On Friday, the Washington Post published excerpts from a damning series of emails released in a landmark case in Cleveland around the irresponsibility of drug manufacturers and suppliers in contributing to the opioid crisis.
In one email exchange, Victor Borelli, an account manager for pharmaceuticals corporation Mallinckrodt, told KeySource Medical vice president Steve Cochrane that 1,200 bottles of 30mg Oxycodone tablets had been shipped, to which Cochrane replied, "Keep 'em comin'! Flyin' out of there. It's like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are..." and Borelli responded, "Just like Doritos keep eating. We'll make more."
In another exchange, David Gustin, the regulatory director at pharmaceutical distributor McKesson, told colleagues he was upset about the "number of accounts we have that have large gaps between the amount of Oxy or Hydro they are allowed to buy (their threshold) and the amount they really need ... This increases the 'opportunity' for diversion by exposing more product for introduction into the pipeline than may be being used for legitimate purposes."
McKesson officials deny that Gustin's statement is in any way evidence they acted irresponsibly. Nonetheless, these exchanges are in line with accusations that these businesses were too busy flooding the market with powerful prescription painkillers to be concerned that much of it was unnecessary and could be diverted into black markets.
Tens of thousands of people are dying per year from the opioid epidemic — some 47,000 from overdoses in 2017 alone. The most recent numbers suggest that prescription opioid deaths are finally declining — but fentanyl overdoses are on the rise.