A.G. Schneiderman, Bipartisan Coalition Of AGs Expand Multistate Investigation Into Opioid Crisis


Attorneys General Demand Information And Documents From Major Opioid Manufacturers And Distributors.

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Photo by: Vnukko

New York, NY - September 19, 2017 - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that a bipartisan coalition of 41 attorneys general from across the country has demanded information and documents from the manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs, part of a multistate investigation into whether the companies engaged in any unlawful practices in the marketing and distribution of prescription opioids.
The investigative subpoenas and document requests, which were served yesterday, mark a major expansion of the investigations by the Attorneys General into the nationwide opioid epidemic. A large, bipartisan coalition of states' chief legal officers are now pooling resources to address the most pressing public health crisis affecting the country, and doing so with a broad focus on multiple entities at both the manufacturer and distributor levels.
“Too often, prescription opioids are the on-ramp to addiction for millions of Americans,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We’re committed to getting to the bottom of a broken system that has fueled the epidemic and taken far too many lives. New Yorkers whose families have been torn apart by the opioid crisis deserve to know if the industry put its bottom line ahead of patient safety. My office is committed to using every tool at our disposal to curb the epidemic and get those affected by it the help they need and the justice they deserve.”
The attorneys general served subpoenas on the following pharmaceutical manufacturers and their related entities:
  • Endo International plc
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals
  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd./Cephalon Inc.
  • Allergan Inc.
  • The attorneys general have also served a supplemental investigative subpoena on Purdue Pharma.
The attorneys general also demanded documents and information about distribution practices from the following opioid distribution companies, who together manage approximately 90 percent of the nation's opioid distribution:
  • AmerisourceBergen
  • Cardinal Health
  • McKesson

Opioid distributors alone make nearly $500 billion a year in revenue.

Opioids – both prescription and illicit – are the main driver of drug overdose deaths nationwide and in New York. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015 – including 2,754 in New York – and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. Drug overdoses account for a large percentage of deaths among New Yorkers between 15 and 44 years of age – accounting for a stunning 41 percent of deaths in Sullivan County, 37 percent in Erie County, and 32 percent in Nassau County, according to an analysis conducted by the New York Times.
Since taking office, Attorney General Schneiderman has launched a multi-levered strategy to tackle New York’s evolving opioid epidemic, including:
  • Obtaining settlements with major domestic and global health insurers including Cigna, Anthem, and Empire BlueCross BlueShield (BCBS), which insure over 4 million New Yorkers, to remove barriers to life-saving treatment for opioid use disorder. The agreements put an end to the insurers’ policy of requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment (“MAT”), which can lead to significant delays for patients seeking relief from addiction.
  • Creating the Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing Act (“I-STOP), a series of enhancements to New York’s prescription drug monitoring program that provide doctors with patient’s up-to-date controlled substance prescription history and established a safe disposal program providing a place for New Yorkers to get rid of expired and unneeded drugs—thus reducing the likelihood of stolen and forged prescriptions being used to obtain controlled substances from pharmacies. I-STOP reduced “doctor shopping,” a practice in which an individual attempts to obtain the same or similar prescriptions from multiple physicians, by 90% since 2014.
  • Launching the Community Overdose Prevention (“COP”) program, a life-saving initiative that enabled state and local law-enforcement officers in the state of New York to carry naloxone, the extremely effective heroin antidote that can immediately reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Since the program’s implementation in April 2014, more than 100 overdoses were reversedusing kits provided by the COP program, which distributed over 27,000 kits across the state.
  • Obtaining an agreement with Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc. to cut and cap the price of naloxone for all agencies in New York State, reducing the price of naloxone by nearly 20 percent.
  • Enforcing Mental Health Parity Lawsto reach agreements with health insurance companies, requiring them to implement sweeping reforms in their administration of behavioral health benefits, in particular relating to medical management practices, coverage of residential treatment for substance abuse, and co-pays for outpatient treatment, and to submit regular compliance reports. The agreements ultimately provided over $2 million in restitution for members whose claims for were improperly denied.
  • Successfully prosecuting more than ten licensed prescribers including operators of “pill mills” and other unlawful practices for crimes related to improper opioid prescriptions.
  • Cracking down on drug trafficking networks that traffic opioids into communities around the state. The Attorney General’s Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF) has now taken down 25 large drug trafficking gangs, made more than 580 felony narcotics arrests, and seized more than $1.5 million and more than 2,000 pounds of illegal drugs since 2011. In the past several months alone, Attorney General Schneiderman’s SURGE (Suburban and Upstate Response to the Growing Epidemic) Initiative has resulted in 260 alleged traffickers and dealers taken off the streets.
  • Urging health insurance companies to review their coverage and payment policies that contribute to the opioid epidemic, as well as sending letters to the country’s three largest pharmacy benefit managers requesting documents, data, and other information regarding how they are addressing the opioid crisis.
The investigation is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Carol Hunt, Christopher Leung, and Sara Mark of the Health Care Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lisa Landau, and Counsel to the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Jay Speers and Special Assistant Attorneys General Kathryn Harris and Elizabeth Kappakas of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, under the supervision of Director Amy Held and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Paul J. Mahoney.