By Grant Schulte and Geoff Mulvihill
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson has fought prescription opioid abuse through public education campaigns, worked with lawmakers to tighten prescribing practices and even demanded documents from the maker of OxyContin. He has said the overdose crisis is ravaging families.
What Peterson hasn’t done is pursued a lawsuit seeking to hold any opioid manufacturer, distributor or pharmaceutical company accountable. That leaves him standing alone among state attorneys general.
Every other state has sued, filed administrative charges or promised to sue the companies blamed for the national crisis, which played a role in the deaths of more than 390,000 Americans from 2000 through 2017. Peterson’s decision to stand on the sidelines, at least so far, has frustrated some who want to make sure that Nebraska is in line to receive its fair share of money under any national settlement.
“We as a state have been great and our attorney general has been wonderful in recognizing the opioid problem,” said state Sen. Sara Howard, of Omaha, whose sister died of an overdose in 2009. “It’s really baffling to me why we haven’t joined (the lawsuits).”
Howard sent a letter to Peterson last month urging him to join a group of some 1,500 opioid-related lawsuits from around the country that are consolidated under a federal judge in Ohio, but said she received no response. She said Nebraska has more work to do and that she would like to see the drug companies pay for treatment and prevention programs.