Archive for the ‘Pharmaceutical industry’ Category

Shkreli directing notorious pharma co. from prison. It’s still losing millions

March 7th, 2019
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a Congressional hearing.

Enlarge / Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing, smirked his way through a Congressional hearing. (credit: CSPAN)

Armed with a contraband phone, an incarcerated Martin Shkreli is plotting a comeback with his notorious pharmaceutical company, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal. So far, however, the company is still losing millions of dollars.

Shkreli is just 16 months into a seven-year prison sentence over securities-fraud charges. He landed in jail last year for running what federal prosecutors described as a Ponzi-like scheme that duped investors of his hedge funds. According to prosecutors, the fund siphoned millions from a pharmaceutical company he founded, called Retrophin.

But Ponzi-siphoning isn’t what made Shkreli infamous. He gained notoriety in 2015 when another pharmaceutical company he founded, Turing Pharmaceuticals, bought the rights to a decades-old anti-parasitic drug, Daraprim, and abruptly increased its price from $13.50 a pill to $750 a pill. The rise brought a windfall of profits for Turing, as well as widespread condemnation and increased scrutiny on the pharmaceutical industry’s drug-pricing tactics as a whole.

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Posted in daraprim, drug pricing, fraud, Pharmaceutical industry, Phoenixus, Policy, science, Shkreli, Turing | Comments (0)

OxyContin-pusher Purdue blames everyone but itself for opioid crisis

March 6th, 2019
OxyContin-pusher Purdue blames everyone but itself for opioid crisis

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Spencer Platt)

In a motion to dismiss an explosive lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma argues that it is not responsible for the current epidemic of opioid overdoses as the Commonwealth alleges—even if the people now overdosing were initially patients who became addicted to opioids while using its highly addictive painkiller.

Purdue, which forcefully marketed OxyContin after its 1995 FDA approval, notes that opioid overdose deaths are currently driven by use of illicit opioids, namely heroin and fentanyl. Those overdoses, regardless of whether they stem from an addiction formed using OxyContin, are “far removed from a physician prescribing a Purdue medication,” the company argues. The motion goes on:

Those alleged harms happen because of numerous additional intervening acts, including criminal acts by third parties such as drug dealers who sold deadly heroin and fentanyl in the Commonwealth. These are not Purdue’s acts and any connection between Purdue and these illegal acts is too remote to be actionable.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioid pain killers rose in parallel with the amount (in kilograms) of opioids sold in the US—both quadrupling within the time frame of 1999 and 2010. While opioid prescriptions leveled off and began declining in 2012, deaths from the extremely potent opioid fentanyl began spiking nationwide in 2013. Likewise, deaths from heroin also didn’t begin significant upticks until around 2011.

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Posted in addiction, bankruptcy, drug abuse, opioids, oxycontin, Pharmaceutical industry, purdue pharma, science | Comments (0)

Sackler behind OxyContin fraud offered twisted, mind-boggling defense

February 22nd, 2019
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis protest in front of Suffolk Superior Court in Boston as lawyers for Purdue Pharma enter the courthouse for a status update in the Attorney General's suit against Purdue Pharma.

Enlarge / BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 25: Families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis protest in front of Suffolk Superior Court in Boston as lawyers for Purdue Pharma enter the courthouse for a status update in the Attorney General's suit against Purdue Pharma. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

Richard Sackler turned to verbal acrobatics and leaps in logic to try to dodge blame in the fraudulent marketing of Purdue’s potent opioid, OxyContin. The contorted explanations—which at points involved creating new definitions of words and claiming an enigmatic level of politeness—were first unveiled Thursday, February 21 from a sealed, 337-page deposition obtained by ProPublica.

The deposition was taken in August of 2015 as part of lawsuit brought by the state of Kentucky, which alleged Purdue illegally promoted its potent opioid painkiller. Back in 2007, federal prosecutors made similar allegations against Purdue, resulting in the company and three executives pleading guilty to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients over OxyContin’s addictiveness. Numerous legal complaints have piled up against Purdue in the aftermath. Purdue settled many of them, including Kentucky’s, which it settled for $24 million.

Yet in all the court battles, the mega-rich, secretive family behind Purdue, the Sacklers, have largely gone unscathed. In fact, the newly disclosed 2015 deposition is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned over the fraudulent marketing.

