Pharma Vs. Federalism

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    For the last couple of months, the pharmaceutical industry’s persistent disregard of consumers and poor press looks like a setup that’s missing the punch line. Critics of the pharma industry have been upset as we anxiously wait for the other foot to drop. In the last few weeks, a pile of scrutiny that rained down on the industry.

    First off, Ohio Attorney General candidate Mike DeWine, filed a suit against the industry for its malfeasance, he provided a lot of criticism in a interview with the Toledo Blade.

    “We believe evidence will show that [pharmaceutical companies] flooded the market with prescription opioids, such as Oxycontin and Percocet, and grossly misleading information about the risks and benefits of these drugs,” DeWine explained. “It’s time for these pharmaceutical Goliaths to take responsibility for their actions and stop trying to deceive Ohio and America. What they’ve done is morally and legally wrong.”

    Coming from a Republican candidate for office at a time when Republican leadership looks incredibly narrow-minded by Pharma, such a warning was key and a necessity.

    Though DeWine was not alone. On August 11, the state of New Hampshire joined his fight against the industry’s malfeasance by filing suit against Purdue Pharma, which you may know as the company behind Oxycontin. As the Stamford Advocate reported in explaining the details behind this lawsuit:

    Sales representatives of Purdue made calls to more prescribers in New Hampshire than any other maker of branded opioids, comprising two of every three such calls in the state, according to the complaint. The company allegedly maintained a state sales force of four to six representatives who were each given the goal by the company of seeing six to seven prescribers per day. From 2013 through 2015, Purdue met with 256 prescribers in the state during which the salesperson provided a meal, coffee or other benefits to the prescriber, the complaint said.

    Coming as they did after President Trump’s announcement that the opioid crisis has emerged as a “national emergency,” these news stories signify just the tip of a spear that is being increasingly used to stab Pharma for its complicity in creating the opioid epidemic.

    There’s no reason why this should be the case. Legislators in Congress who are willing to fault Pharma run the scope from right-wing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to left-wing darling Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate, and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) to Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) in the House. Actually, the two have introduced a bill that finishes a loophole that is preventing rural hospitals from retrieving discounts on expensive medicines. Yet, apparently, the control of Pharma over levels of financial support for members of Congress has stayed too strong for such reformers to get much of a hearing at the federal level, even in a White House whose main occupant has displayed him more than satisfied to criticize the industry.

    As already stated, DeWine started the process of suing the industry over its role in contributing to the opioid crisis back in May, joining what was then a cause only spearheaded by Mississippi’s Jim Hood, and for an unrelated issue.

    One can pray that the process of discovery surfaced about by a lot of brave State Attorneys General will, at last, prove to be the fighting forces Congress to disinfect the tumor growing at the heart of pharma.

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