Oklahoma attorney general leads charge against opioid epidemic

Oklahoma is one of four states suing the nation’s leading manufacturers of opioid pain medication.

Attorney General Mike Hunter filed the lawsuit in June, claiming deceptive marketing has fueled the state’s deadly epidemic. In the last three years, 3,000 overdose deaths have been reported in Oklahoma.

“If Oklahoma’s not ground zero, it’s close,” Hunter said. “We got to this point, honestly, because of the greed and profiteering and deception by drug manufacturers. And that’s the basis of our lawsuit.”

The lawsuit claims opioid manufacturers lied over the last decade about how effective and addictive the drugs are — all to make a profit.

“The manufacturers funded a lot of pseudo-science,” Hunter said. “Honestly, paid a lot of people for their opinions and began to advance the view among prescribers in this country that opioids in fact were not addictive and were safe to prescribe for chronic pain issues that patients have.”

The companies deny the allegations, saying they recognize that opioid abuse is a serious public health issue.

“We hope to, on behalf of the state’s taxpayers, recoup the billions of dollars that have been expended because of opioid abuse,” Hunter said. “And I said billions. I didn’t say millions.”

The lawyers serving as lead counsel, representing Oklahoma, have been personally impacted and have lost loved ones to opioids.”

“Mike lost a brilliant, beautiful young niece to an opioid overdose. His law partner, Reggie Witten, a very successful trial lawyer, tragically lost his son at the age of 22 to an opioid overdose,” Hunter said. “We’re not only getting great lawyers here, we’re getting great Oklahomans who are committed to dealing with this in a decisive way that holds these companies accountable and begins to help the state heal from this epidemic.”

Hunter also helped form Oklahoma’s Commission on Opioid Abuse to come up with solutions and policies that deal with addiction. The first meeting took place two weeks ago.

“We’ll start our efforts to come up with policy recommendations for the legislature and the governor so that we’ve got the tools to deal with this epidemic,” Hunter said. “They hope to have those recommendations by the end of the year. The state and the federal government have to invest in treatment programs.

“They have to address how to fund drug courts in a better and more comprehensive way than they’re currently being…

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