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David Stack
Most Creative People 2017

David Stack

Chairman and CEO, Pacira Pharmaceuticals

For weaning surgeons off opioids

Some 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers, and every day more than 1,000 people are treated in the ER for misusing them. Even with normal use, they can have debilitating side effects. “Opioids are wonderful pain relievers, but there is very little else that’s good about them,” says David Stack, a pharmacist by training. Stack heads Pacira, which developed a single-dose non-opioid to relieve postsurgery pain. Exparel is injected by the surgeon at the site of a procedure, and it slowly releases a local anesthetic over several days, allowing some patients to leave the hospital and start physical rehab sooner than with traditional painkillers. Stack has partnered with the American College of Surgeons to fund doctor- and patient-education programs on opioid risks, engaged with recovery support groups to promote awareness of non-opioid options for managing surgery-related pain, and, in January 2017, signed a comarketing agreement with medical-device giant DePuy Synthes to include Exparel in the training protocols for its hip and knee replacements and other orthopedic surgeries. In September 2016, Texas’s MD Anderson Cancer Center began enrolling patients in a trial of Exparel for gynecologic cancer patients, and Pacira, which has a $1.72 billion market cap, just announced a partnership with Trinity Health to reduce the use of opioids for pain management in its network of 93 U.S. hospitals. Exparel has so far been used in more than 2.5 million patients (the U.S. military is one of the biggest customers by volume); net sales in 2016 were nearly $266 million, up 11% from 2015. Stack, who hits the road at least twice a quarter to observe doctors in the OR, says Pacira has “something so interesting that doctors want to be with us.”

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