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June 15, 2017

Miller: Iowa Part of Ongoing Multistate Investigation into Pharmaceutical Marketing and Sales of Opioids

Probe examining role manufacturers have played in nationwide opioid epidemic

DES MOINES – Attorney General Tom Miller disclosed today that his office is part of an ongoing multistate investigation into whether certain opioid manufacturers have unlawfully marketed and sold the powerful painkillers.

The probe by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general is investigating the role the prescription opioid manufacturers may have played in creating or prolonging the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic.

The group, which includes a majority of states, is using its civil law enforcement authority, including investigative demands for documents and testimony, to determine the appropriate course of action.

“We’re asking tough questions and we’re seeking solid evidence to help us understand how pharmaceutical companies have mass marketed and sold these highly addictive pain medications, including claims they’ve made about their products,” Miller said. “These are prescription drugs that we know have helped fuel epidemic levels of addiction to opioids and heroin.”

Nationwide, opioids—prescription and illicit—are the main driver of drug overdose deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths across the U.S. in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.

Over the last decade in Iowa, according to the latest Iowa Department of Public Health report on heroin and opioids, there have been “significant increases” in the number of Iowans identifying heroin and opioids as their drug of choice when they began seeking treatment, and in the number of overdose deaths.

The report shows that treatment admissions and overdose deaths associated with opioids and heroin over the last decade in Iowa have skyrocketed:

  • Treatment Admissions: From 2005 to 2015, opioid-related treatment admissions jumped 279 percent (422 in 2005 to 1,601 in 2015), and heroin-related treatment admissions rose by 386 percent (186 in 2005 to 904 in 2015).
  • Overdose Deaths: From 2005 to 2015, opioid-related overdose deaths climbed 76 percent (26 in 2005 to 46 in 2015), and heroin-related overdose deaths surged by 650 percent (2 in 2005 to 15 in 2015).

Another report, issued in March by the University of Iowa’s Injury Prevention Research Center, found that prescription opioid use has reached “unprecedented” levels, and that “heroin use is a rapidly growing public health problem and is associated with non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers.” According to the report’s findings, “Rates of prescription drug deaths since 1999 have quadrupled (in Iowa), making it only one of four states with such a dramatic increase.”

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