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Senator Probes Opioid Makers' Role in U.S. Drug Abuse Epidemic

A U.S. senator wants information from the five top makers of opioid painkiller drugs in order to assess their role in the nation's opioid epidemic.

Sen. Claire McCaskill wants to determine whether the five companies -- Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics, Mylan, and Depomed -- have contributed to overuse and overprescribing of opioids, the Washington Post reported.

Since 2000, 180,000 people in the U.S. have died of prescription opioid overdoses and tens of thousands have died of heroin and fentanyl overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Tuesday, McCaskill sent a letter to the five companies asking them for opioid sales and marketing materials, any research they may have conducted on the addictive properties of their drugs, and information on compliance with legal settlements, the Post reported.

"This epidemic is the direct result of a calculated sales and marketing strategy major opioid manufacturers have allegedly pursued over the past 20 years to expand their market share and increase dependency on powerful -- and often deadly -- painkillers," McCaskill, the ranking Democrat of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote in the letter.

"To achieve this goal, manufacturers have reportedly sought, among other techniques, to downplay the risk of addiction to their products and encourage physicians to prescribe opioids for all cases of pain and in high doses."

On Tuesday, most of the companies said they were reviewing McCaskill's request for information, the Post reported.

Posted: March 2017

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