Thursday, June 22, 2017

Attorney General Beshear joins multi-state effort to investigate role of drug manufacturers in opioid crisis

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Attorney General Andy Beshear announced June 21 that he is working with attorneys general from across the nation to investigate whether drug manufacturers contributed to the opioid epidemic by illegally marketing and selling opioids, according to a news release.

Through May 2016, 1,248 Kentuckians had died from a drug overdose, according to the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. This five-month death toll was almost as many as all of the overdose deaths in Kentucky in 2015: 1,297.

"We know that we had 3.5 billion doses of opioids prescribed in Kentucky last year and that is enough for 79 pills per man, woman and child. That's huge," Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill, told Kentucky Health News in March.

Moser was explaining House Bill 333, which imposed harsher drug penalties and limited painkiller prescriptions to a three-day supply if prescribed for acute pain. Moser, sponsor of the bill, is the director of the Northern Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy.

“The single greatest threat to Kentucky is our drug epidemic,” Beshear said in a news release. “The crisis is killing our family and friends – it is the main source of crime in our communities and it is preventing job and economic growth. This is the crisis of our times, and finding a solution requires everyone working together.”

The announcement was made following a lawsuit filed in Ohio earlier this year against Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon and Allergan. The suit accuses the drug manufacturers of "misrepresenting the risks of prescription opioids and helping to fuel an addiction epidemic," NPR reports in an interview with Ohio's attorney general.

Beshear's office previously settled a lawsuit, filed by predecessor Greg Stumbo, against Purdue Pharma over OxyContin. The $8 million settlement was given directly to 15 substance-abuse treatment centers throughout Kentucky.

From a different drug-company settlement, Beshear's office allocated $2 million to expand and enhance Rocket Docket programs that expedite drug cases and allow select defendants rapid access to substance abuse treatment.

Beshear has also joined a multi-state lawsuit alleging the maker of Suboxone, a drug used for treating opioid addiction, tried to monopolize the market.

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