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Hughes Says Utah Should Sue Drug Companies For Their Role In Addiction Crisis

frankieleon, CC via Flickr,

Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes doubled down on his argument that the state should sue pharmaceutical companies for their role in the country’s opioid crisis. But Utah’s Attorney General is pursuing justice outside the courtroom.

Hughes stood shoulder to shoulder with Salt Lake County officials in November when they announced plans to sue pharmaceutical companies for monetary damages caused by widespread opioid addiction. The announcement came shortly after Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes signed on with 40 other states to investigate manufacturers and distributors for deceptive marketing tactics and other claims. Both say the opioid epidemic has caused spending on criminal justice and social services to skyrocket.

But House Speaker Greg Hughes is skeptical of the Attorney General’s approach. He wants to get tougher on Big Pharma.

“I would like to see a weight of litigation and a weight of communities, states, and counties that want to hold Big Pharma accountable, where it changes practices -- not ‘here’s the cost of doing business. Let’s get this over with,” Hughes says.

The attorney general’s office says it fully expects the investigation to result in monetary damages and widespread industry reforms. But Spencer Austin, the Attorney General’s chief criminal deputy, says future lawsuits haven’t been ruled out.

“Forty one state attorney’s general looking at them and sending them civil investigative demands and subpoenas for documents,” Austin says. “We have their attention.”

Austin says the multi-state investigation, and eventual settlement, is a faster alternative to lawsuits.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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