RICHMOND (July 25, 2019)— Earlier this week, Attorney General Herring sat down with the Washington Post to talk about the role pharmaceutical companies had in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis in Virginia, what he has been doing to combat the epidemic, and further action he plans to take to hold these companies accountable for their actions.
The Washington Post has been doing an in-depth analysis of the opioid crisisin America, including an analysis of newly released data from the DEA’s opioid database that shows that two Virginia cities—Norton (306 pills per person) and Martinsville (242 pills per person)—received the most opioid pain pills per capita in the country between 2006 and 2012. During that period, drug companies put approximately 76 billion pills into communities across the country while approximately 100,000 Americans died of an opioid overdose.
“The numbers are just staggering, and the data is a real reminder of the scope of this crisis as well as where its roots are. The roots of this crisis go through the American medicine cabinets all the way to the boardrooms and marketing offices of pharmaceutical companies and they need to be held accountable,”said Attorney General Herring. “These companies flooded America with billions of pills. They developed elaborate schemes to sell more and more pills with sales incentives, with marketing strategies. They often used deception and lies to prescribe more and more pills, and the manufacturers and distributors of opioids need to know the party’s over and we’re coming after them.”
The opioid crisis has been one of Attorney General Herring’s top priorities. For more than five years he has worked to address the epidemic witha multifaceted approach that includes enforcement, education, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources, made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth, and won numerous awards for his efforts to prevent drug abuse, including his award winning documentary “Heroin: The Hardest Hit” and its companion website, www.HardestHitVA.com.
In June 2018, Attorney General Herring filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the creator of Oxycontin, for their role in helping to create and prolong the opioid epidemic in Virginia. The lawsuit was filed in Tazewell County, Virginia in June 2018 and remains active. As part of his suit he revealed that Purdue pushed nearly 150 million opioid pills and patches into the Commonwealth of Virginia between 2008 to 2017.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Herring’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unithelped secure the largest payment ever from a case involving an opioid when Reckitt Benckiser Group agreed to pay $1.4 billion to resolve allegations of fraudulent marketing of the opioid treatment medication Suboxone. This followed a complex, multiyear lawsuit led by Attorney General Herring’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.