New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is asking the head of the Food and Drug Administration to provide information on how the agency is preventing pharmaceutical companies from fueling the opioid crisis by marketing both addictive prescription drugs and anti-addiction medications.
Shaheen’s letter dated Tuesday follows the release of court documents in a Massachusetts lawsuit alleging that pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma was considering trying to profit off of the opioid crisis by introducing products into the treatment market, creating what Shaheen calls “perverse incentives.”
“Purdue Pharma envisioned a cynical prescription drug sales strategy under which a patient begins with pain treatment via the company’s prescription opioids, falls into opioid addiction and then receives opioid addiction treatment that utilizes a related drug in the company’s portfolio,” Shaheen wrote.
The attorney general’s office in Massachusetts is suing Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, along with some company executives and members of the family that owns it in an effort to hold them accountable for the toll of the drug crisis in the state.
According to the lawsuit, the company in 2014 and 2015 considered selling suboxone, a drug used to treat addiction: “It is an attractive market,” an internal memo read, according to the suit. “Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.”
Purdue said in the statement that it was doing due diligence on buying rights to the anti-addiction drug, which was already on the market. Purdue never went into the suboxone business.
Years later, it was still looking for ways to profit from the crisis, according to the filing. In 2017, it considered selling naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.
“I find it deeply disturbing that Purdue Pharma saw the victims of the opioid epidemic as a growth market, rather than individuals who desperately need healing,” Shaheen said. “Pharmaceutical companies should never be financially incentivized to market both the cause and the treatment of addiction.”
The suit from Massachusetts is one of more than 1,000 by state and local governments pending against Purdue. A federal judge in Cleveland overseeing lawsuits filed in federal court is pushing for a settlement aimed at stemming the crisis.