Louisiana attorney general wants to take over opioid lawsuit
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana’s attorney general is trying to take control of a lawsuit filed by Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration accusing pharmaceutical companies of worsening opioid abuse in the state.
The Advocate reports that Attorney General Jeff Landry wants to expand the lawsuit. He also wants to hire Mike Moore, the former Mississippi attorney general who shepherded a national action against tobacco manufacturers in 1990s that settled for billions of dollars.
Landry's office filed a document Monday evening asking the Baton Rouge-based state district court to allow the attorney general to “supersede” the Louisiana Department of Health.
The health department’s lawsuit, filed Sept. 27 in Baton Rouge against more than a dozen pharmaceutical firms, accuses the companies of “an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana” with highly-addictive opioids to boost their profits. The lawsuit seeks damages for payments made through the Medicaid program for what it describes as excessive opioid prescriptions and for treatment costs tied to opioid abuse.
Landry’s office says the issue is larger than its impact on the Medicaid program and the lawsuit should include broader allegations, such as increased costs to the state’s criminal justice and education systems, the impact on social services and the loss of workforce productivity.
Chief Deputy Attorney General Bill Stiles estimates opioid-related costs to the state at about $160 million annually.
“The subject of the suit, the opioid crisis in Louisiana, is a matter of state interest which has far-reaching effects beyond the burdens placed on our healthcare resources,” Landry’s office wrote in the court filing.
Edwards, a Democrat, and Landry, a Republican, have repeatedly clashed since taking office in 2016. Landry is seen as a possible challenger to Edwards in the 2019 election.
The attorney general’s office says it was unaware of the lawsuit until the Edwards administration filed it, clashing with efforts underway by Landry for similar litigation.
The attorney general had asked Moore to help Louisiana put together litigation against the drug manufacturers and distributors like Moore had done in Mississippi and Ohio. Attorneys general in eight other states have filed lawsuits raising similar legal issues.
“I’m hopeful we don’t get into a technical fight about who has the authority to bring a case,” Moore said. “It’s tough enough going after these big industries without having a sideshow in your own state.”
Edwards’ executive counsel Matthew Block said he and the attorney general’s office had been in discussions before Landry’s latest court filing about the attorney general helping out with the administration’s lawsuit and bringing on Moore as an adviser. The governor wants to collaborate on the lawsuit, Block said.