Citing what she called “staggering” statistics, including Arkansas’ #2 ranking for overall opioid prescriptions, and #1 ranking in the number of teens abusing prescription painkillers, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today that her office will bring on extra help from private firms to investigate the corporate manufacturers of opioid drugs, with an eye toward potential litigation or prosecutions.

According to data released in December by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Arkansas is currently second only to Alabama in the overall number of opioid prescriptions, with an average of 114.6 prescriptions per 100 residents. The national average is 66 prescriptions per 100 people. Greene County in Northeast Arkansas has the highest opioid prescription rate, at 177 per 100 residents.

Saying the investigation will be complex and will take significant time, Rutledge said her office has entered into contracts with several firms to assist in the probe, including Dover, Dixon, Horne PLLC of Little Rock, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP of Seattle, Mike Moore Law Firm and Davidson Bowie, PLLC of Mississippi and McGowan Hood Felder of South Carolina. The firms drawn from outside Arkansas currently represent other states suing pharmaceutical companies.

At today’s press conference, Rutledge would not specify which pharmaceutical companies would be investigated, what the litmus test would be to move from investigation to litigation or prosecution, or how long the investigation phase was expected to take.

Last month, the Association of Arkansas Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League sued multiple drug makers over opioid addiction in Arkansas, with defendants in the Assoc. of Arkansas Counties suit including Purdue Pharma, Johnson and Johnson, McKesson Corporation, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cardinal Health, Inc. and others.

*Davidson Bowie, PLLC represents the State of Arkansas in the ongoing opioid litigation.*

While the opioid crisis has made headlines across the country little has been done at a federal level that could truely make a dent in the nation-wide epidemic. And thus, the industry has widely ignored the issue, paying nominal fines along the way and placating consumers with statements about their willingness to address the issue.

The biggest victim of the opioid crisis, is of course, the patients who get addicted to these drugs. At the same time the crisis could seemingly turn a number of companies on their heads much in the way that big tobacco suits of the late 1990s forever changed the tobacco industry.

Drug companies have been asked to come to negotiating table to discuss potential settlement as 41 states have demanded documents over allegations for unfair sales practices, Medicaid fraud and creating a public nuisance, among other things. So far, not much has come of these suits, but that could change.

Ohio is ground zero, where ten people die every day from opioids leaving behind families and friends and creating holes in cities and towns in the Buckeye state that don’t heal easily. And there is a cost beyond the human. Children moved from addicted parents to foster care cost $45 million a year. Indeed, half the kids in foster care come from parents addicted to opioids. Counseling and medication costs $216 million a year. Treating kids who are born drug dependent adds another $130 million. Ohio estimates that work lost because of the opioid crisis, fatal overdoses, and medical expenses costs $4 billion a year. From 2011 to 2015 3.8 billion doses of opioid meds were prescribed in Ohio. The state only has 11.6 million residents. In 2016, it lost 4,050 of those residents to overdoses of opioids, heroin and fentanyl, a dangerous synthetic opioid, according to Ohio’s own data. 

*Davidson Bowie, PLLC represents the State of Ohio in the ongoing opioid litigation.*

Mike Moore, a pioneer of cigarette litigation, is encouraging states to sue drug companies over the painkiller epidemic.

The legal front widening against makers of opioid painkillers has something in common with landmark tobacco litigation of the 1990s: attorney Mike Moore.

As Mississippi’s attorney general in 1994, Mr. Moore filed the first state lawsuit against tobacco companies, saying they harmed public-health systems by misrepresenting smoking’s dangers. He helped marshal the subsequent spate of State litigation and then the talks that led to a $246 billion settlement.

*Davidson Bowie, PLLC represents the State of Mississippi in the ongoing opioid litigation.*