A bipartisan group of state attorneys general is investigating the marketing of prescription painkillers and the causes of widespread opioid addiction, the Wall Street Journal reports. The probe, which includes a majority of states, is expected to be announced in the coming days. It is focused on manufacturers of prescription painkillers, and will target the allegedly deceptive marketing of the drugs. The full range of targets of the investigation isn’t yet clear and could change. Widespread addiction to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin, is causing nationwide alarm and driving U.S. overdose death rates to all-time highs. The public health crisis has become a major political issue, with voters calling for more government action to combat the problem.
Public health officials have long blamed aggressive painkiller marketing and lax prescribing for causing the crisis, which began in the late 1990s. Many people who became addicted by taking powerful opioid painkillers progressed to heroin and other illicit opioid drugs. Last month, Ohio filed a lawsuit against five pharmaceutical companies, alleging they fueled widespread addiction by misrepresenting the addictive risks of their painkillers. The lawsuit closely mirrored one filed by Mississippi in 2015. Both suits target parent companies and subsidiaries, including Purdue Pharma L.P.; Johnson & Johnson; Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.; Allergan PLC; and Endo International PLC’s Endo Health Solutions unit. Several of the firms have denied the charges.