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Sen. Claire McCaskill

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., ranking member on the Senate subcommittee on Investigations, asks a question on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON  • Sen. Claire McCaskill has written letters to the nation’s top pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids seeking information on the companies' sales, marketing strategies, internal addiction studies and contributions to advocacy organizations.

McCaskill, D-Mo., is doing so as the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. But she is doing it without the chair of that committee, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., signing on. 

McCaskill said she wants to know whether the manufacturers “have contributed to opioid overutilization and over-prescription as overdose deaths in the last 15 years have approached nearly 200,000.” 

Congress has taken several approaches to address what specialists say is a crisis in opioid use and overdoses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said deaths from opioid prescription and heroin overdose reached 15,000, nationally, in 2015.

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