By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4)- Colorado's Attorney General Cynthia Coffman is taking a new approach to combating the opioid epidemic.
Coffman, along with dozens of attorneys general across the country, are going after the makers of the painkillers.
They have launched an investigation into what role pharmaceutical companies played in initiating and perpetuating the deadly epidemic.
"What we are particularly concerned about is we understand some companies were deliberately elusive with physicians about the addictive properties of the drugs and the possibility that patients would become addicted to the pain killers."
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under the age of 50 and overdose deaths in Colorado have doubled since 2000.
Coffman is trying to change those statistics, "We see people losing their lives every day in Colorado. We have counties with some of the highest death rates in the United States. We need to back up. We need to look at this chain and say where did it begin? What was the conduct that started it? Could it have been avoided? And how, more importantly, do we keep this from happening in the future?"
Coffman chairs a state task force aimed at responding to the epidemic and lead an effort to make naloxone - an overdose rescue drug - available to first responders statewide. But, intervention she says isn't enough.
She wants to stop the epidemic at the source, "We are looking at potential violations of Colorado's Consumer Practices Act. That would have a range depending on the conduct, but it would be things like giving misleading information about how the drug should be prescribed, what level of medication should be given to a patient and for what period of time."
Step Denver is one of the oldest residential recovery programs in Colorado. Executive Director Paul Scudo applauded the investigation. He says manufacturers shoulder some of the blame.
"We hear a lot about prevention but the part of prevention we don't hear about is where the drugs are originally manufactured. The question remains why are they not manufacturing a non-addictive non-mind altering non-euphoric producing alternative to be able to help patients with pain?"
The state Legislature passed several laws dealing with the epidemic this year including creating a million dollar substance abuse research center at the University of Colorado.
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