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A04515
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF PENNSYLVANIA
HOUSE RESOLUTION
No.
344
Session of
2019
INTRODUCED BY CRUZ, DiGIROLAMO, YOUNGBLOOD, HOHENSTEIN, BURGOS,
CALTAGIRONE, SCHLOSSBERG, NEILSON, MURT, MADDEN, STRUZZI,
READSHAW AND GREGORY, JUNE 3, 2019
REFERRED TO COMMITTEE ON HUMAN SERVICES, JUNE 3, 2019
A RESOLUTION
Urging the Office of Attorney General to file lawsuits against
pharmaceutical companies, distributors and manufacturers for
the practices that caused or contributed to the opioid crisis
in this Commonwealth. Urging pharmaceutical companies,
manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioid drugs
to fully cooperate with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney
General in reaching financial settlements and legal
resolutions that reflect the severe, irreversible harm
suffered by tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families who
have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis and to substance
use disorder.
WHEREAS, Opioids are a classification of drugs derived from
or are a synthetic version of opium and are designed to reduce
pain; and
WHEREAS, Examples of common opioids include prescription
opioids, such as hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone and
the, synthetic opioid opioids, including fentanyl and
carfentanyl, and illicit opioids such as heroin; and
WHEREAS, The introduction of pain as the fifth vital sign in
medicine and the increased availability of prescription opioids
in the late twentieth century led to an increased population
using opioids and potentially developing substance use
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disorders; and
WHEREAS, According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), the number of prescription opioids dispensed
to Americans quadrupled between 1999 and 2014, with primary care
providers accounting for half of the opioids prescribed; and
WHEREAS, Americans represent only 4.6% of the world's
population but consume 80% of the world's opioids and 99% of the
global hydrocodone supply; and
WHEREAS, The most recent data available for this Commonwealth
showed almost 70 prescriptions for opioid medications per 100
individuals were written by healthcare practitioners in 2016;
and
WHEREAS, The two most commonly prescribed opioid medications
in this Commonwealth are oxycodone, with more than 2.4 million
prescriptions filled, and hydrocodone, with more than 1.6
million prescriptions filled in 2017; and
WHEREAS, Nearly 80% of individuals who use heroin have
reported that they abused or misused prescription opioids prior
to using heroin; and
WHEREAS, The CDC has declared that the United States is
experiencing an opioid-induced "public health epidemic"; and
WHEREAS, The public health epidemic due to the opioid crisis
knows no boundaries nor distinctions, impacting families of all
ages, races and walks of life; and
WHEREAS, The rate of incidence of Neonatal Abstinence
Syndrome (NAS), a complex condition where a baby is born drug
dependent due to the mother's use of drugs, such as opioids,
during pregnancy, has increased 1,000% in this Commonwealth over
the past two decades; and
WHEREAS, Opioids are the leading cause of accidental deaths
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in the United States, surpassing deaths by car accidents; and
WHEREAS, The CDC has reported that a record 47,600
individuals died after an opioid overdose in 2017; and
WHEREAS, A report from the Drug Enforcement Administration
(DEA) in 2017 identified 5,456 drug-related overdose deaths in
this Commonwealth, representing a rate of 43 deaths per 100,000,
far exceeding the national average of 22 per 100,000; and
WHEREAS, As of 2017, individuals 25-54 years of age had the
highest rate of overdose deaths and 71-78% of individuals in
this age group were employed; and
WHEREAS, The societal costs to the nation associated with the
opioid crisis are staggering, amounting to over $78 billion
annually according to the CDC; and
WHEREAS, The financial toll of the crisis due to health care
spending, addiction substance use disorder treatment, criminal
justice and lost productivity has overwhelmed the limited
resources of the Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, The cost to the Federal Government and to the state
governments are estimated to total $37.8 billion in lost tax
revenue due to opioid-related employment loss; and
WHEREAS, Between 2000 and 2016, research conducted by the
Pennsylvania State University found that this Commonwealth was
one of the states hardest hit by opioid-related employment loss,
with about $638.2 million lost in income and sales tax; and
WHEREAS, This Commonwealth is currently in the midst of its
worst public health crisis epidemic due to the opioid epidemic
crisis; and
WHEREAS, Leaders of this Commonwealth have been working
tirelessly to address the opioid crisis and help the thousands
of individuals, families and communities who have been and
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continue to be affected; and
WHEREAS, The Department of Health first provided prescribing
guidelines for medical professionals relating to prescription
opioids in 2014 and revises these guidelines as new scientific
data becomes available; and
WHEREAS, Pennsylvania enacted the Achieving Better Care by
Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) Act on October
27, 2014 to address the rising opioid crisis by requiring the
Department of Health to run the Prescription Drug Monitoring
Program (PDMP); and
WHEREAS, The PDMP began collecting Schedule II-V controlled
