Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has announced he is joining the bipartisan coalition of attorneys general nationwide investigating whether drug manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids. We wrote about this investigation in another section of this issue. General Marshall said:
Alabama has disproportionately suffered from prescription painkiller abuse and I have joined with a majority of my fellow Attorneys General to investigate what role opioid manufacturers may have had in creating or prolonging the opioid abuse epidemic.
Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths nationwide in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. Alabama was among the top five states reporting opioid overdose death increases from 2014 to 2015. The attorneys general are currently issuing subpoenas for documents and testimony to determine the appropriate course of action in addressing opioid abuse.
The Washington Post has reported that state and local leaders nationwide are studying tactics used in the tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s, as they try to claw back billions of dollars from the companies that make and sell the powerful painkillers. That report stated:
More than 20 U.S. states, counties and cities have sued firms including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma Inc., and McKesson Corp. in the past year, claiming they fueled a public-health crisis with misleading marketing and aggressive distribution of opioids. Attorneys general in Alaska and Tennessee are also considering lawsuits as their health and legal budgets are stretched to a breaking point by the surge in addictions, overdoses and crime.
It’s a strategy cigarette manufacturers will recognize: Two decades ago, they faced similar allegations as states and local governments sued, saying they’d shouldered huge costs for treating diseases blamed on tobacco.
Last month, Ohio sued five drugmakers, alleging they made false and deceptive statements about the risks and benefits of prescription opioids. And Nassau County, New York, this week sued drugmakers, distributors and doctors, saying it has had to increase spending on health care and law enforcement as a result of the epidemic.
It’s difficult to say how successful such legal action will be. The companies who make and distribute opioids defend the drugs’ safety and say they work actively to keep them from being abused.
Attorney General Marshall is to be commended for his office’s involvement in this nationwide effort. Alabama has a vested interest in this matter because of the massive problems being caused in our state. We wish the Attorney General and his staff the very best in this important undertaking.
Source: Jeremy Gray – Jgray@al.com
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