On September 19, 2017, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced at a news conference that Attorneys General from 41 states have joined together to investigate major pharmaceutical companies over the production and distribution of opioids. The joint investigation was initiated by the service of subpoenas on five pharmaceutical manufacturers: Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries/Cephalon, and Allergan. Subpoenas were also served on three large pharmaceutical distributors: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.

The creation of this multistate investigative partnership is in response to the growing nationwide opioid epidemic, and follows a recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the creation of the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. Also, several of the states not involved in this coalition – Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina – have already filed individual lawsuits against prescription drug makers and distributors, which, along with the creation of this multistate coalition, demonstrates the increased focus by state governments on fighting the opioid epidemic.

At his news conference, Attorney General Schneiderman explained that while much of the epidemic has been the result of people using illegal heroin, many people begin using heroin only after first becoming addicted to opioids from medications prescribed by physicians. Many such physicians have now explained that their decisions to prescribe opioids in the past were based on the pharmaceutical companies’ assurances that prescribing opioid medications, such as Oxycodone, Hydrocodone, and Codeine, would not lead to addiction problems.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, one of the 41 State Attorneys General in the investigative coalition, stated: “My investigations have shown that drug companies pressure physicians into prescribing powerful, addictive drugs without regard for the law or patients’ well-being.” As such, the coalition of State Attorneys General is hoping to better understand what role the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing and distribution methods may have played in the opioid epidemic, and to analyze whether the industry should have any responsibility to help pay for the damage caused by the epidemic.

The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent healthcare clients of all types and sizes in government investigations and a wide variety of other regulatory and compliance matters. For any questions, or if we can assist you in connection with such a matter, please contact us at (404) 262-6505 or sgrubman@cglawfirm.com.