substance dispensing information in June 2016 and currently
collects around 1.7 million records per month and shares data
with 16 other states and Washington, D.C.; and
WHEREAS, In April 2015, the Physician General signed two
standing order prescriptions for naloxone, one for first
responders and one for the general public to ensure that all
residents can obtain life-saving medication when an opioid
overdose is occurring; and
WHEREAS, Individuals addicted to opioids often experience
multiple overdoses in the course of their drug use and
widespread naloxone availability has resulted in many lives
saved; and
WHEREAS, Law enforcement reported to the Department of Drug
and Alcohol Programs that they have saved more than 6,400 lives
with naloxone through December 2017; and
WHEREAS, In June 2017, Attorney General Josh Shapiro
announced that a bipartisan investigation to evaluate whether
pharmaceutical manufacturers have engaged in unlawful practices
in the marketing and sale of prescription opioids was being
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conducted with 41 other state Attorneys General; and
WHEREAS, The opioid epidemic crisis was declared a public
health emergency in October 2017 by the President of the United
States; and
WHEREAS, A disaster emergency due to the opioid crisis was
declared by the Governor in January 2018 and has since been
renewed five eight times; and
WHEREAS, The emergency declaration established an Opioid
Command Center to enhance coordination and data collection to
bolster State and local response and to improve tools for
families, first responders and others to save lives and to
remove various barriers to speed up and expand access to
treatment; and
WHEREAS, Despite the great strides this Commonwealth has
taken in addressing the opioid crisis, it is clear that more
needs to be done, as tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians
continue to lose their lives each year; and
WHEREAS, Holding individuals and companies who produce,
supply and distribute drugs accountable for harm is an important
deterrent to co-conspirators; and
WHEREAS, Section 2506 of Title 18 of the Pennsylvania
Consolidated Statutes states that a person commits a first
degree felony if one intentionally administers, dispenses,
delivers, gives, prescribes, sells or distributes any controlled
substance or counterfeit controlled substance in violation of
certain sections of The Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and
Cosmetic Act, and another person dies as a result; and
WHEREAS, The equivalent Federal statute is section 841 of
Title 18 of the United States Code codified at 18 U.S.C. ยง 842;
and
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WHEREAS, It has been reported that various pharmaceutical
companies, distributors and manufacturers of prescription
opioids have been investigated and fined by the DEA for failing
to operate mandatory internal oversight systems in good faith,
report suspicious orders to the DEA and halt the shipment of
suspicious controlled substance orders once discovered; and
WHEREAS, Additional various Federal and State statutes that
may be relevant include the Controlled Substances Act, the
Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and common
law negligence and fraud; and
WHEREAS, Certain It was reported that during the last decade,
certain pharmaceutical companies have spent and continue to
spend hundreds of millions of dollars to defraud or mislead
healthcare professionals, patients and the public about the
addictiveness of powerful prescription opioid drugs; and
WHEREAS, These pharmaceutical companies used not only
misleading, but fake scientific charts and data to convince the
medical community to increasingly prescribe opioid drugs; and
WHEREAS, The deceptive marketing practices included the
downplaying of the serious risk of addiction, promoting the
concept of "pseudoaddiction" and advocating that the signs of
addiction should be treated with more opioids, claiming that
opioid dependence and withdrawal are easily managed and denying
the risks of higher opioid dosages; and
WHEREAS, Through such questionable practices and the sale of
opioid medications prescription opioids, pharmaceutical
companies, manufacturers and distributors and manufacturers have
earned and, in some cases, continue to earn billions of dollars
in profits; and
WHEREAS, Opioid sales peaked at $8 billion in revenue for
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drug companies in 2015; and
WHEREAS, The Associated Press and the Center for Public
Integrity published an investigation outlining how certain
pharmaceutical companies and their allies have adopted a 50-
state strategy that includes hundreds of lobbyists and nearly $1
billion spent on lobbying and campaign contributions from 2006
through 2015 to help kill or weaken measures aimed at stemming
the tide of prescription opioids; and
WHEREAS, Although some pharmaceutical companies,
manufacturers and distributors and manufacturers of prescription
opioids announced in 2018 that they would be ending end the
practice of marketing and promoting opioid medications the use
of prescription opioids to prescribers through health care
providers by sales representatives, this process the aggressive
marketing of prescription opioids did not occur cease until
after large profits were made, an opioid crisis was created and
lawsuits were filed; and
WHEREAS, States have historically filed lawsuits against
industries that engaged in illegal business practices, such as
the tobacco industry in the 1990s, in order to protect the
health, safety and general welfare of their residents; and
