What We're Reading: New FDA Head Vows More Efforts to Stem Opioid Abuse Epidemic

What we're reading, March 2, 2016: FDA commissioner pledges stronger efforts to develop harder-to-abuse painkillers; Olympus Corp. agrees to largest settlement for violating anti-kickback laws; and the Supreme Court hears Texas abortion case with just 8 members on the bench.

When the new FDA commissioner, Robert Califf, MD, was confirmed last week, it was over concerns from some senators that his agency had not done enough to combat the rising painkiller abuse epidemic. Now, Dr Califf is pledging to back efforts to develop painkillers that are harder to abuse, reported the AP. Since 2010, the FDA has approved 5 abuse-deterrent drugs and there are at least 30 similar drugs currently in development.

Olympus Corp. will pay $646 million to resolve probes into illegal kickbacks and bribes to doctors and hospitals. According to Kaiser Health News, the company, which is already under investigation for its role in superbug outbreaks, has used research grants, consulting deals, luxury trips and more to influence doctors to order more Olympus devices at hospitals. The company’s settlement is the largest ever for a kickback violation.

On Wednesday a closely watched abortion case went before the US Supreme Court. With only 8 justices on the bench, the court no longer has 5 conservatives who might support more restrictive abortion regulations nationwide, reported Reuters. The case focuses on whether a Texas law imposing strict regulations interferes with a woman’s constitutional right to end her pregnancy. If the court splits 4-4, the lower court’s ruling would stand, which would affirm the Texas law. The last time the Supreme Court ruled on an abortion case was 2007.