PA announces expanded movement to target drug companies in fight against opioid crisis

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 10:28AM
Healthcheck: Monica Malpass reports on Action News at 5 p.m., September 19, 2017

Back in 2008, Ronnie Powell's life was cut short at just 19 years of age when he died of a drug overdose.

Thirteen Pennsylvanians die every day from overdoses and 80 percent of people suffering from heroin addiction begin by abusing prescription drugs, according to Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Shapiro announced Tuesday an expansion to a nationwide investigation targeting what he said is the source of the problem.

"Attorneys general, from across the country, are now pooling our resources and are actively coordinating across party and state lines to conduct a wide ranging, detailed review of all the major pharmaceutical companies involved in this crisis," said Shapiro.

The group has issued subpoenas to eight companies - five who make opioids and three distributors who allegedly handle 90 percent of the nation's supply.

It's a move Powell's mother says is desperately needed.

"People in the community who are finding a quick way to make money, they fake pain," said Justina McIntyre, Ronnie Powell's mother. "You can go into any emergency room and cry that you have back pain and walk out with 15 Percocets."

Recovering addict Joe Lubowitz remembers when he was given his first pain pill.

"A friend of mine told me to give it a try," said Lubowitz. "Honestly, once I took it for the first time, I felt like I was invincible."

But he was soon on the dark road to heroin.

"I saw somebody overdose in front of me and I knew I didn't want to be that person," he said.

Shapiro said manufacturers have a responsibility to tell patients, doctors and the public everything that they know about these incredibly addictive and dangerous drugs.

Powell's mother hopes this investigation will save other families from pain like hers.

Lubowitz, who is 6 years sober, said he hopes it removes the stigma about addiction, and moves more people to get the help they need.
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