Targets Of Investigation
UPPER DUBLIN, PA – Surrounded by parents who have lost children to overdoses and local law enforcement, Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced a major expansion of investigations of manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids that now involve 41 Attorneys General.
“To any parent, family or friend of someone lost to addiction, we hear you,” Attorney General Shapiro said at a news conference at an Upper Dublin High School athletic field in Montgomery County. “I’m announcing today a major step forward in our investigation into the manufacturing, marketing, sale and distribution of opioids – a class of drugs so dangerous the Centers for Disease Control warns they are “just as addictive as heroin.’”
Nationwide and in Pennsylvania, opioids are the main driver of fatal drug overdoses. Pennsylvania had 4,642 fatal drug overdoses in 2016 – a 37 percent increase over 2015. Thirteen Pennsylvanians die every day from overdoses. Eighty percent of persons suffering from heroin addiction began by abusing prescription drugs.
A total of 7.3 million opioid prescription drugs were dispensed in Pennsylvania last year.
Today, Attorney General Shapiro and a bipartisan group of Attorneys General from coast to coast disclosed new details of the progress of their coordinated investigation of manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids:
Identifying the opioid manufacturers under investigation
Shapiro said the attorneys general are seeking documents and information about business practices from companies responsible for distributing nearly 90 percent of the nation’s opioids.
Identifying the opioid distributors under investigation
The Attorneys General have served subpoenas for documents and information – known as Civil Investigative Demands – on the pharmaceutical manufacturers. The multistate investigation has also sent information demand letters to the distributors under investigation.
“This multi-state group of attorneys general is the best public-interest law firm in America, and the attorneys in the Public Protection Division of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General are at the helm of this national investigation,” Attorney General Shapiro said.
“We have the resources, expertise and legal authority to take on this fight, and we aren’t letting up,” Shapiro said. “We’re following the evidence wherever it leads so we can change behavior and save lives. Make no mistake: if the law was broken, this team will find it, and we will take action to change the course of this epidemic.”
These actions represent a dramatic expansion and coordination by 41 Attorneys General into the nationwide epidemic. While some states and municipalities have taken individual legal actions, the overwhelming majority of the country’s Attorneys General, from both parties and all parts of the country, have agreed to work together to investigate the marketing distribution and sale of opioids, and to take coordinated legal action as appropriate.
“As we have shown in other cases, broad, bipartisan coalitions of attorneys general can impact national problems through litigation and settlements – more effectively at times than when acting alone,” Shapiro said. “This epidemic is a national problem requiring a coordinated response to make the citizens of our states safer and to hold the appropriate parties accountable.”
Shapiro was joined at today’s news conference by Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, Hatboro Police Chief Jim Gardner, and Candy Decker, whose son, John, a scholastic lacrosse star, became addicted to prescription painkillers following a sports injury, gravitated to heroin, and suffered a fatal overdose. Joe Lubowitz, an Upper Dublin graduate in long-term recovery from addiction who works as an advocate, attended, along with a crowd of other advocates and persons in long-term recovery.
“A group of most of the attorneys general in this country, working together to investigate the pharmaceutical industry’s role in this epidemic, is a key component to achieve lasting solutions that work and help our citizens,” District Attorney Steele said.
“As I promised the day I took office in January, we are confronting this epidemic on our street corners, in doctors’ offices and hospitals, and now – in the boardrooms of pharmaceutical companies,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “We will follow the facts and the law, without fear or favor, and hold the responsible persons and companies accountable for the tragic loss of life and damage suffered by so many families across our Commonwealth.”
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