AG provides perspective on fraud, other issues
McCOOK, Neb. - Consumer fraud and the opioid crisis were among the topics as Attorney General Doug Peterson spent the day in McCook Tuesday, speaking with high school students, law enforcement, senior citizens and the McCook Rotary Club.
The AG office has about 70 lawyers and represents the State of Nebraska in all litigation matters. Their largest division is the criminal prosecution bureau, which helps with murder, child sexual assault, child abuse, rape and child pornography prosecutions throughout the state. The office also represents Nebraska in civil litigation and U.S. Supreme Court cases involving disputes between states. Another department within the AG office is the Ag and Natural Resources Division, a small group of lawyers who specialize in water laws.
The consumer protection division provides a wide array of services, including preventative education on consumer fraud tactics. Peterson told the Rotary Club that Nebraska has joined a class action multi-state lawsuit against hotels and resorts for having hidden fees that are not transparent at the time of booking. Peterson explained that those types of cases are not practical to fight on an individual basis, because the value of the individual damages is not enough to justify hiring a lawyer. So states working together have a better chance of getting those types of deceptive practices stopped.
The federal “do not call list” was another topic of concern. “I try to tell anyone if you don’t recognize the number [on caller i.d.], just let it go to voicemail. These guys are very effective once they get you on the phone,” Peterson said. “I believe that as family members, we have to guard ourselves and our loved ones, just to make sure.”
The state is also participating in the opioid manufacturing lawsuit; trying to hold opioid manufacturers responsible for the current opioid crisis. While Nebraska is not experiencing a crisis situation like many other states are feeling right now, Peterson explained that overdose deaths have been the fastest growing cause of death in Nebraska. “It crosses all economic and ethnic groups,” he said.
Two years ago, the AG’s office began talking to the medical community, public health, and law enforcement to dialog about possible strategies forward. “Both from a local standpoint and from a national standpoint, I think we’re really seeing the medical community properly bringing things back in,” referring to limits on opioid prescriptions. “It’s estimated that about one in six people who are using opioid-based pain relievers will develop an addiction.”
Peterson went on to explain that in the 1990s, doctors were told that they needed to start addressing pain issues with their patients. At the same time, opioid manufacturers, specifically Purdue Pharma, came out with a study that said that their time-released opioid-based drug was less addictive; the chance of addiction was less than two percent. “They didn’t have good science for that,” he said.
Health and Human Services has developed new prescription drug guidelines. Prior to April of 2018, Nebraska was one of two states that had a really weak prescription drug monitoring program, Peterson said. The concern going forward, according to Peterson, is that as the supply becomes more limited through reduced prescriptions, extremely potent synthetic opioids begin to make their way into the market.