NASHVILLE - Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery today announced a Tennessee-led bipartisan coalition of the nation's state attorney generals who are now demanding documents and other information from opioid manufacturers and distributors as part of multi-state investigations into the national painkiller epidemic.
The information will help the 41-member multi-state group to evaluate if manufacturers and distributors are engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale and distribution of opioids.
"The opioid crisis impacts all of us, and is a threat to families in every community in Tennessee and across the country," Slatery said in a statement. "We will use all resources available to identify and hold accountable those parties responsible. There is too much at stake not to attack this problem from all sides."
Tennessee has one of the worst opioid problems in the nation, coming in at No. 2. The total places Tennessee second in the nation, behind only Alabama in prescriptions of the drugs, according to IMS Health data from 2015.
Tennessee ranks also No. 2 nationally in the share of opioid prescriptions per capita, according to IMS Health. Chattanooga, meanwhile, is a two-city tie with Jackson, Tenn., for No. 20 nationwide among the worst 25 cities in the nation for opioid prescription abuse, according to Castlight Health.
Just this week, the Tennessee Health Department announced that drug overdose deaths rose 12 percent between 2015 and 2016, the highest recorded number of deaths in state history. Officials say 1,631 Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2016.
Health officials are blaming Fentanyl, an opioid, for the increase.
According to Slatery's office, state attorney generals representing four fifths of the nation served investigative subpoenas for documents and information, also known as Civil Investigative Demands, on four drug manufacturers - Endo, Janssen, Teva/Cephalon and Allergan, along with their related entities.
Also served was a supplemental Civil Investigative Demand on Purdue Pharma.
The attorney generals also sent information "demand letters" to opioid distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson requesting documents about their opioid distribution business.
Slatery's office says states intend to use the information "to determine what role the opioid manufacturers and distributors may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic and determine the appropriate course of action to help resolve this crisis."
In June, three Northeast Tennessee prosecutors filed suit against drug manufacturers, charging they helped cause the state's epidemic through deceptive advertising that downplayed risks of addiction to painkillers.