Attorney General Andy Beshear is urging state officials and board members to stop investing state taxpayer dollars and retirement contributions in companies that have profited from the opioid crisis.
Beshear sent letters Tuesday to the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS), urging the agencies to stop investing funds in the six opioid manufactures and distributors that his office is currently suing over their role in fueling the state’s opioid epidemic. Similar letters will be sent to other state agencies and quasi-state agencies that have invested in opioid companies.
Beshear said KRS and KTRS board executives and trustees should take immediate steps to review investments, and in accordance with their fiduciary duty and in compliance with all applicable laws, divest any funds currently invested in the companies.
“As Kentucky families were being devastated by addiction, these companies were making billions in profits,” said Beshear. “By depriving these companies of our state funds Kentucky is sending a loud and clear message that our families come before opioid drug profits.”
Beshear wrote based on a March 31, 2018, monthly report of pension investment holdings, it appears that KRS investments in the six companies total nearly $38 million.
The Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement Systems March 31, 2018, monthly report of pension investment holdings shows the system owns more than 1 million shares between the six companies.
Since taking office, Beshear has been working to hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable and to find workable solutions to the drug epidemic.
Last week, Beshear filed suit against Walgreens for its dual role as distributor and pharmacy in allegedly failing to legally monitor its own operations that shipped and dispensed large quantities of opioids through its more than 70 locations statewide.
In November 2017, Beshear’s first filed suit against manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals regarding its drug Opana ER. The suit alleges Endo violated state law and directly contributed to opioid related deaths and overdoses in Kentucky.
This year, Beshear sued opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky, and New Jersey pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson and Johnson.
Beshear said while he is working to haul these companies into a Kentucky court to be held accountable, state agencies can do their part by stopping the flow of state taxpayer dollars into company coffers.
Beshear’s office also works to combat illegal drug use and abuse in Kentucky communities. Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are assigned to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The Appalachia HIDTA consists of counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Under prevention, Beshear launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The pilot program includes Henderson, Floyd, McCracken and Perry counties. Beshear’s Office of Senior Protection is also working with the faith-based community to distribute the pouches at senior events.
In total, the program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids.
Beshear is working with CVS Health to launch safe medication disposal programs in Kentucky. The in-store safe disposal units are now in nine 24-hour CVS Pharmacy locations in Elizabethtown, Frankfort, Georgetown, Lexington, Louisville and Paducah. By cleaning out medicine cabinets and disposing of unused prescription drugs at a CVS Pharmacy, Kentuckians can help reduce the nearly 80 percent of heroin users who begin their addiction with prescription drugs, Beshear said.