A broad coalition of state attorneys general from across the country have partnered together on a bipartisan committee to probe the marketing and sales practices of opioid manufacturers. The aim is to investigate what role manufacturers may have played in contributing to the current opioid epidemic, says a CNN report.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 33,000 lives were lost to opioid overdose in 2015, nearly half of those deaths involving a prescription opioid. In fact, three out of four new heroin users start with legal narcotics, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone. These legal painkillers are chemically similar or derived from the poppy plant, like heroin. Opioid overdoses have quadrupled in the United States since 1999. Drug overdoses, most of them from opioids, are the leading cause of accidental death, killing more people than cars or guns.
Announcements from some of the coalition members did not detail specific actions their committee would take or specify which companies they would be taking action against. However, press statements said they would use subpoenas to ascertain documents and testimony. It is unclear when those actions will begin.
The exact number of states participating in the investigation is not clear and that may be due in part because of the early nature of the investigation. Also, because each state has its own set of laws, each may ultimately choose to file complaints under different sets of statutes.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, “I want to know whether drug companies, seeking higher profits, have recklessly and unlawfully pushed addictive opioids.” She added, “We must hold drug companies accountable for their role in the epidemic levels of opioid overdoses and deaths in Illinois and around the country.”