Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser has made reparations for the financial and public health damage done by the opioid crisis a hallmark topic of his administration. From litigation to resource investment in harm reduction and treatment, Weiser has hung his hat on approaches that move away from treating opioid addiction as a purely criminal issue.
“This has got to be an all-hands-on-deck solution to address all the tools we can,” Weiser said last Tuesday, speaking at an opioid safety conference put on by the Colorado Hospital Association.
His office is currently part of two lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, the company’s founders and owners. Hundreds of local governments, including a handful of states, have sued the family to get at members’ personal wealth for reparations that wouldn’t be accessible by only going after the company. Members of the Sackler family have been accused of moving their wealth out of the company to make the assets harder to reach in litigation.
Purdue Pharma is “a poster child for some of the wrongful conduct that took place,” Weiser said, referencing the company’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin and downplay of its addictive potential. In a news conference after his speech, he said while he couldn’t give exact terms of resolution his office wants from litigation, it has to include changes to business practices and money that can go toward substance abuse prevention, education and treatment.
But Weiser acknowledged resolution of the litigation could take years, and Weiser knows the state can’t wait for the end to have a road map for reducing harm caused by the opioid crisis. Weiser said the state needs to invest in resources for harm reduction and treatment instead of trying to address the crisis only on the back end through the jail system.