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DOJ to file statement of interest in opioid lawsuits

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] Tuesday that it will be filing a statement of interest in the multi-district opioid lawsuit against distributors and manufacturers.

In the statement of interest, the DOJ will assert that the federal government should be reimbursed for the significant costs caused by the opioid crisis through enacting treatment programs and public safety measures.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions [official profile], estimating the crisis has costed billions of dollars, said that "[the] opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history. It has cost this nation hundreds of thousands of precious lives. It has strained our public health and law enforcement resources and bankrupted countless families across this country." An estimated 64,000 lives [press release] were reportedly lost to overdose in 2016 and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [official website], nearly 150 Americans [JURIST op-ed] die per day from opiate addiction.

Those named in the lawsuits are manufacturers Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Endo International PLC and Allergan PLC, as well as three of the largest distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. [corporate websites].

The lawsuits, filed by various states, cities and medical institutions, accuse manufacturers and distributors of deceptively marketing opioids, advocating for their improper usage, statutory negligence, civil conspiracy, and fraud. Lawsuits have been filed by Washington, New Mexico, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Kentucky and Montana, Detroit, and Ohio and an Ohio county [JURIST reports].

Also on Tuesday, Sessions announced [press release] the creation of the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force. The task force's primary agenda is to target opioid distributors and manufacturers that are suspected of contributing to the opioid crisis and provide appropriate criminal and civil remedies.

The lawsuits have been consolidated, combining about 355 lawsuits. A settlement is being considered.

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