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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont Attorney General’s Office Opioid Multi-State Investigation

January 18, 2018

CONTACT: Natalie Silver, Executive Assistant, 802 595-8679

Ninety-one Americans die daily from an opioid overdose per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”); 40% of those deaths involve a prescription opioid. As we are all painfully aware, Vermont is a part of this statistic.

In 2016, 112 opioid-related deaths occurred in the State of Vermont, with 106 being reported as accidental and undetermined. In 2014, then Governor Peter Shumlin focused his annual State of the State address on the opioid crisis in Vermont, referring to the problem as a “full-blown heroin crisis.” Four years later the fight continues.

The number of babies born drug dependent has increased 500% since 2000 per White House data. In Vermont, over 33 babies out of every 1,000 hospital births were born with drug withdrawal symptoms as reported in a 2016 CDC study.

Data from the CDC indicates sales of prescription opioids in the United States nearly quadrupled from 1999-2014, with little scientific evidence to show that they effectively manage the long-term treatment of chronic pain.

The Attorney General’s Office is committed to leading the fight to end the opioid crisis. We are working to integrate our criminal justice system with public health providers to enhance treatment options. Our office is taking part in a multi-state investigation involving 44 other states and the District of Columbia. This investigation is focused on whether drug manufacturers such as Purdue, Endo, Janssen, Teva/Cephalon, and Allergan have engaged in unlawful practices in marketing, selling, and distributing opioids. We are also investigating the drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.

Some may ask why not go ahead and sue the drug companies right now? That is a good question. The Attorney General’s office has the legal authority to conduct investigations by serving subpoenas and obtaining documents and other information before filing a lawsuit. This allows the State to avoid many of the challenges faced and expenses incurred in litigation. We are investigating right now.

Before deciding whether to file a lawsuit, we will continue to do our due diligence. Our participation in the multi-state investigation serves two important goals: building the best case against the pharmaceutical industry and creating the possibility for settlement. Any settlement must address four factors: accountability; treatment; prevention; and the economic burdens of cities, towns, and states impacted by this epidemic.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is committed to holding the pharmaceutical industry responsible for its involvement in the opioid crisis. In doing so, we are guided and reminded by the countless lives lost and ruined because of this terrible disease. We will continue to advocate for the State of Vermont and seek justice against those who may have caused the opioid epidemic.

Last modified: January 18, 2018