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.*