An investigation is underway by a U.S. Senate committee to determine whether pharmaceutical manufacturers have contributed to opioid drug overuse and overprescribing. Senator Claire McCaskill is the ranking Democrat on the committee.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri)

“This killer is not picky. I mean, this is happening in affluent suburbs, it’s happening in rural communities. It’s happening to farm families, it’s happening with families all over our state—where someone has began taking an opioid prescription drug, and then, because heroin is cheaper, they’ve moved onto heroin and then they can’t determine the dosage they’re getting and they end up dead,” says McCaskill.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s investigation will include the manufacturers of America’s top five opioid products based on 2015 sales. In letters to the heads of Purdue, Janssen/Johnson & Johnson, Insys, Mylan, and Depomed, McCaskill requested:

· Documents showing internal estimates of the risk of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose, diversion or death arising from the use of any opioid product or estimates of these risks produced by third-party contractors or vendors.

· Reports generated within the last five years summarizing or concerning compliance audits of sales and marketing policies.

· Marketing and business plans, including plans for direct-to-consumer and physician marketing, developed during the last five years.

· Quotas for sales representatives dedicated to opioid products concerning the recruitment of physicians for speakers programs during the last five years.

· Contributions to a variety of third party advocacy organizations.

· Any reports issued to government agencies during the last five years in accordance with corporate integrity agreements or other settlement agreements.

“We’ve got to figure out how we allowed these pain prescriptions to flood the markets. That begins with the distributors and the manufacturers. You can actually sometimes get a lot more done with an aggressive investigation, with good oversight,” says McCaskill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioids, including prescription opioids and heroin, reached more than 30,000 in 2015, and sales of prescription opioids have quadrupled since 1999.

“I think we can change this country for the better when it comes to this killer, the heroin overdoses, the opioid prescription addiction, by doing the kind of investigation that will hold some people accountable that were trying to make a lot of money off a product that was being overprescribed and eventually causing death,” says McCaskill.

The state House is expected to debate this week, Sikeston Republican state Rep. Holly Rehder’s bill that would create a statewide prescription drug monitoring system. McCaskill supports Rehder’s legislation.

“Representative Rehder’s plan will make a real difference in saving Missouri lives, and I urge state leaders to follow her leadership and do the right thing,” says McCaskill. “We’re finally seeing movement in Jefferson City to crack down on prescription drug shoppers who are fueling the heroin epidemic—and I hope the Legislature will act on it, rather than the half-measure designed to allow folks to say they did something while really allowing this cancer to continue festering in our communities.”

Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program, to look for cases of opioid misuse.