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Posted in addiction, opioids, oxycodone, oxycontin, pain, pain killers, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, purdue, sackler, science | Comments (0)

Drug companies are sitting on generics—43% of recently approved aren’t for sale

February 8th, 2019
Drug companies are sitting on generics—43% of recently approved aren’t for sale

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Ute Grabowsky )

Of the more than 1,600 generic drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration since January of 2017, more than 700—or 43 percent—are not for sale in the US, according to a new analysis by Kaiser Health News.

The finding means that many pricy, brand-name drugs are not facing the competition that could help drive down soaring prices. Among the drugs missing in action are generic versions of the expensive blood thinner Brilinta and the HIV medication Truvada. Moreover, of the approved drugs that would offer a brand-name drug its first competition, 36 percent are being held off the market, the analysis found.

Experts told KHN that the reasons drug makers may withhold an approved generic from the market are varied. Industry consolidation has made buying, manufacturing, and distributing generics more difficult in recent years. Generic drug makers also, as always, face patent litigation from brand-name makers. Then there’s potentially anti-competitive deals, in which brand-name drug makers simply pay generic makers to keep their product off the market for a while—a so-called “pay for delay” tactic.

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Posted in drug prices, fda, generics, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

Infamous pharma company declares bankruptcy after 3,900% price hike

February 6th, 2019
Man wipes really expensive cream from his face.

Enlarge / Man wipes really expensive cream from his face. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

The Chicago-based pharmaceutical company that made headlines in 2016 for dramatically raising the price of cheap skin creams has now filed for bankruptcy. The filing cites, in part, profit-scorching backlash from the price increases, the Chicago Tribune reports.

In September of 2016, Ars reported that the company, Novum Pharma, had repeatedly raised the price of an old, cheap skin cream, bringing its list price from $241.50 to $9,561 a tube—a 3,900 percent increase total. The cream, called Aloquin, is “possibly effective” for treating eczema and acne, according to the Food and Drug Administration. It’s composed of a generic antibiotic and extracts from the aloe vera plant.

Novum raised Aloquin’s price after acquiring the rights to it from Primus Pharmaceuticals in May of 2015. The company similarly raised the price of another skin cream, Alcortin A, to $7,142, the Financial Times reported at the time.

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Posted in drug pricing, fda, generic medicines, Novum, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

Insys exec allegedly gave lap dance to doctor while pushing deadly opioid

January 30th, 2019
Former Regional Director Sunrise Lee, a defendant in the Insys trial, exits the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on January 29, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Enlarge / Former Regional Director Sunrise Lee, a defendant in the Insys trial, exits the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on January 29, 2019. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) (credit: Getty Images/Boston Globe)

A former regional sales director for Insys Therapeutics allegedly gave a lap dance to a doctor as the company was pushing him to prescribe its deadly opioid painkiller to patients. That’s according to multiple reports of testimony given Tuesday from a former Insys colleague in a federal court in Boston.

The testimony is part of a federal racketeering trial getting underway this week against Insys founder John Kapoor and four former executives, including the sales director, Sunrise Lee. Federal prosecutors allege that the Insys executives used bribes and kickbacks to get doctors to prescribe the company’s powerful and addictive fentanyl spray, called Subsys—which was intended only for cancer patients experiencing pain that’s not alleviated by other medications (aka “breakthrough pain”). The former executives are also accused of misleading and defrauding health insurance companies that ended up covering the drug for patients who did not need it. A congressional investigation in 2017 concluded that Insys sales representatives bluntly lied and tricked insurers to do that—and the investigators released the tapes to prove it.

Two additional former Insys executives—former Insys CEO and President Michael Babich and former Vice President of Sales Alec Burlakoff—were also charged in the case but have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors.

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Posted in fentanyl, fraud, healthcare fraud, insys, lap dances, opioid, Pharmaceutical industry, Policy, racketeering, science | Comments (0)

Family behind OxyContin called addicts “criminals” while pushing pills

January 19th, 2019
Family behind OxyContin called addicts “criminals” while pushing pills

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

With the opioid epidemic raging, you may at this point be familiar with Purdue Pharma. It makes the powerful painkiller OxyContin and has been widely blamed for igniting the current crisis.

After debuting OxyContin in 1996, Purdue raked in billions using aggressive and deceptive sales tactics, including ratcheting up dosages of the addictive opioid while lying about its addictiveness. As OxyContin prescriptions soared, opioid overdose deaths increased six-fold in the US, killing more than 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017. Of those deaths, around 200,000 involved prescription opioids specifically.

In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty in federal court to misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the addictiveness of OxyContin. The company has seen a flurry of lawsuits making similar allegations since then.

