Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin announced that a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general seeks documents and information from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids as part of multistate investigations into the nationwide opioid epidemic. This information will enable the attorneys general to evaluate whether manufacturers and distributors engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids. There are 41 attorneys general participating in the multistate investigations.
Nationwide and in Rhode Island, opioids - prescription and illicit - are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015. In Rhode Island, 336 individuals died from drug overdoses last year.
"We know all too well the devastation and loss from the opioid abuse, addiction, and overdose crisis in this country. It tears families apart and results all too often in death. This epidemic did not start in a vacuum, and we must look at every aspect of the supply chain – starting with the manufacturers and distributors - to determine how we got here in order to effectively solve the epidemic," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "We need to know if and to what level the manufacturers and distributors are responsible for this epidemic and the needless loss of life."
Today's announcement represents a dramatic expansion and coordination of the investigations by the attorneys general into the nationwide opioid epidemic. A clear majority of the states' chief legal officers are now pooling resources and coordinating across party lines to address the most pressing public health crisis affecting our country, and doing so with a broad focus on multiple entities at both the manufacturer and distributor levels.
Attorney General Kilmartin is on the executive committee of the multistate investigations, which are organized into subgroups focusing on manufacturers and distributors. Rhode Island is taking a leadership role in the subgroup focusing on opioid distributors and is also participating with respect to the investigation of manufacturers.
The investigations by the attorneys general is now targeting the following pharmaceutical manufacturers and their related entities: • Endo International plc • Janssen Pharmaceuticals • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd./Cephalon Inc. • Allergan Inc.
A previously announced investigation by a coalition of attorneys general focused exclusively on Purdue Pharma. In addition to extending the investigation to these additional manufacturers, the attorneys general have also served a supplemental investigative demand on Purdue Pharma.
The attorneys general are also seeking documents and information about distribution practices from the following opioid distribution companies, who together manage approximately 90 percent of the nation's opioid distribution: • AmerisourceBergen • Cardinal Health • McKesson
In civil investigative demand letters sent to the manufacturers and distributors, the attorneys general gave the companies until October 18, 2017 to provide a series of documents. The attorneys general are using these investigative tools 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.
"Rhode Island has been in the eye of the storm since this crisis began, which is why I believe it is important for this office to take a leadership role into these investigations," added Kilmartin. "We will pursue every bit of information and scrap of evidence, and if we find any violations of law or culpability by the manufacturers and distributors, we will bring all our resources to bear to hold these companies accountable for their role in this deadly epidemic."
"As I have said time and time again, it is my sincere belief that to truly address substance use disorders and the overdose epidemic that is shattering the lives of families across our state, we must employ a comprehensive legal and public health strategy that includes criminal and civil consequences for those who peddle these drugs knowing the lethal consequences, educating the public on the dangers of substance use, and to provide the necessary services and treatment for those suffering from this disease," concluded Kilmartin.