Quote of the week
"Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.' ... This is extremely dangerous to a democracy." — Chris May, of KATV, Channel 7, reading a script that Sinclair Broadcast Group, the owner of KATV and the largest owner of television stations in the country, required anchors to read on air recently. Viewers were given no indication it wasn't local commentary, but a missive distributed by the right-leaning Sinclair that echoes President Trump's "fake news" rants.
State sues opioid manufacturers
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has filed a new lawsuit against drug manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Endo Pharmaceuticals for deploying "marketing schemes and misinformation campaigns" that she said helped create the state's opioid crisis.
The drug companies misled doctors and other medical providers by deceptively downplaying the risks associated with prescription painkillers, Rutledge said. They "falsely touted benefits" of drugs such as OxyContin and Percoset despite a lack of good evidence to support their claims. Drug companies "worked hard to change the longstanding medical understanding of opioids" and have been rewarded with $11 billion in opioid-related revenue in 2014 alone, Rutledge said.
Meanwhile, Arkansas has reaped "a public health crisis of epic proportions." The state's opioid prescription rate is the second highest in the U.S., and drug-associated overdoses are on the rise.
"I am going to make them pay for what they have done to Arkansas," Rutledge declared at a press conference last week with Governor Hutchinson at her side. She presented a display of prescription pill bottles in the shape of the state, each representing one of the 401 opioid deaths in Arkansas in 2016.
Rutledge is suing for damages under the state's Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act, among other laws.
Avoid the DMV
Arkansans can now register vehicles with the state online at mydmv.arkansas.gov. Registration previously required a trip to the Revenue Office. More than 643,000 vehicles were registered at offices throughout the state in 2017. In announcing the development, Governor Hutchinson said Arkansas was one of the first states to offer online vehicle registration.
Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court partially affirmed a circuit court ruling that ordered the Arkansas Department of Correction to release package inserts and labels for its supply of potassium chloride, one of three drugs Arkansas uses in lethal injections.
However, the court agreed with the state's assertion that it was still required to redact certain information from the labels that could identify who sold or supplied the drug to the state. The justices remanded the case back to Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen to determine which specific information must be redacted.
The ruling mirrored a decision made by the court in November over another drug used in the execution protocol, the sedative midazolam. Attorney Steve Shultz filed almost identical Freedom of Information Act complaints against the state last year — one for midazolam, one for potassium chloride — over the prison system's unwillingness to release drug labels.
Tenure policy changed
The University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees has approved a change in tenure policy that has been widely criticized by faculty, especially by the 294 anonymous respondents to a survey taken at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Faculty concerns were that the new policy weakens tenure and faculty rights and would undermine academic freedom. Among other objections, faculty members were critical of changes within Section 405-1 of the policy creating a requirement of "collegiality" for tenure — which some interpret as a way to quell freedom of speech — and adding the ambiguous "unsatisfactory performance" as