A bipartisan coalition of State Attorneys General has been created to join efforts to investigate the marketing and sale practices of opioid manufacturers, as a way to counterattack the opioid epidemic across the United States.

The coalition includes the Attorneys General from Massachusetts, Texas, Pennsylvania, Vermont, South Carolina, Illinois, among others. The attorneys general have not disclosed their specific targets for this investigation, but they are trying to find those companies that have unlawfully pushed people to an opioid addiction.

Image credit: Hero Images / Getty Images / NPR
Image credit: Hero Images / Getty Images / NPR

“This is a public safety and public health issue. Opioid painkiller abuse and related overdoses are devastating families here in Texas and throughout the country,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Opioid overdoses have quadrupled during this century

This coalition is facing opioid manufacturers emerged as a response to the increasing threat represented by painkillers during the last years. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than 33.000 people died due to opioid overdoses in 2015, most of these people died using prescription opioids. Statistics show that opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999 across the country. As well, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, especially opioid overdoses. In Massachusetts for example, at least five people die from opioid overdose every single day.

Sadly, most of the people that use heroin today start their addiction with legal drugs such as oxycodone since their chemical composition is similar to those of the heroin.

This epidemic has become a public health issue across the United States, and there are certain practices applied in painkillers manufacturers that may link them with the increasing number of opioid-related deaths and cases of addiction.

Recently, the Cherokee Nation sued a group of retailers and distributors of opioids for the dramatic consequences of opioids among its population. They said that companies are not complying with the federal drug regulations.

Image credit: The Denver Post
Image credit: The Denver Post

More attorneys general continue to add to this initiative

This bipartisan coalition started soon after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine introduced a lawsuit against five drug manufacturers. DeWine complained about the fact that these companies were misleading physicians about the risks of opioids.

Now, an extraordinary number of state attorney general have joined in an investigation of the practices of opioid companies that might have something to do with the national opioid epidemic. The members of the coalition haven’t said what their specific options are going to be, neither have they specify which companies are going to be investigated. However, they might use subpoenas to access to documents and testimonies. It is not known when they are going to start the investigation.

“State attorneys general almost never announce the existence of investigations before they are completed, but the opioid crisis is a uniquely dire situation,” said Attorney General Karl Racine of the District of Columbia. “Deaths from opioid overdoses are skyrocketing across our country, and the District is no stranger to that trend. We are looking into what role, if any, marketing and related practices might have played in the increasing prescription and use of these powerful and addictive drugs,” he added.

The group consists of a majority of attorneys general

The exact number of attorneys general taking part in these investigations is unclear; however, more and more lawyers keep raising their voice to take actions in the opioid crisis. According to a statement released by the Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office, the coalition includes “a majority” of attorneys general. Maybe this incertitude comes from the very own nature of the investigation. As well, it is important to consider that each state has its own rules, parameters, and laws and they might prefer to take actions in different ways.

“I want to know whether drug companies, seeking higher profits, have recklessly and unlawfully pushed addictive opioids,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan

However, at least some attorneys general have publically expressed their support and willingness to participate in the joint investigation, for example, the ones from Texas (Ken Paxton), Massachusetts (Maura Healey) and Illinois (Lisa Madigan). Recently Vermont’s attorney general, TJ Donovan, joined the coalition. He said that the opioid epidemic had been a priority since he was the attorney in Chittenden County. As well, he commented that the opioid crisis needs a comprehensive approach and that it makes sense to collaborate and communicate when there are common interests. In Vermont, there were 106 opioid-related fatalities last year.

As well, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announced he would be working too with this coalition. Wilson believes that facing this epidemic requires a combined effort, not only between Attorneys General, but between state lawmakers, patients, doctors, and companies. He would like lawmakers to pass a law that forces doctors to prescribe drugs digitally, so prescription pads are no longer used. He acknowledges that drugs are created for a useful and particular issue but to have more profits companies try to sell them for things they were not originally created for, and that leads to unhealthy habits.

Source: Click on Detroit