Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman at the State Supreme Court Chambers at the Colorado State Judicial Building in Denver on Oct. 22, 2015. (Denver Post file)

Colorado attorney general, counterparts across U.S. to investigate drugmakers’ possible ties to opioid crisis

Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is joining a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general across the country that is investigating whether, and possibly how, drug manufacturers broke any laws in marketing opioids — and any connection their work may have to the painkiller and heroin epidemic in Colorado and nationally.

The group, which involves a majority of state attorneys general, is not releasing the specifics of the inquiry but says it will look into how manufacturers may have been responsible for creating or prolonging the epidemic.

Related editorial: Pursuit of opioid crisis accountability has taken a promising turn

The officials plan to “determine the appropriate course of action to collectively address the opioid crisis,” Coffman’s office said in a news release Thursday.

“Every day our country and state lose loved ones to the opioid epidemic,” Coffman said in the news release. “My office understands that the fight against opioid addiction requires many partners. We will use the law as a sword and a shield to best serve those we represent. As a sword to hold accountable those who promote or sell opioids in violation of state law, and as a shield to protect the vulnerable struggling with addiction.”

Annie Skinner, Coffman’s spokeswoman, said she didn’t know the exact number of attorneys general participating in the investigation, but that it was “dozens.”

Prescription painkillers have long been blamed for leading the U.S. into its current spiral of heroin addiction and subsequent national spike in overdose deaths.

In Colorado alone, there was a 68 percent increase in drug overdose deaths between 2002 and 2014. In rural Colorado, where there are fewer resources to battle the epidemic, the problem has been exaggerated.

Nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015 and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999.

Coffman’s office launched the Colorado Naloxone for Life Initiative in September, which armed law enforcement and first responders across the state with the opioid overdose drug Narcan — the trade name for the opioid overdose-reversal drug naloxone.

So far the program has reported 170 overdose reversals.

This story was first published on