After months of public pressure from state lawmakers, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is gearing up to file a lawsuit against at least one opioid manufacturing company for its role in the country’s opioid crisis.
Officials in the attorney general’s office told state lawmakers Wednesday they will file suit against Purdue Pharma, one of the world’s largest opioid makers, before the end of May. First, they need to send a letter notifying the company the state is going to file a lawsuit, says chief criminal deputy Spencer Austin.
“We are issuing that 10-day letter today,” Austin said, “and 10 days from now, we will be filing against Purdue Pharma.”
When that happens, Utah will join a growing list of states suing drug makers and distributors for downplaying addiction risks an overstating the benefits of opioids. Six other states announced suits against Purdue on Tuesday.
The AG’s office made the announcement as a handful of lawmakers expressed frustration Reyes, who was not at the meeting, wasn’t making it a priority to battle the state’s opioid epidemic.
“It looks like we’re watching other states and then jumping on board,” said state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan. “Why aren’t we leading?”
The legislature passed a resolution earlier this year urging Reyes to pursue such a lawsuit, citing the fact that Utah has one of the highest rates of opioid overdoses in the country.
A handful of counties — including Salt Lake, Utah, Weber, Davis, Cache and Washington — have announced plans to pursue litigation independently.