Arkansas’ attorney general has retained five law firms to help investigate drug companies and prepare for potential legal action over their role in the state’s opioid abuse problem.
Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said she retained Dover Dixon Horne PLLC in Little Rock and four out-of-state firms for the work, which could result in lawsuits against the drug manufacturers. Rutledge said she did not have a timeframe for taking legal action against the companies.
“Some of these companies may have profited substantially from the sale and distribution of opioids within Arkansas, and those who have should be held accountable,” the Republican said at a news conference. “We must remedy this crisis.”
States and local communities around the country have filed lawsuits against drug companies over the opioid crisis. Rutledge did not name specific companies the probe would target.
Arkansas has been hit hard, with drug overdose deaths in the state rising from just over 100 in 1999 to more than 400 in 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year said Arkansas had the second highest opioid prescription rate in country, with 114.6 prescriptions written for every 100 residents in the state.
The out-of-state firms retained by Arkansas currently represent the states of Ohio, Louisiana and Mississippi in lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.
Under the contract, the firms won’t be paid unless Arkansas recovers money through a settlement or litigation. A 2015 law limits how much the firms can receive in contingency fees for their work on the case.