Dec 31, 2019

AP: China's hidden, growing opioid crisis

Oxycodone, an addictive narcotic pain reliever. Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A lack of treatment options, overprescription and little official understanding of the scale of painkiller abuse in China are likely contributing to the spread of opioid addiction in the country, per AP analyses.

What's happening: Drug company Mundipharma has "pushed ever larger doses" of painkillers like OxyContin in China, "even as it became clear that higher doses present higher risks," AP found in November. Mundipharma is owned by the Sackler family, which also owns Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker accused of helping fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

  • AP also found illicit opioid trafficking on China's internet and has identified 13 active vendors selling OxyContin and the painkiller Tylox, including on popular sites like WeChat and Alibaba’s Xianyu marketplace.
  • Yin Hao, who started taking Tylox after being struck in a fight, told the AP that doctors in his northeastern town "didn't seem to know what withdrawal was" when he tried to quit the painkiller.

Where it stands: The Chinese government pulled combination opioid painkillers, including Tylox, from most pharmacies in September, per AP.

The bottom line: "The risks of opioid abuse in China may be growing as pharmaceutical companies look abroad to make up for falling opioid prescriptions in the U.S.," AP's Erika Kinetz writes.

Go deeper: The opioid epidemic is a global issue

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Electronic health record vendor took kickbacks from opioid maker

A fictitious electronic medical record. Photo: Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Electronic health record company Practice Fusion will pay $145 million after federal prosectors said the vendor accepted $1 million in kickbacks from an unnamed opioid manufacturer, and in return, Practice Fusion engineered its software to encourage more prescriptions of that company's opioids.

Why it matters: Several Practice Fusion executives not only booked the kickbacks as revenue, but also agreed to help peddle more of the company's painkillers during the height of the country's opioid epidemic that has killed tens of thousands of people.

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Keep ReadingArrowJan 28, 2020

Opioid company founder gets 5.5-year prison sentence

Insys founder John Kapoor. Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A judge has sentenced John Kapoor, the founder and former CEO of Insys Therapeutics, to 5.5 years in prison after a jury found him guilty in a bribery and racketeering scheme around the company's potent opioid drug, Subsys.

Why it matters: "Kapoor, 76, is now the highest-ranking pharmaceutical executive to be sentenced in a case linked to the opioid crisis," Reuters reports.

Keep ReadingArrowJan 23, 2020

AmerisourceBergen CEO earned $14.7 million in company stock gains in 2019

Steven Collis, CEO of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen, made $14.7 million in his company's 2019 fiscal year based on the actual realized gains on his stock, according to new company disclosures.

The big picture: That amount was down from the $18.7 million Collis earned in 2018.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 2020