DOJ Joins Plaintiffs in Opioid Lawsuit

Late last month Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice would be joining the efforts to combat the deadly opioid crisis gripping America.  The Justice Department, under the guidance of Sessions, has designated a task force to track opioid producers who have been flooding the markets.  The Department of Justice Prescription Interdiction and Litigation (PIL) Task Force would use civil and criminal penalties to go after opioid manufacturers that violate the law.  Sessions appointed federal prosecutor Mary Daly to oversee opioid enforcement.


Justice Department Files Statement of Interest in Opioid Litigation

Sessions also stated that the Justice Department would be filing a “statement of interest” in an Ohio lawsuit currently filed against opioid makers.  According to a recent article in the New York Times, the lawsuit goes after manufacturers and distributors of opioids who have used “false, deceptive and unfair marketing of opioid drugs.”  The statement of interest does not make the Justice Department a party to the lawsuit, but it could hold some persuasive power.

The Justice Department has joined a lawsuit out of the Federal District Court in Cleveland.  Sessions has joined attorneys general from seven states to combat the national epidemic which is believed to have cost more than $4 billion from the federal Medicare program.  Over 400 complaints were consolidated out of the Ohio courthouse.  US District Court Judge Dan Polster is overseeing the MDL.  Many believe it could result in a substantial settlement not seen since the tobacco company payouts in 1998.  The settlement included a $206 billion payout over the first 25 years of the agreement by the four largest tobacco companies: Phillip Morris Inc., R. J. Reynolds, Brown & Williamson, and Lorillard.[1]


History of the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is nothing new in America, what is new is the number of people who have access to the drugs such as oxycodone and fentanyl.  More alarming is the ease at which doctors were prescribing the potentially life-threatening drugs.  Plaintiffs argue that manufacturers misled consumers and doctors about the risk of abuse, addiction, the risk of overdose and death.  It is believed that opioid overdoses were responsible for the deaths of 64,000 people.  Aggressive marketing by Purdue Pharma and other drug manufacturers leads to a massive jump in the number of doctors prescribing opioid painkillers and a huge increase in the number of people who die from an opioid overdose.  According to the Attorney General, 180 Americans die every day from drug overdoses.[2]


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