Add New Hampshire to the list of state and local governments confronting drug makers over their marketing of narcotic painkillers.
The state’s attorney general, Joseph Foster, is investigating several companies over allegations they minimized the risk that patients could become addicted from long-term use while also exaggerating the benefits for treating chronic pain. He wants to know whether alleged “fraudulent marketing” misled doctors into writing prescriptions and if state programs then unnecessarily paid for the drugs, according to a statement.
Although the investigation is in the early stages, subpoenas have been issued to several drug makers, senior assistant attorney general James Boffett told us. Company names were not disclosed, but the state has hired the same law firm that the city of Chicago and a California county used to file lawsuits against several drug makers over their marketing of prescription painkillers.
The probe comes amid ongoing debate over opioid painkillers . The medicines, which have been widely used and abused, have increasingly been blamed for fueling addiction and crime, and serving as a bridge to a growing heroin trade. And Foster pointed to this trend as a key reason for the investigation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were depending on opioids in 2013. And the CDC also noted that 74 percent of the nearly 23,000 U.S. deaths from painkillers in 2011 were due to overdose.
“The promotion of opioids for common conditions where risks of use outweigh benefits has led to a public health crisis of catastrophic proportion,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chief medical officer at Phoenix House, a non-profit that runs alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention programs, who also head Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, an advocacy group.
“Overexposure of the U.S. population to opioid analgesics has led to an addiction epidemic that will take decades for our country to recover from,” he continued. “The drug companies that caused this mess, and earned billions in the process, should be forced to help clean it up. And they should be prevented from continuing to promote prescribing practices that fuel the crisis.”
The lawsuits filed by officials in Chicago and in two California counties – Orange and Santa Clara – charged that several drug makers used a variety of tactics to persuade doctors to prescribe their painkillers, while also downplaying risks These included editorial control over medical journal articles, paying influential doctors as speakers, and funding patient advocacy groups, among other things.
Last May, a federal judge dismissed four drug makers – Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Allergan, and Endo Pharmaceuticals – from the lawsuit filed by Chicago. However, Purdue Pharma still faces allegations raised by the city. In August, Chicago officials filed an amended complaint raising the same accusations. The California case, which was filed against the same companies, was delayed indefinitely while the judge waits for the FDA to weigh in.
We asked these companies if they have been subpoenaed by New Hampshire. A Purdue spokesman declined to comment. The other drug makers have not responded, but we will update you accordingly.Print This Post