(CN) – At least 16 states teamed up Thursday to investigate whether pharmaceutical manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of prescription opioids.
Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths nationwide in 2015, with the number of opioid overdoses quadrupling since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With the death toll having rocked every state in the nation, the attorneys general from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, and Wisconsin released similarly worded announcements Thursday about their plans to take action.
Though none of the states identified any targets of their investigations by name, they said they were investigating what role, if any, opioid manufacturers may have played in exacerbating or prolonging the nation’s opioid epidemic.
“Three out of four heroin users started by abusing prescription opioids, and our ongoing investigation is going straight into the boardrooms of pharmaceutical companies,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel called the crisis “a result of failings across the entire health care system.”
The press releases come more than two weeks after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed a lawsuit against numerous manufacturers of prescription pain medicines.
Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Allergan are all named as defendants to that action.
The suit says the manufacturers used sales representatives and advertising to downplay the risks associated with opiates, which has led to a rapid increase in prescription drug and heroin addiction across Ohio.
In September 2016, 43 attorneys general filed an antitrust lawsuit against the makers of Suboxone, a prescription drug used to treat opioid addiction, over allegations that the companies engaged in a scheme to block generic competitors, forcing people to pay artificially high prices at a time when the companies reaped more than $3 billion in profits.