Opioid crisis: Drug distributors sound off

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In this week's issue of the Independent, we report that counties, states and others across the nation are filing lawsuits against Big Pharma, accusing various companies of promoting opioid drugs they knew were highly addictive, among other allegations.

Huerfano County already has joined the lawsuit, which has been consolidated in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. El Paso County reportedly will consider filing a case.

After deadline, we heard from Healthcare Distribution Alliance, the national trade association representing distributors, including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson, all of whom are named in the lawsuits.

Via email, the company reached out to "provide insight from our side of the issue."

Here's a statement from John Parker, HDA's senior vice president:
The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids is a complex public health challenge that requires a collaborative and systemic response that engages all stakeholders. Given our role, the idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated. Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.
The company also provided these points to help people understand what role distributors play:
• Distributors are logistics experts, tasked with the primary responsibility of delivering all medicines to licensed pharmacies and healthcare providers.
• Distributors do not manufacture, prescribe, dispense or in any way, drive demand. Further, distributors cannot make medical determinations about patient care or provider prescribing.
• The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is responsible for setting the annual production of controlled substances in the market, approving and regulating the entities allowed to prescribe and handle opioids, and sharing data with entities in the supply chain regarding potential cases of diversion.
• Distributors report EVERY single opioid order to the DEA – whether it is suspicious or not. Greater communication and coordination with the DEA will help support real-time response against abuse and diversion where it occurs.

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