Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, the largest manufacturer of opioids in the U.S. cultivated a reliable stable of hundreds of doctors it could count on to write a steady stream of prescriptions for pain pills, the Washington Post reports. One left the U.S. for Pakistan months before he was indicted on federal drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. Another was barred from practicing medicine after several patients died of overdoses. Another tried to leave the U.S. in the face of charges that he was operating illegal pill dispensing operations, or pill mills, in two states. He was imprisoned for eight years. These doctors were among 239 medical professionals ranked by Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals as its top prescribers of opioids at the height of the pain pill epidemic, in 2013. That year, more than 14,000 Americans died of prescription opioid overdoses.
More than a quarter of those prescribers — 65 — were convicted of crimes related to their medical practices, had their medical licenses suspended or revoked, or paid state or federal fines for wrongdoing. Between April and September of that year, Mallinckrodt’s sales representatives contacted those 239 prescribers more than 7,000 times. The documents, made public after years of litigation and bankruptcy proceedings, shed light on how aggressively Mallinckrodt sought to increase its market share as the epidemic was raging. The documents are among 1.4 million records, emails, audio recordings, videotaped depositions and other materials the company turned over in its $1.7 billion bankruptcy settlement in 2020. The Drug Enforcement Administration called the company in 2010 “the kingpin within the drug cartel” of legitimate companies driving the opioid epidemic. “Everybody thinks of Purdue when they think about the opioid epidemic, but Mallinckrodt was far worse,” said Jim Geldhof, a DEA supervisor who investigated Mallinckrodt before retiring in 2016. Between 2000 and 2020, more than 270,000 people in the U.S. died of prescription opioid overdoses.