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Posted in drug abuse, drug addiction, fda, opioid epidemic, opioids, overdose, oxycontin, Pharmaceutical industry, purdue pharma, science | Comments (0)

Healthcare industry spends $30B on marketing—most of it goes to doctors

January 11th, 2019
Healthcare industry spends $30B on marketing—most of it goes to doctors

Enlarge (credit: Getty | Media for Medical)

Talk with your doctor… It’s a common refrain at the end of any drug advertisement or disease awareness campaign. Ostensibly, it seems like a responsible suggestion. Talking with your own, trusted doctor can help determine if a new drug really is right for you, or if you may be suffering from an undiagnosed disease. You shouldn’t just take the word of the drug company behind that drug ad or awareness campaign, of course.

But the suggestion to consult with your doctor may not be as innocent as it seems. The drug company likely got to your doctor first.

Of the nearly $30 billion health companies now spend on medical marketing each year, around 68 percent (or about $20 billion) goes to persuading doctors and other medical professionals—not consumers—of the benefits of prescription drugs. That’s according to an in-depth analysis published in JAMA this week. The study broke down exactly how health companies convinced us to spend enormous sums on our care between 1997 and 2016. In that time, health companies went from spending $17.7 billion to $29.9 billion on medical marketing. Meanwhile, US healthcare spending hit $3.3 trillion, or 17.8 percent of the GDP, in 2016.

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Posted in drug advertisements, drug prices, fda, Health policy, medical marketing, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

“Scary” reality: Meds tainted with germs, glass, carcinogens, mystery particles

January 7th, 2019
What else is in there?

Enlarge / What else is in there? (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

An investigation by Kaiser Health News into thousands of recent drug recalls reveals a frightening record of medicines in the US being tainted with dangerous bacteria, mold, glass shards, rubber bits, cancer-causing chemicals, mysterious powders, and worrying metal particles. There were also cases of medications with too much or too little ingredients—or simply the wrong ingredients entirely.

Digging deeper, the investigation discovered that a startling number of the drug makers who issued the recalls had received an all-clear from Food and Drug Administration inspectors within a year of their recalls. FDA records and lawsuits suggest that drug makers can easily game the inspection system, mislead inspectors, lie about where drugs are manufactured, or outright sabotage inspections.

For instance, FDA enforcement documents reveal that employees at one drug-making facility in Japan stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” to physically block an FDA inspector from looking around, and another drug maker in India faked a worker strike and cut the lights at its facility to foil an inspection. In a different case, whistleblowers alleged in a lawsuit that Gilead Sciences told the FDA that it used a facility in South Korea to make an ingredient for HIV drugs Truvada and Atripla, but in reality, Gilead was using an unregistered facility in China. The civil suit claimed that the Chinese ingredient contained “glass-like shards,” “black rubber-like particles,” “plastic-like particles,” “small stone or pebble-like particles” and “metal shards.”

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Posted in bacterial infection, contamination, Drug Safety, fda, kaiser health news, Pharmaceutical industry, science | Comments (0)

Big Pharma ushers in new year with price hikes on hundreds of drugs

January 2nd, 2019
Ian Read, chairman and CEO of Pfizer Inc. spoke with President Trump last July about pausing drug price hikes. Pfizer now plans to increase prices of 41 of its drugs later this month.

Enlarge / Ian Read, chairman and CEO of Pfizer Inc. spoke with President Trump last July about pausing drug price hikes. Pfizer now plans to increase prices of 41 of its drugs later this month. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

More than three dozen drug companies welcomed the new year with sweeping price hikes on hundreds of medicines, according to a new analysis from Rx Savings Solutions, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The drugs that saw list-price increases on January 1 ranged from generics and blood-pressure drugs to brand-name prescriptions such as the dry-eye treatment Restasis. The average price jump blew past inflation at 6.5 percent, with some medicines seeing double-digit increases—bucking many drug companies' vows to keep such periodic hikes under 10 percent.

Despite public and political pressure on pharmaceutical companies to reign in soaring drug prices, Tuesday's wide-ranging increases are no surprise. In December, Reuters reported that 28 drug makers had filed notifications with California agencies that they planned to raise drug prices. (A recently passed law in the Golden State requires drug makers to provide notification if they plan to raise US lists prices by more than 16 percent over a two-year period.)

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Posted in Allergan, drug pricing, Pfizer, Pharmaceutical industry, science, Trump | Comments (0)