Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, a fourth-generation Oklahoman from Garfield County, has his sights set on holding pharmaceutical manufacturers accountable for misleading physicians about the addictiveness of opioids.

Drug overdose deaths rose significantly by 13.2 percent in Oklahoma from 2015 to 2016, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And it’s not just our state’s problem — President Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency for our nation.

After eyeing the prescription drug abuse epidemic sweeping our state, Hunter filed lawsuits against four of the country’s biggest opioid manufacturers. 

“The oversupply that is occurring, and the misrepresentations that have been made to doctors around the country — honestly, the fraud, with respect to telling doctors, veterinarians, dentists that opioids weren’t addictive — that is the root cause of the epidemic,” Hunter said in Enid last August.

Earlier this month, Hunter and members of the Oklahoma Commission on Opioid Abuse released its findings and recommendations. The nine-member commission is comprised of law enforcement, medical experts, private sector businesses and the Oklahoma Legislature.

As a former lawmaker himself, Hunter always hated when a problem is identified without a visionary solution. Ultimately, he’s hoping the state could receive a sizable judgment to set up a settlement akin to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Trust.

After hearing from state and national epidemic stakeholders at six meetings held over five months, the commission recommended the following: mandating electronic prescriptions, criminalizing the trafficking of fentanyl and its equivalent, passing a Good Samaritan Law, requiring medical clinic owners to register with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs and taxing manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of opioids and using the money as a funding mechanism for opioid addiction treatment.

Hunter believes these legislative and policy changes will establish a solid groundwork for our state’s battle against this raging epidemic.

If lives are saved and drug dealers are held accountable, it will be well worth it.

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