Attorneys General Look To Stick It To Drug Companies Over Addiction Crisis

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A bipartisan group of attorneys general from a majority of states are joining together to investigate if deceptive advertising by drug manufacturers fueled the opioid addiction crisis.

Attorneys general from Nevada, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania announced Thursday they will probe marketing and sales practices used by pharmaceutical companies to distribute their painkillers. It is not yet clear how many states are involved in the investigation, but an official from Nevada said a majority of state attorneys general are participating, reports CNN.

Officials said they want to know “what role, if any,” drug makers played in causing the opioid epidemic, which claimed 33,000 lives in 2015. The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.

“I want to know whether drug companies, seeking higher profits, have recklessly and unlawfully pushed addictive opioids,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan told CNN. “We must hold drug companies accountable for their role in the epidemic levels of opioid overdoses and deaths in Illinois and around the country.”

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery is one of the leaders of the investigation.

There are more prescriptions for opioids in Tennessee than there are people, highlighting the high rates of addiction in the state. The heroin overdose death rate across the state spiked 43.5 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. The law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is spearheading cases in New York, as well as two lawsuits in California, two in West Virginia, one in Chicago and one in Washington state.

Purdue Pharma, which often comes under the harshest scrutiny, says they are committed to solving the opioid addiction crisis. A representative of the drug maker previously noted their medication OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the prescription opioid market in the country.

Officials in Ohio joined the group of states suing the major pharmaceutical companies May 31 for fueling the opioid epidemic by allegedly deceiving the public about addiction risks.

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