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Senator Hassan Presses FTC Commissioners on Oversight of Deceptive Marketing Practices of Opioids

WASHINGTON – During a U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing yesterday, Senator Maggie Hassan questioned Federal Trade Commission (FTC) commissioners about the FTC’s oversight of the pharmaceutical industry’s deceptive marketing practices for opioids. To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

“We all understand that this epidemic impacts people from all walks of life, in every corner of every state,” Senator Hassan said. “And it really requires a concerted, all-hands-on-deck response and approach, including from agencies that may not traditionally be focused on some of the issues that the epidemic presents.”

Senator Hassan asked the commissioners about a 1971 agreement, which outlines the oversight responsibilities of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the FTC when it comes to prescription drug marketing, and whether it should be revisited in order to best combat deceptive opioid marketing practices.  

The commissioners responded that they were open to the idea of creating a more concerted, all-hands-on deck effort to fight the epidemic.  

"Too many of these addictions start with legal prescriptions in the first place,” Commissioner Becca Kelly Slaughter said. “So I think one of the really important tools we need to apply is all collective efforts to keep people from getting addicted to begin with. And I think it is a great idea for the FTC, the FDA, DOJ to all sit down together and consider how we can best employ the statutory tools at all of our disposal to most effectively combat this epidemic where it starts."

Commissioner Christine Wilson agreed, saying that “If there are ways that we can work more closely together we should be doing that.”

Commissioner Rohit Chopra added, “If we don't figure out how to sanction companies like [Purdue Pharma] we will see this happen again in a different field...Maybe thinking broadly about how we are going to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable when they break the law repeatedly. You know, we grant them government patents for them to promote innovation, but when they consistently abuse it we really need to think about what the sanctions should be."