Australia fines Sackler-owned opioid maker
SYDNEY — Australia’s drug regulator has fined a pharmaceutical company owned by the billionaire Sackler family over what it dubbed misleading advertising for one of its opioid painkillers, as the country grapples with surging rates of opioid prescriptions and related deaths.
Mundipharma Australia, the international affiliate of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, was ordered to pay penalties of 302,400 Australian dollars ($209,000) by the Therapeutic Goods Administration over its promotion of the opioid Targin, the drug regulator said in a statement.
The fine against Mundipharma comes as Purdue faces a barrage of lawsuits in the United States accusing it of deceptive marketing tactics that downplayed the addictive nature of its opioids.
In a story documenting Australia’s ballooning opioid crisis earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Mundipharma was facing accusations from a local doctor and a doctors’ group that its Targin advertising was misleading. At the time, Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told the AP he had asked the TGA to investigate those claims.
In a statement last week, the TGA said it had issued 24 infringement notices against Mundipharma after determining that its advertising of Targin to health professionals “was misleading, imbalanced and otherwise inaccurate,” and thus breached the drug promotion requirements set out in the code of conduct by industry regulator Medicines Australia.
In Australia, drug companies are banned from directly advertising to consumers, though they are free to market their drugs to medical professionals -- provided they abide by the code of conduct.
The TGA found fault with a sentence that appeared in the promotional materials that said: “Opioids should be used as part of multimodal pain management plan and in an ongoing trial, as they are associated with potential harms, including unsanctioned use, addiction and overdose.”
The TGA said the sentence “appeared to positively encourage the prescription of Targin medicines for chronic non-cancer pain.”
“The TGA considers that opioids should not be represented as a core component of the multi-modal management of chronic non-cancer pain, and the decision to prescribe opioids should be approached with significant caution,” the agency said.