Market Overview

The Fentanyl Abuse Epidemic

The Fentanyl Abuse Epidemic

Even though opioids killed more 32,000 people in the United States in 2015, addiction — ranging from AbbVie Inc's (NYSE: ABBV) Vicodin and Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin to strait-out heroin — remained strong. Last year, an average of 78 people in the United States died every day due to prescription opioid medications. The figures are so high that overdose deaths stand at par with car crashes and gun homicide.

The Most Controversial Drug

There are numerous opioid drugs in the market, produced by Abbott Laboratories (NYSE: ABT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ), Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE), Novartis AG (ADR) (NYSE: NVS) and Endo International plc - Ordinary Shares (NASDAQ: ENDP), among others. Most of these drugs are responsible for a high number of deaths. However, one particular anesthetic usually used for surgery (100 times stronger than morphine) and cancer-related pain treatment was the most controversial — or, at least, the most discussed by the media: Insys Therapeutics Inc's (NASDAQ: INSY) Fentanyl.

Sound familiar? It was the drug that led to Prince's death back in April. Just recently, the anesthetic became the deadliest drug on Long Island, surpassing heroin — something already seen in other states like New England.

The Role Of Insys

Insys developed Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, as a cheaper alternative to naturally produced opioids. While this meant that people in pain would have access to cheaper treatment options, it also signified that heroin addicts now had a low-cost, yet more potent alternative. In fact, Fentanyl is so potent that addicts declare they no longer get high from heroin or oxycodone.

It should also be noted it's not only Insys that produces Fentanyl.

"The influx of illicitly manufactured Fentanyl from overseas is a nationwide issue that requires a multidisciplinary intervention from all levels of government," Dr. Michael J. Caplan, the Suffolk County medical examiner, said in a recent statement.

So, the question lingers: What is the real role of Insys in this epidemic? How responsible (or irresponsible) is the company?

Posted-In: Fentanyl OpioidsBiotech Health Care Politics Opinion General Best of Benzinga


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