Rutledge ramps ip investigation of opioid manufacturers
AG says, ‘ opioid manufac- turers have profited substantially from the sale and distribution of opioids in Arkansas’
LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced that she has retained outside counsel to assist staff lawyers in investigating and potentially prosecuting certain pharmaceutical companies that have contributed to the opioid epidemic.
This investigation is an important step to stopping the rampant abuse and misuse of prescription medications. Arkansas has been disproportionately impacted by the opioid crisis with the number of drug overdose deaths in the state increasing from just over 100 in 1999 to more than 400 in 2016.
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control reports Arkansas has the second highest prescribing rate in the country, enough for each person in the state to have more than one opioid prescription in his or her name. Arkansas is also ranked highest in the nation for misuse of painkillers by students, ages 12-17 at 6.2 percent; the national average of 4.7 percent “Many of these opioid manufacturers have profited substantially from the sale and distribution of opioids in Arkansas and should be held accountable for remedying the crisis they created,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “The identified law firms have been selected for their specialized expertise and resources to supplement the work of the staff attorneys so as not to take away from ongoing, important cases the office handles on a daily basis.”
Rutledge has entered into a contract with representatives in the states of Ohio, Louisiana and Mississippi in lawsuits against the opioid manufacturers. The firms have been retained on a contingency fee basis according to Arkansas laws that allow the Attorney General’s office to supplement its own staff and resources with outside law firms. If successful in pursuing claims against opioid manufacturers who caused this crisis, the law firms will be paid according to Arkansas law. If the State is not successful, the firms will not get paid.
Today’s announcement is just the newest step in a multifaceted approach to solving the opioid crisis. In the fall, Rutledge launched a new program called Prescription for Life, a first-in-the-nation education initiative featuring a digital platform offered at no cost to all high school students in the State to help them understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse. To date, it has been launched in 32 schools and reached over 2,100 students. Each year, Rutledge has partnered with a number of agencies in hosting the Arkansas Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit. The summit serves as a free training and educational opportunity for law enforcement officers, medical professionals, pharmacists and educators, and gives an opportunity to hear from experts regarding prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment.
And in addition to the semi-annual Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Rutledge began partnering in 2016 with local law enforcement across the state to provide prescription drug take back boxes at every mobile office the Attorney General hosts yearly in all 75 counties which has already resulted in nearly 500 pounds of prescription drugs being safely disposed and out of reach of children and those with addictions.
From Jessica Ray