Attorneys general around the country are now exploring whether the pharmaceutical industry is at fault for marketing and selling opioids that have spawned a deadly epidemic. Today, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said Maryland is in on the fight, too.
“The opioid epidemic has been devastating to communities and families across Maryland,” Frosh said in a statement. “Addiction to opiates is dangerous and it’s our goal to combat the opioid epidemic from all angles.”
Frosh didn’t get into specifics, other than saying his office is working with others states’ top lawyers in “looking into whether unlawful marketing practices have played a role in contributing to the epidemic.”
Pressed for additional details, a spokeswoman from his office wrote in an email, “Unfortunately, because it is an investigation, we cannot comment any further than what was provided in the release.”
The list of states involved in the bipartisan investigation is growing by the hour: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia are all involved. Tennessee says it’s leading the effort.
Each state’s attorney general put out a release questioning whether pharmaceutical companies have helped aid the deadly scourge through marketing and sales tactics. Some, including Texas and Massachusetts, mentioned they’re using multiple legal methods, “including subpoenas for documents and testimony,” in their probes.
All states involved have something in common: their residents are dying at alarming rates from opioid overdoses. Maryland is suffering greatly: intoxication deaths jumped 66 percent last year – a record increase – with 1,856 of the 2,089 fatalities involving some form of opioids.
Nationally, the drugs were involved in more than 33,000 deaths in 2015, a fourfold increase from 1999.
Bloomberg reports more than 20 states, counties and cities have sued drug firms in the past year, some of them key players like Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and McKesson Corp.
Gov. Larry Hogan has promised an additional $50 million for law enforcement and prevention and recovery programs to fight addiction around the state over the next five years. In March, he called a state of emergency over the matter, saying, “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way that we would treat any other state emergency.”
States have declined to name any targets in their coordinated investigation, citing its ongoing nature.