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politician
November 2, 2018

How Colorado AG Candidates Would Handle Opioid Crisis


When it comes to the Opioid debate, there are a lot of different sides and a lot of different perspectives on tackling the epidemic facing our country. Over the last year, more than a dozen U.S. states have filed lawsuits against Big Pharma companies for false advertisement and damages and now Colorado’s next Attorney General will be “inheriting” this lawsuit.

The big question on Colorado’s mind is how each of these candidates plans to face this lawsuit and protect the state and its citizens.

The Lawsuit

Filed this year by current Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, the lawsuit was aimed directly at Purdue pharmaceuticals, the creators of Oxycontin, for alleged “fraudulent and deceptive marketing of prescription opioids.”

According to Coffman, “Their corporate focus on making money took precedence over patients’ long-term health, and Colorado has been paying the price in loss of life and devastation of its communities as they struggle to address the ongoing opioid crisis.”

Colorado is just another state on the list of states that are currently filing lawsuits against big pharma companies for the same actions. Across the country, state and local governments are demanding reimbursements for the devastating financial and social toll that opioids have caused.

  • Over 1,000 deaths from drug overdose occurred in Colorado in 2017 – 558 of them were from opioids alone
  • In 2016, 912 people died, with 300 from opioid overdose alone
  • Over 40 states are currently investigating or taking legal action against opioid manufacturers
  • A council of White House Economic Advisors estimates the opioid epidemic has already cost the nation over $504 billion in losses
  • Nationwide, over 11.8 million Americans misused opioid prescriptions in 2016

As of now, these pharmaceutical companies deny any wrongdoings, despite the overwhelming amount of evidence from prescribers who were bribed, the ever-increasing death toll and the prescription rates that surpass the populations of some of these states.

So with election season upon us, the two main candidates in the runnings for the next Attorney General seat have to decide how they will face this challenge, and so far, they are polar opposites.

The Democrat

Phil Weiser is the Democratic candidate for the next Colorado Attorney General position. Once the dean of University of Colorado Law School, Weiser has since been the clerk for two U.S. Supreme Court justices and was a policy advisor for the Obama Administration.

Weiser is very vocal about his standings on the popular topics of the day. He comments and stands his ground on everything from the Dreamers debate to separating families at the border, to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

When it comes to the opioid epidemic, he stands his ground there as well. Believing that all proceeds from the lawsuit, if won, should go to providing accessible and high-quality substance abuse treatment around the state.

Weiser and his opponent come from two sharply different backgrounds, one from the road of Emeritus, the other from the path of War.

opioid epidemic

The Republican

George Brauchler was a Colonel in the Colorado Army National Guard as well the Chief of Military Justice in Iraq. Brauchler was the man in charge of prosecuting the Aurora theatre shooter and also handled cases from the Columbine massacres.

Differing from Weiser on the same popular topics of the day, Brauchler believes that the Attorney General shouldn’t be the one deciding the value of Federal Law, backhandedly hinting that Weiser’s election would create a “rogue warrior.”

In response to Wiesler’s stance on the issues of the Affordable Care Act, immigration policies, and even the opioid debate, Brauchler states, “One of the things you have to consider when you decide who wants to be an activist and who wants to be an attorney general is what standing do you have to take up these issues?”

In short, while Weiser has goals for the money won from these lawsuits and for the people of Colorado, Brauchler stance is, let local government figure it out.

The Epidemic in Colorado

Although every state across this country has felt the weight of the opioid epidemic on some level or another, Colorado has become one of the top twenty hardest hit. Research points to the fact that, similarly to the other states, the prescription rates for opioids among Colorado continued to rise sharply.

This has been able to occur due to:

  • Unsafe prescribing practices by doctors
  • The open and unmonitored ability for people with a problem to “doctor shop”
  • Limited access to treatment in rural areas
  • Limited access to health care, mental health care, and safer alternatives around the state
  • The ease of transition into Heroin for people who have become addicted to opioid medications

It’s the same with every other state, where people rich and poor are being completely flooded with easy access to large quantities of pain medications, mildly warned about the ease of addiction, and little to no access to treatment, mental health, or even acceptance from the community for what has happened.

In some parts of Colorado, Tennessee, West Virginia, California, and New Mexico, the amount of opioid prescriptions pills that were prescribed double and even triple the population rates of the rural communities that are the hardest hit by the epidemic.

Big pharma companies that are currently under the microscope are denying any and all negligence, stating they do not use immoral marketing strategies, warn about the addiction potential of their drugs, and do not over flood medications into certain areas.

The death toll and rising addiction rates beg to disagree. One of the major reasons why such a large amount of people are dying is due to the fact that when these people become accidentally addicted to the pain medicine that their doctor prescribed them, they only realize it too late. At this point, they either face continuing to use them or to withdrawal from the medicine, forced to take sick time from work, if they can even get themselves to stop using them.

This is why so many Americans, rich and poor, white and black, old and young, are struggling with the decision to either obtain their medications illegally so they can continue on with their lives or to move on to heroin which is cheaper and much stronger. The tricky thing about addiction is that getting clean and stopping use usually only occurs once that substance has completely taken over your life.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of who gets elected to be Colorado’s next Attorney General, there is still a long way to go on policy reform regarding big pharmaceutical companies, no matter how much money they may make. Both parties have a lot of work to do, and throwing money at the problem might not be the only answer. The lawsuit for Colorado and the rest of the states that are going head to head with big pharma will have to wait for a result, but that doesn’t mean the work can’t start now.

Getting Help

If you or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol and if you’ve tried but failed to kick the habit, you may need professional help. Addiction is tough to beat by itself due to the pain of withdrawal and a lack of support, but you can find both at Stout Street’s reputable treatment center. Call us today and begin your journey to sobriety.