Drug Distributors Call for Nationwide Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to Combat Opioid Crisis
Posted 08 May 2018 | By
At a House Energy and Commerce (E&C) committee hearing on Tuesday, drug distribution company executives called for a nationwide prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) as part of the ongoing efforts to combat the misuse and abuse of opioids in the US.
Lawmakers in the E&C’s subcommittee on oversight and investigations grilled top executives from McKesson, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, Miami-Luken and Smith Wholesale Drug Company on the drug distributors’ actions, or lack thereof, contributing to the opioid epidemic, with only Joseph Mastandrea, board chairman at Miami-Luken, admitting his company contributed to the epidemic.
“In the past, we had challenges understanding the expectations that our regulator would like us to follow,” added McKesson President and CEO John Hammergen.
The companies’ current and former executives have been accused of pill dumping in West Virginia.
According to Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS), the “extraordinary volume of opioid shipments to pharmacies in small towns in West Virginia” could suggest there was “a break down in the suspicious order monitoring system.”
From 2007 through 2012, McKesson distributed about 151 million doses of oxycodone and hydrocodone to West Virginia pharmacies, Hammergen noted. He added, however, that these pharmacies "overall were, and continue to be, very high volume customers for prescription drugs generally” because “nearly 2 billion doses of all prescription drugs” were distributed over the same period of time.
By and large, the hearing resulted in consensus that the companies could have acted faster to address the millions of hydrocodone and oxycodone pills flooding into the pharmacies in West Virginia.
However, there was also general agreement on a national PMDP for tracking opioid prescriptions, as proposed in President Donald Trump’s recent initiative to address the opioid epidemic.
An effective implementation of a PMDP to provide “real-time red flags based on a patient’s nationwide prescription history…would require support from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or Congress and require all pharmacies and providers to participate,” Hammergen said.
This request was echoed by Cardinal Health Executive Chairman George Barrett. He argued for the creation of a national PMDP to allow for improved collaboration between industry and regulators.