Justice Department backs high-stakes lawsuit against opioid makers
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced that the Justice Department is throwing its weight behind plaintiffs in an opioids lawsuit in Ohio.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced that the Justice Department is throwing its weight behind plaintiffs in an opioids lawsuit in Ohio. The department plans to file a so-called statement of interest in the lawsuit, a technique that past administrations have typically reserved for cases that directly affect the federal government's interests, like diplomacy and national security. Sessions said the lawsuit targeted "opioid manufacturers and distributors for allegedly using false, deceptive, and unfair marketing of opioid drugs." He also announced the creation of a task force to pursue the makers and distributors of prescription opioids and said it will "examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance." The lawsuit pending in Federal District Court in Cleveland consolidates more than 400 complaints by cities, counties, and Native American tribes nationwide. Some of the high-profile defendants include pharmaceutical firms Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, large distributors McKesson and Cardinal Health, and community pharmacy chains such as CVS Health, Rite Aid, and Walgreens. On Monday, DEA lawyers attended a hearing in the Ohio courtroom about how much data they would share about the national distribution of opioid analgesics. Richard Fields, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general and sovereign Native American nations in opioid litigation, predicted that the statement of interest "will help unlock this data so that we can hold manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies accountable."