News briefs of interest

Mylan Pharmaceuticals is laying off more than 400 employees at its Morgantown plant, according to a statement from the company, April 20.  The move cuts 15 percent of the Morgantown workforce, primarily in jobs related to operations.  Around 3,000 people remain employed at the plant.

At a time when highly addictive painkillers were pouring into West Virginia, drug distributor McKesson Corp. factored opioid sales into compensation for its sales representatives, but the company never put profits over compliance with the law, according to an investigation by McKesson’s independent board members.   The report concluded that McKesson board members and top management “acted in good faith” and “exercised appropriate oversight” in addressing allegations that the company distributed an excessive number of prescription opioids and failed to report suspect orders from pharmacies.   McKesson eliminated hydrocdone and oxycodone sales from its pay programs for sales personnel in April 2012, after meeting with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to the report released April 20.  The company later stopped tying sales of all controlled substances to employee pay plans, according to the investigation.

Prescriptions for opioids fell sharply last year, the steepest drop in the amount of painkillers dispensed to patients in 25 years, according to a report from IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, the research arm of a health care data firm.   The number of prescriptions filled at retail pharmacies dropped 10 percent in 2017, according to the report.   The volume of prescription opioids dispensed by pharmacists has been declining since 2011, but this was the most dramatic drop yet, as measured by the equivalent morphine dose of all the opioids prescribed in a given year.  The trend suggests that public outrage over the opioid epidemic and regulatory, legislative, clinical and commercial measures have begun to curb their use by physicians and patients.

Even as prescriptions for opioids have declined, federal data show the number of deaths from drug overdoses — which include not just prescription painkillers, but also illicit opioids such as heroin — have continued to rise.

A now-closed Boone County pharmacy has agreed to pay $500,000 to WV Attorney General’s Office to settle allegations the drugstore dispensed an excessive number of prescription painkillers.  As part of the settlement, the pharmacy denied any wrongdoing.   The agreement noted that the WV Board of Pharmacy never took disciplinary action against the pharmacy.  Drug wholesaler McKesson submitted more than 30 reports about suspicious order from the pharmacy but the state pharmacy board didn’t act on any of them, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper.