Pharmacy Update: August 30

Purdue Pharma would devote its profits to cleaning up the devastation wrought by opioids, and the controlling Sackler family would be out, under a $10 billion to $12 billion nationwide settlement taking shape at the negotiating table, according to published reports. The agreement, it if comes to pass, would resolve more than 2,000 lawsuits against the maker of OxyContin by state and local governments.

More than three dozen doctors and pharmacists and so-called patients were arrested after federal authorities uncovered a massive alleged “pill mill” operation throughout Houston, TX. Federal prosecutors charged 41 people in the alleged scheme, which they said helped supply drug dealers across the country with hundreds of thousands of illegally dispensed prescription drugs.

Since buying health insurer Aetna in November, CVS Health has emphasized holistic healthcare rather than just selling medicine. The company said it hopes its strategic shift will lead to healthier communities and lower healthcare costs. CVS paid $69 billion for Aetna.

Veteran doctors don’t need a blood test to tell when someone is on the verge of a drug overdose. They can even narrow down the culprit by observation alone. Dilated pupils mean cocaine and amphetamines mean LSD. Constricted pupils mean an opiate.

As of 2017, the United States — a country that makes up less than 5% of the world’s population — had the highest consumption of hydrocodone, hydromorphone and oxycodone in the world, equivalent to about 99%, 43% adn 68%, respectively, of the total global consumption, according to the International Narcotics Control Board.

Wile the price of almost any good or service can be found online, most Americans don’t know what they’ll owe for a prescription medication until they get it. Unexpected costs contribute to the estimated 20 to 30 percent of prescriptions that are never filled, which can lead to health problems from untreated medical conditions.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has filed lawsuits against two major opioid manufacturers. It in the complaint filed August 23 in Boone Circuit Court, Morrisey claims Johnson and Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals helped fuel the opioid epidemic by engaging in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks and benefits of opioid painkillers.

The lawsuits claim the defendants fraudulently concealed misconduct, mis-characterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing inherently greater risks.

West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and former Ohio Governor John Kasich partnered to form the Citizens for Effective Opioid Treatment with the purpose of pushing for opioid settlements to go toward hospitals instead of local or state governments. Gee said hospitals and health systems nationwide are suffering.

The country’s biggest health insurers raked in more than $11 billion in profit in the second quarter, particularly as recent mergers and newly-launched business lines began to bear fruit. The clearest example of this trend is CVS Health, which posted a Q2 profit loss in 2018 but saw profits return to the black and revenues increase following acquisition of Aetna.