A story we’ve addressed a few times in this space saw a big update late last week, as outgoing Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman announced the state will indeed sue Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin opioid painkillers linked to a dramatic rise in overdoses and thousands of preventable deaths in the last two decades. As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports:
“Their corporate focus on making money took precedence over patients’ long-term health, and Colorado has been paying the price in loss of life and devastation of its communities as they struggle to address the ongoing opioid crisis,” Coffman said in a statement Thursday.
The Colorado lawsuit claims there have been approximately 3,000 prescription opioid-related deaths in the state since 1997.
Coffman’s lawsuit comes months after a list of counties, including Pueblo County, sued major drug manufacturers for the costs of opioid addiction in their communities.
As our readers know, the question of whether the state should join numerous other entities suing opioid manufacturers, including hard-hit Pueblo County, emerged as a point of contention in the race to succeed Coffman as Colorado’s attorney general. Democratic candidate Phil Weiser has said unequivocally that Colorado would sue with him as attorney general, while Brauchler demurred–and criticized his opponent for promising to take action:
Brauchler, the Aurora district attorney, faulted Weiser earlier this year for promising to sue drugmakers.
“Pueblo County can do whatever it wants, but I think it’s reckless for a politician to promise that, if elected, he will sue someone,” he said in response. [Pols emphasis]
A big problem with Brauchler’s refusal to commit to suing Purdue can be found in the list of donors to the Republican Attorney General’s Association, which is essentially bankrolling Brauchler’s campaign with over a million in spending so far on the race. Purdue Pharma in particular has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to RAGA in recent years, and this very strategically targeted support has been raised as an issue in other states with foot-dragging attorneys general on opioids.
After Coffman’s decision this week to file suit, Brauchler said it was a decision based on her office’s “careful” review of the facts, not a “reckless” promise, like Weiser’s.
Sorry, but Coffman’s decision to sue cuts Brauchler’s criticism of Weiser off at the proverbial knees. Given the way Coffman was treated, both by Republicans in her gubernatorial run and Brauchler in particular after he himself was squeezed out of the governor’s race Coffman would go on to lose, it’s possible that this was a deliberate snub of both Brauchler and RAGA by extension.
Either way it was the right thing to do, and it’s the Republican candidate for attorney general who was on the wrong side–of one of the most important issues the next AG will face. Would Brauchler be a credible prosecutor in a case against opioid manufacturers…or would it play out like his failed prosecution of the “Shirtless Sheriff?”
The one thing we can say with confidence is there is nothing here that makes George Brauchler look good.