversion opportunities thereby exposing more of these products for introduction to the pipeline instead of being used legitimately. Thus, people that would not have access to the opioids acquired them with ease leading to their eventual admission to inpatient drug rehab centers.
The filing reported that he had expressed the need to start visiting customers more and straying away from laptops. He hinted that failure to do so would lead the company to pay a hefty price.
Another regulatory affairs director at McKesson responded saying that he was overwhelmed. He added that he felt like he was going down a river fighting rapids without a paddle. The director added that he felt like a customer that didn’t get sufficient due diligence would burn them later, hopefully.
Effects and Blame Game
The state and local government plaintiffs in the case argue that actions of the best-known and biggest companies in America were tantamount to a civil racketeering enterprise. The effects of this enterprise are devastating on the communities of the plaintiffs. It’s not surprising that almost everybody in America knows someone undergoing treatment for opioid addiction in an inpatient rehab center.
In response, drug companies have defended their actions saying that they aim to sell legal painkillers to legit pain patients with prescriptions. They blamed physicians’ over-prescription, as well as, corrupt pharmacists and doctors that work in the pill mills for handing out drugs without asking questions. They also declined to be held responsible for the actions that follow after abusing drugs.
Research has shown that between 4 and 20% of all prescribed opioid pills in the United States are used for nonmedical reasons. However, drug companies have issued clear statements to reject the allegations made by the plaintiffs. They say that they report their sales to the DEA, adding that the agency ought to have worked with them and done more to win the war against the opioid epidemic.
But, this has not been the case thereby increasing the number of people that need inpatient drug treatment. Drug companies like Walgreens say they have always reported suspicious orders to the DEA immediately they are discovered. However, the company’s reporting for suspicious order to some pharmacies didn’t meet the identified standards of the DEA. Thus, the government had to slap this company with a fine amounting to $80 million in June 2013.
Nevertheless, the company has defended itself saying that it is an industry leader when it comes to combating the opioid crisis in the pharmacists’ communities.