Oklahoma decided against joining the massive consolidated opioid lawsuit against drugmakers that’s caught most of the country’s attention. But Oklahoma’s case is slated to be the first to go to trial, and could set the stage for many of the arguments that will be made in the larger case. In other news on the epidemic: ‘Mexican Oxy’ pills, the dangers of synthetic opioids, and the Insys court case.
Stateline: Pay Attention To This Little-Noticed Opioid Lawsuit In Oklahoma
At a minimum, the Oklahoma trial would for the first time give the press and the American public full access to evidence and arguments aimed at showing that drug companies flooded local markets with opioid painkillers for more than a decade while knowing that the pills were highly addictive. In the case, which was filed in 2017, attorneys representing Oklahoma will present evidence and expert testimony to support the state’s claim that OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet and other prescription pain medicines that drugmakers falsely claimed were safe led to the deaths of thousands of Oklahomans. (Vestal, 2/14)
The Washington Post: Fentanyl Deaths From ‘Mexican Oxy’ Pills Hit Arizona Hard
Aaron Francisco Chavez swallowed at least one of the sky blue pills at a Halloween party before falling asleep forever. He became yet another victim killed by a flood of illicit fentanyl smuggled from Mexico into the Southwest — a profitable new business for drug gangs that has pushed the synthetic opioid to the top spot for fatal U.S. overdoses. Three others at the party in Tucson also took the pills nicknamed “Mexican oxy” and police flagged down by partygoers saved them by administering naloxone overdose reversal medication. But the treatment came too late for Chavez, who died at age 19. (Snow, 2/14)
MPR: Study: Rising Concern That Synthetic Opioids Contaminate Other Drugs, Too
While the state and nation are seeing fewer deaths tied to heroin overdoses, synthetic opioids like fentanyl are contributing to more deaths, and there are concerns they’re appearing in other non-opioid drug supplies. An analysis released Tuesday by the University of Minnesota has found that overdose deaths that involve heroin may be leveling out in the country, although states are seeing an increase in overdose deaths involving drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. (Collins, 2/13)
CBS News: Insys Executives Used Rap Video To Push Sales Of Potentially Lethal Opioid
Federal prosecutors alleged in court on Wednesday that a company at the center of a criminal investigation stemming from the nation’s opioid epidemic used a music video to motivate employees to push sales of a highly addictive fentanyl spray. Former executives and managers of Insys Therapeutics are accused of bribing doctors to prescribe the drug. Those former Insys executives and managers are charged with conspiring with one another to use bribes and kickbacks for doctors who wrote large numbers of prescriptions. The video shown in court Wednesday is just one piece of mounting evidence in the case. (2/13)
Boston Globe: In Rap Video, Insys Opioid Salesmen Boasted Of Their Prowess
Two young Insys Therapeutics salesmen wearing sunglasses and hoodies danced next to a giant spray bottle depicting the drug firm’s opioid product, in a thumping rap video made to prod sales representatives to get more doctors to prescribe the addictive painkiller. “Insys Therapeutics, that is our name,” the associates sang. “We’re raising the bar and we’re changing the game. To be great it takes a decision, to be better than the competition.” (Saltzman, 2/13)
Bloomberg: How The Worst Launch In Pharma History Spurred Opioid Surge
Insys Therapeutics Inc. founder John Kapoor was so determined to get back the millions he spent launching the company that he led Insys on a disastrous path of pushing its addictive opioid drug on patients who didn’t need them, his former chief executive officer testified. The way Kapoor ignored his subordinates, “you really don’t want to push back because once he makes up his mind, the decision is done,” Michael Babich told a Boston jury at Kapoor’s racketeering trial on Tuesday. His demands contributed to a shift in marketing strategy after the company’s fumbled launch of its Subsys painkiller in March 2012, Babich said. (Lawrence and Feeley, 2/13)
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