June 16, 2017

State AGs team up to investigate the marketing practices of opioid drugmakers

Daily Briefing

A bipartisan group of state attorneys general on Thursday announced a joint investigation into the marketing and sales practices of opioid drugmakers.

What providers can learn from the drug pricing debate

The investigation comes two weeks after Ohio filed a lawsuit against five of the nation's largest opioid drugmakers, alleging that the companies "helped unleash a health care crisis" by downplaying the risks of substance misuse disorders related to opioid drugs in marketing campaigns. The lawsuit contends the companies exaggerated the potential benefits of their opioid drugs to treat health conditions such as chronic pain. The drug companies named in the suits have denied the allegations.

According to Reuters, state and local governments have filed similar lawsuits, including the state of Mississippi, nine counties in New York, two counties in California, as well as the cities of Chicago, Illinois, and Dayton, Ohio.

Investigation details

The total number of states involved in the investigation remains unclear, as some states are legally constrained from discussing an ongoing probe. But the bipartisan probe involves a majority of U.S. states and includes:

  • Illinois;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • Tennessee; and
  • Texas.

Among those leading the investigations are AGs from Tennessee and the District of Columbia.

The multistate investigation centers on the alleged deceptive marketing of opioid drugs by several drugmakers, but the full extent of the probe—including the drugmakers under scrutiny—is unclear and could change.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said the states "are looking into what role, if any, marketing and related practices might have played in the increasing prescription and use of these powerful and addictive drugs." 

According to the Wall Street Journal, state attorneys general often collaborate on investigations to strengthen their impact and pool their resources together.

Lori Kalani, a co-chair of the state attorneys general practice at the law firm Cozen O'Connor, says it "may be beneficial [for the states] to have one discrete investigation of one issue that could wrap up rather quickly" (Raymond, Reuters, June 15; Randazzo/Whalen, Wall Street Journal, 6/14).

New: Three imperatives for addressing the opioid crisis

Opioid misuse and abuse is one of the most pressing public health issues in the U.S., and hospitals and health systems are on the front lines. Currently, most health systems focus their opioid management efforts on select medical specialties, and providers typically intervene only after the patient has shown signs of misuse and addiction.

This new research report outlines three imperatives to guide hospitals and health systems in their efforts to reduce the impact of inappropriate opioid prescribing and misuse.

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