Teva 'stonewalling' opioid investigation, Sen. McCaskill says

Sen. Claire McCaskill, center, said this week that Teva hasn't cooperated with her requests for specific information about its opioid antidiversion programs. (Image: Sen. Claire McCaskill on Flickr. License - Flickr)

Teva is embroiled in lawsuits, struggling financially and laying off thousands off employees. Now, add new Congressional heat to the mix as an influential senator said the drugmaker is "stonewalling" her efforts to learn more about the company's opioid antidiversion programs. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill last July requested info about Teva's suspicious order monitoring programs; the company's efforts to stop diversion with distributor partners; correspondence with the Drug Enforcement Agency and more. But this week, she said even after several interactions, the company has failed to comply and she suggested that may be because it has "something to hide."

In a statement to FiercePharma, a Teva spokesperson said the company shares the senator's concerns and "held multiple meetings with her senior staff in an effort to provide information that would assist in identifying collaborative solutions to this national crisis." 

"Teva has taken a multifaceted approach to this complex issue; independently ceasing promotion of all opioid products, working to educate communities and healthcare providers on appropriate medicine use and prescribing, and complying with all relevant federal and state regulations regarding these medicines," she said.

RELATED: Drugmakers paid $10M+ to groups that pushed wide opioid use, investigation finds 

But the back and forth between the company and the senator shows Teva has resisted offering up everything the senator is seeking. After receiving Sen. McCaskill's original request, attorneys for Teva wrote in August that the company "maintains robust anti-diversion systems and procedures" that "comply with all applicable regulations." The attorneys said that the company cancels all suspicious orders and reports them to the DEA. 

Sen. McCaskill wasn't satisfied and wrote back in September that the "general information" the company provided wasn't enough.

In Teva's next letter, attorneys for the company said that all previous correspondence "fully and fairly" covered the information the senator requested "at an appropriate level of detail." They said providing the specific documents wouldn't advance the senator's goal and that many of the documents were available through the DEA.  

Finally, the attorneys wrote, the documents could "be potentially misused in pending litigation" if released.

RELATED: Floundering Teva grabbed Allergan generics as a lifeline. It didn't work  

Now, months later, Sen. McCaskill said in a statement the company's "refusal to cooperate with Congressional requests strongly suggests they have something to hide." 

As Sen. McCaskill's investigation plays out, Teva is struggling on several other fronts. As the generic environment has worsened in the U.S., the company has kicked off a restructuring that could claim 10,000 jobs, according to one report.  

The company is planning to close 40 manufacturing plants and pare down its R&D operation, as well. After cutting its guidance twice and slashing its dividend, Teva last year brought in former Lundbeck executive Kåre Schultz to help right the course. Teva's share price has fallen by more than 70% since August 2015. 

RELATED: With new bill, Sen. McCaskill looks to end 'brazen' tribal licensing strategy Allergan started

It's far from the first time Sen. McCaskill has taken on the drug industry: She previously sought to close the "brazen loophole" Allergan used in its tribal licensing agreement, and just last week proposed a bill to revoke pharma's ad tax deduction. 

In her investigation into the opioid and addiction epidemic, Sen. McCaskill recently found that many opioid drugmakers paid more than $10 million to advocacy groups that endorsed wide use of the painkillers and to associated doctors.