Health Care

Kamala Harris scrutinizes opioid treatment drug manufacturer

She may not have the same legal tools she had as California’s attorney general, but Democrat Kamala Harris is aiming to use her perch on the Senate’s chief oversight committee and her rising national profile to shine a light on the marketing practices of Big Pharma.

Specifically, Harris is demanding a ream of documents from drug manufacturer Alkermes about the way it has promoted Vivitrol, a drug used to treat opioid addiction.

The New York Times and NPR reported over the summer that Alkermes has seized on the country’s struggles to contain the opioid epidemic to aggressively market Vivitrol to an unusual set of customers: law enforcement officials and lawmakers. The tactic is “nearly unheard of for a pharmaceutical company,” the NPR story notes.

In the process, “cheaper and more thoroughly studied treatments appear to have been stigmatized and marginalized,” Harris wrote in a Nov. 6 letter to CEO Richard Pops, which was obtained by McClatchy.