Earlier this month, legislators voted unanimously to join a class settlement of litigation relating to three distributors (MeKession Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation), …
Earlier this month, legislators voted unanimously to join a class settlement of litigation relating to three distributors (MeKession Corporation, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Corporation), as well as the manufacturer Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutics. This does not include additional money expected to come from an eventual settlement with Purdue Pharma.
Monies from the settlements will be used to combat the opioid crisis in our community, targeting the harm that it has caused.
During the discussion of the settlement, Legislator Alan Sorensen took a moment to address direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising. There are currently only two countries in the world that allow it, the United States of America and New Zealand.
In other countries, pharmaceutical companies are not allowed to create an advertisement where they tell people to tell their doctor that they have ABCD and E symptoms, and then the doctor will prescribe them their medication.
Sorensen noted that our children hear these messages from the time they start watching television.
Sorensen was critical of Congress noting that they were supposed to review direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising periodically to see what the impacts were, since it was authorized in 1998.
“They haven’t done so,” Sorensen said. “They failed miserably, and I think unless we address that issue, we’re going to have this problem for the foreseeable future.”
We commend Sorensen for the research he’s done on this matter and for bringing it to the attention of his fellow legislators, as well as all those in the Legislative Hearing Room or who were watching from home. We also appreciate the legislature acting on the settlement.
The opioid crisis has been an uphill battle, one that’s only gotten worse during the COVID-19 pandemic. As County Coroner Albee Bockman reported in August, there were 71,130 overdose deaths in 2019, and for 2020, that number increased to 92,000 and change.
“That's an increase of almost 30 percent in one year,” Bockman told legislators, while also explaining that the number exceeds motor vehicle accident fatalities that have dominated the deaths in our country for decades. In fact, there were over 25,000 more overdose deaths than motor vehicle accident deaths.
While the monies from settlements with manufacturers and distributors will certainly be welcomed to help in the fight, direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is a topic that needs to be reexamined.
It might be the key to winning a battle in the war that is the opioid epidemic.