A mid-Missouri man joined Attorney General Josh Hawley yesterday for the announcement of a state lawsuit against three pharmaceutical companies.
Eddie Bunnell of Columbia is a recovering opioid addict. He’s happy Hawley’s taken a lead role in responding the crisis. “He was elected into office at the end of last year and took office this year” said Bunnell. “And he’s already jumping on this thing for us. So it’s really exciting and hopeful.”
During his introduction of the lawsuit, Hawley said the three companies – Purdue Pharmaceutical, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals – have violated Missouri’s consumer-protection laws, claiming they had committed fraud and perpetrated lies.
While stating that he was seeking one of the largest judgments in Missouri history, Hawley announced that Bunnell and another person would speak about their experiences with opioids.
Bunnell, who struggled for years in and out of rehab, notes he spent time with Hawley before the attorney general’s presentation, advising him on ways to help people with the addiction. “I’m really glad that my experiences are hopefully helping people in our state, and opening the eyes of people who don’t know about the issue.”
Jamie Fabick, who lost her 17-year-old daughter to an opioid overdose, also addressed the audience.
Hawley launched into series of facts and figures to back-up the lawsuit that was filed in St. Louis, where the announcement took place.
He said 30,000 hospital and emergency room visits in 2015 were attributed to opioids, a 200% increase over the last decade. He added that in the same year, 500 deaths from opioid overdoses or complications took place in Missouri.
Hawley’s remarks were an ironic twist from some fellow conservatives in the legislature who, while blocking proposals for an opioid monitoring system, downplayed the effects of the drugs in Missouri vs. other states.
For his part, Bunnell said it’s time to target lawmakers for failing to approve a PDMP – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
“We need to start going after the legislators and figuring out why we aren’t passing a PDMP for our state. We’re the only state that doesn’t have one. We need that in place to help battle this thing.”
Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill was highly critical of the state legislature’s inability to pass a PDMP bill this year. She also called for Hawley to work with lawmakers to get legislation approved, and since has said the state should hold a special session to solve the roadblock.
According to Hawley, the lawsuit he’s bringing seeks “hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from these drug companies, and hundreds of millions more in civil penalties”.