John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies

Attacking the Root of the Opioid Crisis - Pharmaceutical Companies

The following is excerpted from the article “WHAT’S NEXT AFTER LARGEST-EVER OPIOID CRIME SWEEP?

We can’t educate doctors and patients on the effects of opioids without addressing the source of the problem: the pharmaceutical companies.

“Drug companies such as KVK-Tech that manufacture opioids have an obligation to ensure their product is not diverted illegally and are safe to use,” John Mack, owner of Pharma Marketing News, told us.

He explained that companies like KVK-Tech are not only failing to do all that they can to prevent abuse, but they may have even known that their opioids were going straight to illegal pill mills or pain clinics.

He points to a 2014 Drug Enforcement Administration case involving Masters Pharmaceutical. KVK’s representatives stated that the “majority of the oxycodone they manufactured was sold in Florida due to the demographics of the population, the prescribing patterns of Florida physicians, the prevalence of pain clinics, and laws which [then] allowed physicians to dispense controlled substances.”

“This verges on knowing that much of its opioids may have been diverted by pain clinics operating illegally since federal authorities have long focused on Florida pain clinics as bad players in this crisis,” Mack explained.

“Aside from ensuring the safe and legal use of these products, opioid-producing drug companies should, in my opinion, fund local and national efforts to combat addiction to these drugs. In my community, for example, I urge KVK-Tech to fund a 24/7 drug drop-off box so residents can safely dispose of their unused drugs, including opioids.”

If we have any hope of fighting America’s opioid crisis, the federal government, medical community, and pharmaceutical companies must continue to hold themselves accountable for their roles in the epidemic.

Why I Oppose Giving KVK Tech Zoning Variances

At the July 6, 2017, Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB), I objected to KVK Tech's request for zoning variances. At that hearing, representatives of KVK Tech testified under oath that the company's major selling products are opioids.

KVK Tech Oxycodone Label
KVK Tech Oxycodone Label

Here's what I said:

First and foremost, the proposed additions on Terry Drive are unnecessary because of property KVK Tech owns on the Newtown bypass, which the company says it is in the process of refurbishing.

Why must KVK expand capacity at the Terry Drive location -- right in the center of town -- when it has a location elsewhere that is more appropriate for the manufacture and storage of drugs?

Consequently, denying the requested variances would not constitute an "undue hardship.”

KVK Tech manufactures and sells prescription opioids. The Department of Health and Human Services says prescription opioids are responsible for over half of deaths due to opioid overdose. We can't afford to ignore the impact of the opioid crisis on our own people. Chief of Police Henry Pasqualini is on record saying that opioid overdosing is a problem right here in Newtown.

This board's review, therefore, should require higher standards for any variances granted to this company. As previously stated, there are no hardship consequences due to denying the variances requested, but granting them may be seen as a “favor.”

This is an opportunity to do a small part in reducing the over prescribing of opioid painkillers. Shouldn't the community where these pills are manufactured do what it can to reduce the flow by denying expansion of production in the center of town? 

At the very least, we should insist KVK Tech do more to help solve the problem. That may not be the jurisdiction of the Zoning Hearing Board, but as community members, you can ask questions and make comments that you are not satisfied with the efforts made by KVK to address this crisis. 

Thank you for listening.

Sad to report that KVK Tech's application for several zoning variances at its Terry Drive location was approved by Newtown's ZHB. This will allow the company to expand its production, storage, and distribution of the opioid Oxycodone right in the center of town instead of at the much larger facility it owns on the edge of town on Newtown Bypass.

KVK is one of over 90 companies in the U.S. that manufacture opioids. KVK Tech claims to be in the business of meeting unmet medical needs. There is hardly a need for more sources of opioids in this country. Americans already consume more opioids per person than any other country. See chart below and more info here.

Yet, despite all the money KVK earns from opioids, the company employs only 120 people or so and has no plans to hire many new workers according to testimony by company representatives at the ZHB hearing. That claim allowed it to win a new zoning favor for only 181 parking spaces when ordinances require 261 spaces.

Robert Ciervo, Assistant Dean, School of Engineering at Rutgers University, and a Newtown resident, commented on my Facebook page: "The worse part of KVK Tech's business model is its blatant abuse of the H1B Visa program to undercut wages and thus tax receipts to the township while shutting out local residents of jobs."

The sale of opioids has been very good for KVK but not so good for Newtown. Not so good for bringing new jobs and income to town and not so good for Newtown's reputation, IMHO.

What Can Newtown Supervisors Do?

It's possible for the Board of Supervisors (BOS) to oppose the "recommendations" of the Zoning Hearing Board regarding KVK Tech, but that would likely result in an expensive legal battle that the town cannot afford, especially when it has little chance of suceeding.

The BOS, however, can pass a "resolution" calling upon KVK Tech to help support local efforts to combat opioid misuse and addiction. Some areas requiring drug industry support include: 

  • opioid anti-addiction programs
  • educational programs for the general public and students
  • the implementation of a 24/7 drug drop-off box at the police station. Currently, the drop-off box is available only between 9 am and 4 pm on weekdays. 
  • the procurement of additional doses of Nalaxone -  a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

Posted on 20 Jul 2017, 10:25 - Category: Opioid Epidemic

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The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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