Attorney General Racine Announces Major Multistate Investigation into Manufacturers’ Contributions to Opioid Crisis

Inquiry Gauging Whether Manufacturers Engaged in Unlawful Marketing Practices

WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced that the Office of the Attorney General is working with a bipartisan coalition, representing the majority of state attorneys general, in an ongoing investigation into the role of manufacturers in contributing to the opioid crisis. The consumer investigation is evaluating whether manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids.

The opioid crisis has exploded across the United States in recent years and is responsible for a death toll that measures in the hundreds of thousands. Both across the nation and in the District, opioids—prescription and illicit—are the main drivers of drug overdose deaths. Opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths nationwide in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.[1]

“State attorneys general almost never announce the existence of investigations before they are completed, but the opioid crisis is a uniquely dire situation,” Attorney General Racine said. “Deaths from opioid overdoses are skyrocketing across our country, and the District is no stranger to that trend. We are looking into what role, if any, marketing and related practices might have played in the increasing prescription and use of these powerful and addictive drugs.”

According to the D.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, there were 216 deaths from opioid overdoses in the District in 2016 -- an increase over 114 deaths in 2015 and 83 deaths in 2014. As of the most recent figures available, there had been 24 deaths in the first two months of 2017.

The District is one of the lead states -- along with Tennessee -- in the multistate investigation. The coalition of attorneys general is using its investigative tools, including subpoenas for documents and testimony, to determine the appropriate course of action to address the opioid epidemic. “Although we are not identifying any specific targets of our investigation at this time, if we turn up evidence that marketing practices played an unlawful role in the exponential growth of opioid prescriptions, rest assured: We will take action,” Attorney General Racine said.