JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley is expanding his opioid investigation by inquiring into three more pharmaceutical companies.
Hawley announced at a press conference Tuesday at the Capitol that he has issued investigative demands to AmerisouthBergen Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corporation, the three largest U.S. distributors of opioids.
The three companies were ordered to turn over documents related to their distribution of opioids.
“Federal and state laws require these distributors to report any suspicious activity, but among other facts, the sheer volume of opioids that they have delivered to multiple locations is inherently suspicious,” Hawley said. “The evidence suggests that these companies chose to look the other way, oversupply pharmacies and other outlets and make millions of dollars in profits.”
If the companies refuse to hand over the documents, Hawley said, they will be compelled to do so in court. He urged any knowledgeable or participating parties in the oversupply and over-distribution to come forward sooner rather than later.
The initial investigative demands were issued to seven companies in August. Hawley requested several documents, including the amount of opioids produced, interactions with doctors and in-person advertising relating to opioids since 2010.
Hawley strongly challenged opioid distribution in June 2017, when his office filed a lawsuit against three opioid manufacturers: Purdue Pharma, Endo Health and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. The companies are suspected by Hawley to have intentionally deceived patients by misrepresenting the addictive nature of opioids.
Hawley’s office alleged that the companies’ marketing techniques over several years convinced both doctors and consumers that prescription medications with opioids were not addictive. He also said they funded research projects in an attempt to back their claims.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Hawley agreed, saying that the death rate in Missouri continues to rise, while the United States as a whole remains the largest opioid consumer in the world.
“I welcome the president’s leadership on this, and we welcome all voices who have an interest in this issue,” Hawley said.