New Docs Shed More Light on the Opioid Crisis

Release of opioid archives sheds light on crisis.

An online archive releases a cache of records from Mallinckrodt, a former major player in the pill business. Plus, industry news and moves

By Mark Mravic

New & Next: Legal

Opioid Archive Adds Massive Trove of Documents

Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant, and a joint project from the University of California San Francisco and Johns Hopkins University is helping to clear the air from the opioid epidemic. In March 2021 the two institutions launched the Opioid Industry Documents Archive, a repository of records disclosed during the course of opioid litigation and bankruptcy proceedings. Last week the project got its largest infusion yet with the addition of 1.4 million documents from the now-bankrupt Mallinckrodt company, which at one time had the lion’s share of the prescription opioid market in the U.S. From 2006 to 2012, Mallinckrodt provided nearly 40% of all the opioid pills sold in the U.S, primarily generic oxycodone through its subsidiary SpecGX. According to The Washington Post, during that span the company produced 28.9 billion pills, amounting to more than 80 for every person in America.

The newly released documents—emails, audio recordings, videotaped depositions and other materials—reveal the strategies and methods Mallinckrodt employed to increase sales of its dangerously addictive and potentially deadly products, including cultivating doctors, ignoring health risks and knowingly overlooking evidence that far too many pills were being prescribed.

Analyzing this recent trove, the Post found that the company maintained a running ranking of its 239 highest prescribers, more than a quarter of whom were later convicted of wrongdoing, had their medical licenses revoked or paid fines to settle accusations. One former DEA agent told the paper that Mallinckrodt was “far worse” than Purdue Pharmaceutical, the company most commonly linked to the opioid epidemic. “They were up to their eyeballs in oxycodone, and they knew exactly what they were doing.”

“Making this evidence available to the public will hopefully pave the way for important reforms that will stop dangerous conduct and save lives.”

—Maura Healey, Massachusetts attorney general, to The Washington Post

The archive is fully digitized and searchable, for use by bereaved families, addiction experts, journalists, policymakers and others. “For the first time in a long time, industry secrets are going to be turned over to the public and millions of documents will live online in an archive forever,” Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, who headed the effort against Mallinckrodt, told the Post. “Making this evidence available to the public will hopefully pave the way for important reforms that will stop dangerous conduct and save lives.”

“We can’t accept the toll of the opioid crisis and move on,” Joshua Sharfstein, MD, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School’s vice dean for public health practice and community engagement, said in a release. “We must learn. The opioid archives are an essential resource for understanding what happened and how we can prevent such disasters.”

The Mallinckrodt documents represent a more than 100-fold increase in the size of the archive. An even more massive infusion will come when more than 30 million documents from Purdue and the Sackler family are released as part of a national settlement reached earlier this year.

New & Next: Industry

Telemedicine Platform Monument Acquires Tempest

Monument, a telemedicine platform for alcohol use disorder (AUD), has agreed to acquire the digital recovery program Tempest. The acquisition will integrate Tempest’s resource library and community programming, including digital peer support and coaching, into Monument’s clinician-led telemedicine care plans, which include medication-assisted treatment, therapist-moderated support and specialized therapy. Monument says the merger will expand its audience to more than 300,000 clients who are engaged in its personalized AUD treatment. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer both Monument and Tempest members new tools in their treatment journey,” said Monument CEO Mike Russell, “along with anyone else ready to take the next step.”

Odyssey Names Adams as COO

Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare, a multistate provider of inpatient, residential and outpatient services for mental health, eating disorders and addiction treatment, announced the appointment of Justin Adams, MBA, as its new chief operating officer. Adams, previously division president at Acadia Healthcare, will focus on expanding Odyssey’s behavioral health network, which includes three integrated treatment programs across more than 20 facilities in nine states. “Justin has extensive multisite experience and a successful track record in specialty behavioral healthcare operations,” said Odyssey CEO Richard Clark. “I am confident that Justin will drive Odyssey’s mission forward as we scale our highly diverse behavioral health platform in existing and new markets nationwide.”

New & Next: Webinar

Mental Health and the Pandemic: Takeaways

On May 25 from 10:30 to noon CT, the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation will present the online seminar “What We Learned About Connection and Mental Health During the Pandemic.” The conversation will cover how Hazelden’s Dan Anderson Renewal Center facilitated connection and community and guided people to recovery through virtual programming during periods of COVID-19 isolation, as well as how to protect mental health and spirituality in challenging times. Speakers include Paul Anderson, manager of programs and spiritual care at the Renewal Center, and Manuel Garcia, MA, LADC, manager for outpatient programs at Hazelden Betty Ford in St. Paul, Minn. Register for the session, part of Hazelden’s Let’s Talk: Living in Recovery Speaker Series, here.  

Photo: Wesley Tingey