ST. GEORGE — As a nationwide overdose crisis continues to claim thousands of lives, a bipartisan coalition of state attorneys general are broadening their investigation into the opioid industry and seeking documents and information from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids.
“Far too many of our friends, family and neighbors have fallen victims to the devastating plague of opioid addiction,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement Tuesday. “These drugs have taken many lives and ruined countless more. We will win this fight but need everyone’s help to do it. We will do everything possible to protect the ones we love.”
As opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999 across the nation, 41 attorneys general from U.S. states and territories are participating and involved in various parts of the civil investigation.
Reyes announced Tuesday that they had served subpoenas requesting information from five companies that make powerful prescription painkillers and demanded information from three distributors.
“This information will enable the attorneys general to evaluate whether these businesses engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale and distribution of opioids,” Reyes said, adding:
The attorneys general seek to determine what role the opioid manufacturers and distributors may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic and determine the appropriate course of action to help resolve this crisis.
Investigative subpoenas – known as civil investigative demands – were served for documents and information on Endo, Janssen, Teva/Cephalon, Allergan and their related entities, as well as a supplemental civil investigative demand on Purdue Pharma, Reyes said in his statement.
Likewise, information demand letters were sent to opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson requesting documents about their opioid distribution business.
Opioids – prescription and illicit – are the main driver of drug overdose deaths nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, including 646 in Utah.
Mark Steinagel, director of Utah’s Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing at the Department of Commerce, said the United States drug system was designed to test, manufacture, distribute, prescribe and dispense drugs along multiple checkpoints established to protect the public.
“As a state agency tasked with licensing professionals who prescribe and dispense opioid prescriptions, we are very concerned if any of those checkpoints have failed,” Steinagel said in a statement. “DOPL appreciates the partnership with Utah Attorney General’s Office in investigating this serious matter.”
The state of Utah is actively addressing the opioid epidemic on multiple fronts, Reyes said. This action is the latest in Utah’s multifaceted effort to end the current opioid addiction crisis.
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