Friday, June 16, 2017

S.C. attorney general joins nationwide investigation into opioid manufacturers

A bitter pill

Posted by Dustin Waters on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 at 9:08 AM

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As one of a handful of states where the amount of painkiller prescriptions outnumbers residents, South Carolina has fallen into the growing opioid epidemic that has struck much of the nation.

With almost 600 opioid-related deaths across the state in 2015, 49 of which were reported in Charleston County, it’s easy to see the toll that comes with ranking 11th in the nation in the number of opioid prescriptions per person. Now, along with a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from across the United States, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson will assist in conducting an ongoing investigation to determine if manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of opioids.

“South Carolina has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic,” said Wilson in an announcement this week. “Overdoses of prescription and illicit opioids have claimed the lives of thousands of South Carolinians in the last five years. Opioid abuse cuts across all demographic lines and impacts people from all walks of life. Over the past few months, the Office of the Attorney General has been having an ongoing dialogue with industry participants, state and federal regulators, and policymakers to determine the appropriate direction of this office’s investigation. I am committed to working with stakeholders throughout the state on ways to combat this epidemic.”

Although no specific targets of the investigation have been named, a statement from Wilson’s office states that subpoenas will be issued for documents and testimony to discover what role manufacturers and others may have played in creating and prolonging the opioid epidemic, which played a part in 33,091 deaths nationwide in 2015.

The attorney general’s announcement comes after South Carolina state legislators passed a series of bills aimed at providing more oversight for how opioids are prescribed and hopefully encourage bystanders to seek emergency assistance if they encounter a possibly overdose.

South Carolina doctors attempting to prescribe some forms of painkillers will now be required to consult a statewide database. Information on both the prescribing doctor and the patient receiving the medication will be recorded thanks to the prescription-monitoring bill that was recently passed. Ideally, this system will cut down on the number of patients who receive an excessive number of prescriptions for pain medications that can prove to be highly addictive.

South Carolina lawmakers have also passed a version of the so-called “Good Samaritan” law that will allow individuals to report drug overdoses without the threat of arrest or prosecution for drug charges — meaning that people will be less-likely to think twice before saving a life.

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