Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Tuesday said he's demanding documents from three major opioid distributors that he claims didn't report suspiciously large shipments of prescription drugs.
Hawley said his office sent requests backed by the force of law to AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson as part of a broader effort to investigate the opioid crisis. The attorney general said about 500 people died in Missouri from opioid overdoses or complications from opioid use in 2015.
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Hawley said companies are required by law to report suspicious opioid shipments, but there's evidence to suggest the distributors he's investigating looked the other way instead of raising alarms.
He's trying to get more information through the document request, which includes a request for communications between the company and the Drug Enforcement Administration going back to 2012.
"The sheer volume 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."
Officials in Louisville, Kentucky, are suing the three companies over similar allegations that the distributors failed to monitor, identify and report suspicious activity.
Spokespeople for McKesson and AmerisourceBergen in response both said the companies want to engage with stakeholders to address the opioid crisis.
"Beyond our reporting and immediate halting of tens of thousands of potentially suspicious orders, we provide daily reports to the DEA that detail the quantity, type, and the receiving pharmacy of every single order of these products that we distribute," AmerisourceBergen spokesman Gabe Weissman said in a statement. "Our goal has been_and continues to be_to do everything within our power as a distributor to mitigate the diversion of these drugs without interfering with clinical decisions made by doctors, who interact directly with patients and decide what treatments are most appropriate for their care."
Cardinal Health didn't immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Hawley's latest action is part of broader efforts by him and other Missouri elected officials to address opioid misuse. In June, he sued Endo Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals for allegedly misrepresenting the risks posed by opioids.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom Republican Hawley is trying to unseat next year, also has outlined the opioid crisis as a top priority. She requested documents from AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson in July.
While the requests differ, both asked for documentation of opioids sold in Missouri. Hawley said he didn't speak with McCaskill's office about his later request.