Drug overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl skyrocketed in 2016. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
ALBANY, N.Y. — Attorneys general across the country are demanding information from pharmaceutical companies in an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse.
A bipartisan coalition of 41 attorneys general said Tuesday they have jointly filed subpoenas to major opioid distributors and manufacturers as they investigate how prescription drugs are marketed and distributed, as well as the impact it has had on the national opioid epidemic.
“Too often, prescription opioids are the on-ramp to addiction for millions of Americans. We’re committed to getting to the bottom of a broken system that has fueled the epidemic and taken far too many lives,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overdoses from prescription opioids has more than quadrupled in the last 18 years.
Between 2010 and 2015, opioid-related overdoses in New York rose 71%, a review in April by the Rockefeller Institute of Government found.
The subpoenas were served to Endo International; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd./Cephalon Inc. and Allergan Inc.
Distributors who were subpoenaed were AmerisourceBergen; Cardinal Health and McKesson.
In June, three Tennessee prosecutors took aim at drugmakers who supplied the opiates that addicted millions, using the state’s long-ridiculed and rarely used “crack tax” law.
The district attorneys general for three east Tennessee judicial districts collectively representing nine counties filed a lawsuit in Sullivan County Circuit Court against opioid drugmakers Purdue Pharma, Mallinckrodt and Endo Pharmaceuticals.
The lawsuit seeks to hold the drugmakers responsible for the opioid epidemic in Tennessee by labeling them as drug dealers and accusing them of lying about the addictive properties of opiates and aggressively pushing the drugs as miracle cures for all manner of pain.
New York has a new law enforcement effort to combat New York’s heroin and opioid distribution networks, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced on Thursday. Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic, SURGE, Initiative, was created to target gangs and individuals who deal heroin and opioids, specifically in suburban and upstate communities. The attorney general’s Organized Crime Task Force will oversee the initiative. Lindsey Riback, Albany Bureau
It also names as plaintiffs in the lawsuit “Baby Doe,” a boy born in March 2015 addicted to opiates because his mother, identified as “Mary Doe,” was an opiate addict and bought her drugs in Sullivan County, one of the three judicial districts represented in the legal action.
“It is now beyond reasonable question that the manufacturer defendants’ fraud caused Mary Doe and thousands of others in Tennessee to become addicted to opioids — an addiction that, thanks to their fraudulent conduct, was all but certain to occur,” the lawsuit stated.
Tennessee logs more opiate prescriptions per capita than any state in the nation except West Virginia.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of similar suits filed in Ohio, Illinois, Mississippi, New York and California. The Cherokee Nation in May sued in tribal court. Another lawsuit filed in Washington in January alleged that Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, knew the drug was being sold on the streets and collected millions for it and did nothing to stop it.
Contributing: Jamie Satterfield, Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel. Follow the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle on Twitter: @DandC