AG Healey Expands National Investigation Into Opioid Sales, Demands Documents From Drug Manufacturers and Distributors
Bipartisan Coalition of 39 Attorneys General Investigating Allegations of Deceptive Marketing by Manufacturers of Branded Opioids and Improper Tracking and Reporting by Distributors
BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey announced today that her office has expanded an ongoing investigation into the marketing and sale of opioids to include multiple manufacturers of branded painkillers and three major drug distributors.
As part of a 39-member bipartisan coalition of attorneys general, AG Healey is investigating whether drug-makers sought to increase profits by misrepresenting the dangers of prescription painkillers and ignoring the public health risks of spiking opioid sales.
AG Healey is investigating the following companies:
Purdue Pharma AmerisourceBergen
Endo Cardinal Health
The coalition of attorneys general is using its investigative tools, including subpoenas for documents, to determine what role the opioid manufacturers and distributors may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic.
“We deserve to hear from these drug-makers what they knew about the addictive and deadly nature of opioid painkillers, and whether they misrepresented those risks in order to increase corporate profits,” said AG Healey. “We are expanding our investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors to help uncover the roots of this deadly epidemic and protect American families and communities ravaged by this public health crisis.”
This expanded investigation builds upon AG Healey’s ongoing work with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general nationwide, announced in June 2017, to evaluate whether manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids. AG Healey’s office is leading multiple facets of the expanded multistate investigation. The previously announced investigation focused exclusively on Purdue Pharma and has now been extended to the other manufacturers.
The attorneys general are also seeking documents and information about distribution practices from McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen, who collectively manage approximately 90 percent of the nation’s opioid distribution. The investigation into distributors centers on whether these companies properly tracked and reported suspicious orders of controlled substances.
Nationwide and in Massachusetts, opioid overdose deaths have skyrocketed. In 2015, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths across the country. Opioid overdoses have quadrupled nationwide since 1999.
In Massachusetts, opioid overdoses kill on average more than five people every day. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) estimates that more than 2,000 people – the highest number ever recorded in the state and a 17 percent increase from 2015 – died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016. Massachusetts has lost more than 5,000 people to opioid overdoses in the last three years.
AG Healey’s leadership in this ongoing national investigation is another way her office is working to address the addiction crisis in Massachusetts. Earlier this year, AG Healey and the GE Foundation announced a $2 million public-private initiative named Project Here. Starting this Fall, Project Here will provide substance use prevention resources to every public middle school in Massachusetts.
This past spring, the AG’s Office distributed $700,000 in settlement funding directly to Massachusetts school districts, nonprofits and community organizations to fund prevention programming through its Youth Opioid Prevention Grant Program.
AG Healey recently announced that her office is committing a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to a new Fentanyl Strike Force. In partnership with the Massachusetts State Police, the task force will target heroin and fentanyl traffickers and dismantle their distribution networks across Massachusetts. The funds will expand the AG’s Office’s own drug enforcement work – which has increased sixfold since 2015 – and build enhanced partnerships with federal, state, and local law enforcement.
The AG’s Office also worked with the Legislature and DPH to create a state fund that allows our cities and towns to buy Narcan at a heavily discounted price, and is continuing to work to keep it as a resource for as long as it is needed.
The AG’s Office continues to examine a host of other activities and practices that contribute to the opioid crisis, from criminal drug trafficking to barriers to substance use treatment.