U.S. prosecutors open investigation into more opioid makers
Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into six pharma companies for their potential contribution to the American opioid crisis.
Tom Hals reported the news for Reuters:
Federal prosecutors are investigating six pharmaceutical companies for potential criminal charges in connection with shipping big quantities of opioid painkillers that contributed to a healthcare crisis, according to regulatory filings.
Five companies have received subpoenas from the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Eastern District of New York as part of the investigation: drugmakers Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Mallinckrodt Plc, Johnson & Johnson and Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc, and distributor McKesson Corp, regulatory filings showed.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the investigation on Tuesday. The newspaper said the probe was in the early stages and prosecutors were expected to subpoena other companies in the coming months, citing a source.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York declined to comment.
CNBC’s Lauren Hirsch noted:
The investigation marks a significant broadening of the federal government’s focus on pinpointing which parties contributed to the opioid crisis.
The Justice Department had already launched a criminal probe into Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for its part in the epidemic. That investigation examined whether the company failed to report doctors who were illegally prescribing opioids and also the company’s order-monitoring systems, the Journal previously reported. Purdue has been in talks to resolve the probe, according to the Journal.
President Donald Trump has made the fight against opioids a key policy initiative for his administration. The president on Tuesday also said he would give his salary for the third quarter of this year, more than $100,000, to efforts battling the opioid crisis.
From 1999 to 2017, nearly 218,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Lisette Voytko from Forbes wrote:
Key background: Almost 400,000 Americans have died in the opioid epidemic over the past two decades. Millions remain addicted, costing local governments millions of dollars and creating enormous strains on law enforcement, health providers and social services. Cities began filing lawsuits against the drug companies in 2014. By 2019, the number of opioid lawsuits ballooned to more than 2,500, with nearly every U.S. state filing separate litigation as well. The total economic toll of the crisis could range from $50 billion to over $1 trillion, according to estimates.
What to watch for: Purdue Pharma (which manufactured OxyContin) is already the subject of a Justice Department probe. The company is in talks to resolve that probe while its owners, the Sackler family, offered a separate settlement of up to $12 billion in a civil opioid case and filed for bankruptcy in September. If the settlement is accepted, the Sacklers will relinquish control of Purdue.