As communities nationwide grapple with opioid addiction, Texas and a coalition of 40 other states has served investigative subpoenas and other requests to eight companies that manufacture or distribute prescription painkillers, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday.
It’s the latest development in an investigation unveiled in June. Paxton and his counterparts are trying to determine whether opioid manufacturers played a role in creating or prolonging what has become a national epidemic.
The attorneys general served investigative subpoenas to drugmakers Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals’ Cephalon, Allergan and their related entities, and they served a supplemental subpoena to Purdue Pharma, Paxton’s office said. The states also sent “information demand letters” to three opioid distributers: AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.
“The goal of this phase of our investigation is to collect enough information so that the multi-state coalition can effectively evaluate whether manufacturers and distributors engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids,” Paxton said in a statement. “We’ll determine an appropriate course of action once it’s determined what role these companies may have played in creating or prolonging the opioid crisis.”
Opioids are a family of drugs including prescription painkillers like hydrocodone, as well as illicit drugs like heroin.
Prescription and illegal opioids account for more than 60 percent of overdose deaths in the United States, a toll that has quadrupled over the past two decades, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Drug overdose deaths in 2015 far outnumbered deaths from auto accidents or guns.
Texas saw 1,186 opioid-related deaths in 2015, while the nation as a whole had 33,000 such deaths that year. Researchers have flagged opioids as one possible factor in Texas’ staggering rise in women’s deaths during and shortly after pregnancy.
In teaming up to probe drug companies, some experts suggest the states are following a playbook similar to one used during the 1990s to sue tobacco companies for their role in fueling a costly health crisis — an effort that resulted in a settlement yielding more than $ 15 billion for Texas alone.