John Oliver assembled a team of celebrities, including Jimmy Kimmel and Kristen Bell, to take on “the Wild West of the drug industry,” as he called compounding pharmacies in his latest Last Week Tonight segment.
Compounding pharmacies are pharmacies that make “bespoke medications,” Oliver says. Unlike pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens, which deliver medications manufactured somewhere else, compounding pharmacies can make medications that are not commercially available. As Oliver explains, if a patient has trouble swallowing, compounding pharmacies can make the same drug in liquid form. If a patient is allergic to one ingredient in medication, compounding pharmacies can make the drug without that ingredient.
The problem is regulation. There’s a lack of FDA oversight, which can lead to compounding pharmacies making medication with high failure rates or making medication in unsanitary conditions. Now, here’s where the celebrities come in.
A compounding pharmacy called NECC was linked to a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed several people, according to reports. They were outsourcing medication, even though they’re required to produce small amounts and have an individual prescription for each patient. To skirt these rules, they faked patient names on prescriptions, using names like Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Marshall (from Forgetting Sarah Marshall), and Jack Bauer (from 24).
So, Oliver brought together these celebrities whose names or TV characters had been used: Kimmel, Bell, Kiefer Sutherland, David Schwimmer, RuPaul, Michael Bolton, and Method Man.
“Please don’t use our names in your bulls— prescriptions,” they said. “We’re not just random words to be thrown around so you can evade the law. We’re real people.”