Attorney General Brad Schimel (copy)

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel speaks to reporters at the Madison Concourse Hotel. 

M.P. KING — State Journal

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said Thursday he is involved in an ongoing investigation into whether pharmaceutical companies broke the law in the marketing and sale of opioid medications.

Schimel is part of a bipartisan group of attorneys general investigating "what role the opioid manufacturers may have played in creating or prolonging this epidemic and are utilizing investigative tools, including subpoenas for documents and testimony, to determine the appropriate course of legal action to address the ongoing opioid epidemic," according to a news release from the state Department of Justice. 

Wisconsin's elected officials have made combating heroin and opioid abuse a priority in recent years, marked in particular by the Legislature's HOPE Agenda, a collection of nationally-recognized legislative efforts to fight abuse and expand treatment options.

Under Schimel's direction, Wisconsin has led a group of 43 states in a lawsuit alleging the manufacturer of Suboxone violated antitrust laws in an effort to hold onto its monopoly over the drug.

"While it is highly unusual for the Wisconsin Department of Justice to discuss any open investigation, I can confirm today that DOJ has for some time been examining and will continue to examine the practices of opioid manufacturers to determine whether legal action is warranted. There is no silver bullet to solving this ongoing nationwide crisis," Schimel said in a statement.

Schimel also noted that Wisconsin received a settlement in 2007 as the result of a multi-state lawsuit against Purdue Pharma's marketing practices.

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"DOJ is no stranger to litigation in this area and will work to solve this problem with our partners in the law enforcement, medical, dental, substance abuse treatment and business communities," he said.

The targets of the investigation are not currently being identified.

Wisconsin has seen a 10 percent drop in prescription of opioids from the third quarter of 2015 to the third quarter of 2016, Schimel said in an interview last year. He credited that in part to the DOJ's "Dose of Reality" campaign, launched in fall 2015, aimed at combatting the opioid abuse problem through law enforcement, effective treatment interventions and prevention.

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Jessie Opoien covers state government and politics for the Capital Times. She joined the Cap Times in 2013 and has also covered Madison life, race relations, culture and music. She has also covered education and politics for the Oshkosh Northwestern.