The manufacturer of OxyContin, a painkiller at the heart of the opioid epidemic, advised a Trump administration commission on how to fight the opioid epidemic, a problem the company largely created, Vice News reports.
An executive of Purdue Pharma, the drug’s maker, sent the commission a five-page letter on June 29 outlining the company’s preferred “policy options” for dealing with the surge in opioid addiction and related deaths. The letter is one of several sent to the commission by drugmakers and “reveal how Purdue and a handful of other drug companies and distributors with significant financial stakes in the opioid commission’s findings have attempted to exert their influence,” says Vice.
Purdue suggested “the duration of the first opioid prescription” for people on Medicare, expanding state prescription-drug monitoring programs, requiring doctors who prescribe opioids to demonstrate “competence,” encouraging drug companies to create “abuse-deterrent” pills and training doctors to identify addicted patients and refer them to treatment.
The commission included similar options in a July 31 interim report. Christie’s office said the governor wouldn’t comment on the commission’s work until it releases its final report on Nov. 1.
A member of the committee — chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie — said that a Purdue rep met with her and claimed the company was responsible for only 2% of the U.S. market share of opioids and had developed a program for safe prescribing. “Industries that market and profit from addictive substances — tobacco, opioids, alcohol, marijuana — traditionally attempt to minimize risk of addiction and maximize benefits of their products,” wrote Bertha Madras, an addiction specialist.
Attorneys general from a dozen states have sued Purdue and other opioid makers for engaging in practices that encouraged the epidemic. Purdue paid a $634 million fine in 2007 for mislabeling OxyContin. Over the past decade, the company has spent $7.3 million lobbying federal lawmakers, including $570,000 this year, Vice reports.
Vice’s report comes the same week that another opioid-related conflict of interest sank Trump’s nomination of Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) to be drug czar. On Sunday, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes reported that Marino sponsored legislation favorable to the drug industry which made it harder for the DEA to crack down on suspiciously large painkiller orders. On Monday, Trump tweeted that Marino had taken himself out of consideration for the job.