By Jacob McGuire | Transcript Staff Writer
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter spoke at the Norman Rotary Club's meeting on Feb. 1.
In an effort to raise awareness of the legal issues the state is facing, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter spoke at the Norman Rotary Club’s Thursday meeting.
During the meeting, Hunter spoke about a lawsuit his office filed against four drug manufactures last year.
On June 30, Hunter filed a lawsuit claiming Purdue Pharma, Allergan, Teva, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and some of their subsidiaries misrepresented the addiction risks of their products.
“It’s a state, as well as a nationwide, epidemic,” Hunter said. “The drug manufacturers cooked up research and paid people to publish it.”
Hunter assured attendees at the meeting that the state will be well-represented. Helping Hunter represent the state will be the Whitten Burrage law firm, of Oklahoma City, as well as several other firms.
Heading the effort is Michael Burrage and his partner Reggie Whitten, whose families have been directly affected by opioid use.
“We hired two great attorneys who will pour their hearts out in this case,” Hunter said. “Burrage lost his niece to overdose, and Whitten’s son died after abusing prescription drugs.”
Hunter provided another example of the dangers prescription drugs pose with the story of former Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box.
In May 2011, Box was found unconscious in El Reno due to a suspected overdose. He later died at the hospital.
The State Medical Examiner’s Office later released a toxicology report that revealed Box had five prescription painkillers and an anti-anxiety drug in his system when he died.
In addition to the suit, Hunter spoke about his efforts in urging the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to take action at the wholesale level to ensure all possible corporate tax savings are captured, resulting in lower retail utility bills for customers.
“We are asking the commissioners at the FERC to stand behind the agency’s mission to assist consumers in obtaining reliable, sustainable energy at reasonable costs,” Hunter said. “The corporate tax cuts have created a dividend for major corporations that should be passed on to customers. We implore the commissioners to act quickly by doing their part at the wholesale level.”
Hunter said his office is still waiting to hear back from FERC.
Following Hunter’s presentation, attendees were allowed to ask him questions, and they didn’t hold back.
Former Norman Transcript editor Andy Rieger asked Hunter if a 1996 lawsuit filed by then state Attorney General Drew Edmondson against tobacco manufacturers and tobacco research groups played a role in the suit being filed in Cleveland County.
Hunter admitted that there was a strategic notion attached to the suit.
The 1996 case was set for trial in January 1999 in Cleveland County, but a national Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) was reached in November 1998.
The MSA between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories, the District of Columbia and the five largest tobacco companies required the tobacco industry to pay the settling states approximately $10 billion annually for the indefinite future. It also set standards for, and imposed restrictions on, the sale and marketing of cigarettes by participating cigarette manufacturers.
Oklahoma has received a total of $1.32 billion since 1999.