“Start them high and hope they don’t die,” is how an employee at Insys, a major U.S. opioid manufacturer, described one of his company’s unofficial slogans according to legal documents.
That’s horrifying. At a time when drug addictions and overdoses are skyrocketing and Missouri families in communities across our state are being ripped apart, I’m committed to getting to the bottom of what companies like Insys did to fuel this national epidemic and public health crisis.
Back in March, I launched an investigation into some of the top opioid manufacturers in our country. I requested information on their sales and marketing practices, how much money they’re giving to outside lobbying groups, internal estimates of the risk of addiction from their drugs, and more.
I recently released my first report from this investigation and it contains some shocking information.
In one instance, an Insys employee was trying to get approval for a woman named Sarah Fuller to get a powerful opioid. The Insys employee lied by saying she was “with the doctor’s office,” and implied that Sarah needed the opioid because she had extreme pain caused by cancer—the only symptom this drug was approved to treat.
In reality Sarah didn’t even have cancer. She eventually got the opioid prescription, and later died after an apparent overdose.
I asked Sarah’s mom to share her tragic story with a group of Senators this month. I also invited Jeffrey Buchalter, an Army veteran whose doctor was paid tens of thousands of dollars by Insys and far overprescribed opioids to Jeffrey. I was so proud of them for having the courage to share their harrowing stories. By shining a light on experiences like theirs and exposing the malicious—and perhaps illegal—actions of some of these companies, we can figure out what led to the opioid epidemic we have today and make sure that what happened to Sarah and Jeffrey doesn’t happen to other families in Missouri and across the country.
As I continue my investigation, I promise I will do everything I can to expose what companies are doing to fuel this crisis and hold them accountable—and I’ll be sure to keep you updated every step of the way.
U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is a former Jackson County Prosecutor and Missouri State Auditor.