Plaintiffs’ in the multi-district litigation, which consisting of more than 2,500 cities and counties, suing opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid crisis find they have conflicting goals with state lawmakers in the ongoing opioid litigation.
State attorneys general are adamant on taking drug manufacturers and distributors to trial in hopes of winning a large settlement to offset the massive cost of the opioid crisis; local lawmakers see the benefit of settling quickly, even if the amount recovered is smaller, to relieve local communities of the heavy financial burden they continue to bare. Local communities absorb most of the cost of the opioid crisis in the form of overdoes medications, rehab, foster care, first responders, and law enforcement to address the crisis that continues to cost hundreds of billions in taxpayer funds each year and takes 130 American lives every day.
“The opioid crisis has just presented such an emergency and it’s called for quick action.” -Adam Zimmerman, Loyola Law Professor
“The opioid crisis has just presented such an emergency and it’s called for quick action. To the extent that it hasn’t worked, I don’t think that’s necessarily the fault of Judge Polster as much as just the extremely complicated nature of this litigation.” -Adam Zimmerman, a professor at Loyola Law School and an expert in opioid litigation.
States have separate lawsuits in state courts and are not part of the multi-district litigation being overseen by Judge Dan Polster in an Ohio federal court. Yet any global settlement made in the multi-district litigation could effect the state attorneys general’s bargaining power with drug manufacturers and distributions, therefor they continue to weigh-in and often attempt to derail the settlement talks. Judge Polster encouraged both sides to come to a settlement within a year, now two years later a settlement has not been reached.
In addition to the civil lawsuits, pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors are now facing state and federal criminal charges.
Federal and state officials have begun charging opioid manufacturers and distributors with criminal conspiracy, a charge typically levied against drug dealers.
Federal prosecutors have open criminal investigations against six large drug companies into whether regulations were intentionally ignored in order to increase sales of the opioid painkillers. Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., Mallinckrodt PLC, Amneal Pharmaceuticals Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corporation and McKesson Corporation all received grand jury subpoenas from federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York.
Felony drug-trafficking charges have also been brought against Rochester Drug Cooperative in Manhattan for ignoring red flags and sending tens of million of oxycodone and fentanyl products knowing they were being distributed illegally. Similarly a Cincinnati distributor faces criminal charges among allegations it sent 2.3 million oxycodone pills to a pharmacy in a town of 1,400 people.
What to Know About the Landmark Opioid Trial Starting Monday, The New York Times, October 20, 2019
Your Guide to the Massive (And Massively Complex) Opioid Litigation, NPR, October 15, 2019
6 Drug Companies’ Role in Opioid Epidemic Scrutinized by Prosecutors, The New York Times, November 27, 2019
In 2019, The Legal Fight over Opioids Untraveled Into Confusion and Infighting, NPR, December 26, 2019