WHEREAS, By pursuing legal action against the pharmaceutical
companies, manufacturers and distributors and manufacturers, of
prescription opioids, the Commonwealth is attempting to hold
those that had and continue to have a significant role in the
creation of the opioid crisis responsible; and
WHEREAS, Lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and,
manufacturers and distributors of prescription drugs for their
role in the opioid epidemic crisis are not without legal
precedent; and
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WHEREAS, In 2007, Purdue Pharma, a large pharmaceutical
company and the maker of the opioid OxyContin pled guilty to
"misbranding," a felony charge that they misled regulators,
doctors and patients about the drug's risk of addiction and its
potential to be abused; and
WHEREAS, More than 1,600 lawsuits filed by counties,
municipalities, hospitals and others have been consolidated in
Federal court into a case known as the National Prescription
Opiate Litigation, and is currently pending against dozens of
pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers and distributors and
manufacturers of prescription opioids in Ohio; and
WHEREAS, Additionally, almost 40 state Attorneys General have
filed lawsuits to hold those who the pharmaceutical companies,
manufacturers and distributors that created or contributed to
the opioid crisis responsible; and
WHEREAS, Some of the state Attorneys General filed these
lawsuits on behalf of the residents of their states despite
continuing to collaborate with the Pennsylvania Office of
Attorney General on the important bipartisan investigation to
evaluate whether pharmaceutical manufacturers have engaged in
unlawful practices in the marketing and sale of prescription
opioids; and
WHEREAS, On March 26, 2019, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $270
million in an opioid settlement with the state of Oklahoma in
the first of almost 2,000 lawsuits that are pending against this
and other pharmaceutical companies; and
WHEREAS, Purdue Pharma reportedly is beginning to explore the
possibility of filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which could
temporarily insulate one of the main contributors and profiteers
of the opioid epidemic from settlements or large judgments;
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therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives, though
applauding the work of the Office of Attorney General in
combating the opioid crisis in Pennsylvania through its
bipartisan and multistate investigation, recognize that an
urgent need exists for the Commonwealth to do more; and be it
further
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives urge the Office
of Attorney General as the top law enforcement officer to file
lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies, distributors and
manufacturers for their practices that caused or contributed to
the opioid crisis in this Commonwealth; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives urge the Office
of Attorney General to not only pursue civil litigation, but all
legal avenues, including wrongful death suits on behalf of the
tens of thousands of Pennsylvania families who have lost loved
ones to the opioid epidemic.
WHEREAS, In 2019, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
filed two lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, accusing the company
and its owners of a multifaceted, illegal effort to market
OxyContin in this Commonwealth; and
WHEREAS, Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in
September 2019 as part of a tentative deal to settle more than
2,000 opioid lawsuits filed by states, local governments and
Native American tribes; and
WHEREAS, A collaborative 41-state investigation led by the
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General resulted in a $48
billion agreement in principle from Cardinal Health, McKesson,
AmerisourceBergen, Johnson & Johnson and Teva for their roles in
fueling the opioid crisis; and
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WHEREAS, The Commonwealth will receive more than $53 million
as part of a nationwide settlement against Reckitt Benckiser
Group for the improper marketing of Suboxone and practices to
defraud Medicaid systems in this Commonwealth; therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives urge the
pharmaceutical companies, manufacturers and distributors of
prescription opioid drugs to fully cooperate with the
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in reaching financial
settlements and legal resolutions that reflect the severe,
irreversible harm suffered by tens of thousands of Pennsylvania
families who have lost loved ones to the opioid crisis and to
substance use disorder; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives applaud the work
of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General in combating the
opioid crisis in Pennsylvania through its ongoing bipartisan,
multistate investigation and litigation in pursuit of justice
for the individuals and families across this Commonwealth that
have been affected; and be it further
RESOLVED, That the House of Representatives urge the
Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, as the top law
enforcement officer in this Commonwealth, to continue to pursue
all available legal remedies to hold the pharmaceutical
companies, manufacturers and distributors of prescription
opioids accountable for their practices that caused or
contributed to the opioid crisis in this Commonwealth.
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