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On March 6th, Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio, who is presiding over the multidistrict litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors (In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804), met with the parties’ negotiating teams, liaison counsel and representatives of numerous State Attorneys General to discuss the status of settlement negotiations
in this case. The parties reported important and substantial progress on several fronts, but also identified various barriers to a global resolution. To varying degrees, the parties agreed that the
quickest way to surmount at least some of these barriers is to put into place a limited litigation track, including discovery, motion practice, and bellwether trials.
Accordingly, the Court directed the parties to submit to the Special Masters no later than 12:00 noon on Friday, March 16, 2018, their suggestions regarding the appropriate scope and
timing of a litigation track and the contents of a case management order (“CMO”), including identification of test cases, sequencing of discovery, timing of motion practice (including issues
related to remand), and any other relevant matters. The Court intends to confer with the Special Masters and then promptly enter a case management order.
The Court further directed the Special Masters to continue their engagement in active settlement negotiations, to include: (1) periodic meetings with the parties and State Attorneys
General, and (2) direct contact with decision-makers for defendants to ensure that settlement decisions can be made on a timely basis. The Court will also conduct a settlement conference in chambers on Thursday, May 10th.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers had pressed for a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration database that would indicate which defendants sold most of the prescription painkillers, and in what amounts. The U.S. Department of Justice pondered over the request for months. However, less than a week after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the DOJ’s new opioid task force (see below), government lawyers agreed to release the data as long as it was confidential. Judge Polster approved that protective order.
Opioid Task Force
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently announced the creation of a new effort, the Department of Justice Prescription Interdiction & Litigation (PIL) Task Force, to fight the prescription opioid crisis. The PIL Task Force will aggressively deploy and coordinate all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to reverse the tide of opioid overdoses in the United States, with a particular focus on opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The PIL Task Force will include senior officials from the offices of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and the Associate Attorney General, as well as senior officials from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Civil Division, the Criminal Division, and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Task Force will coordinate the Department’s many efforts and tools to combat the opioid epidemic.
The PIL Task Force will combat the opioid crisis at every level of the distribution system. At the manufacturer level, the PIL Task Force will use all available criminal and civil remedies available under federal law to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for unlawful practices. The PIL Task Force will build on and strengthen existing Department of Justice initiatives to ensure that opioid manufacturers are marketing their products truthfully and in accordance with Food and Drug Administration rules.
The Attorney General has also directed the PIL Task Force to examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine what assistance, if any, federal law can provide in those lawsuits. The federal government has borne substantial costs from the opioid crisis, and it must be compensated by any party whose illegal activity contributed to those costs.
The Department will also use all criminal and civil tools at its disposal to hold distributors such as pharmacies, pain management clinics, drug testing facilities, and individual physicians accountable for unlawful actions.
The PIL Task Force will use criminal and civil actions to ensure that distributors and pharmacies are obeying Drug Enforcement Administration rules designed to prevent diversion and improper prescribing. It will use the False Claims Act and other tools to crack down on pain-management clinics, drug testing facilities, and physicians that make opioid prescriptions.
The PIL Task Force will use the criminal and civil tools available under the Controlled Substances Act against doctors, pharmacies, and others that break the law. The PIL Task Force will build upon and expand the efforts of the existing Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. Created in August 2017, the Unit uses sophisticated data analysis to identify and prosecute individuals who are contributing to the opioid epidemic, including pill-mill schemes and pharmacies that unlawfully divert or dispense prescription opioids for illegitimate purposes.
The PIL Task Force will also work closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and hold accountable any parties who engage in illegal activity surrounding prescription opioids. The Attorney General has directed the PIL Task Force to establish immediately a working group to: (1) improve coordination and data sharing across the federal government to better identify violations of law and patterns of fraud related to the opioid epidemic; (2) evaluate possible changes to the regulatory regime governing opioid distribution; and (3) recommend changes in laws.
Please see our other opioid-related blog posts:
Opioid Lawsuit News: MDL Judge Warns Lawyers About Settlement Discussion Confidentiality
Opioid News: New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit Against Insys Therapeutics Over Subsys (Fentanyl) Spray
Opioid News: NYC and Orange County
NYC Files $500M Opioid Lawsuit / Warwick, NY Working Together Discussion on Opioid Crisis
Opioid Lawsuit News: New York Counties in State Opioid Litigation Allowed Discovery / Orange County Forum on Battling Opioid Epidemic
National Opiate Litigation News: Opioid MDL Judge Wants Quick and Comprehensive Settlement
Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation Centralizes Lawsuits to Form Opioid Epidemic MDL (In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation, MDL No. 2804)
Opioid Epidemic Lawsuits: Orange County and Other Local Governments vs. Big Pharma
Orange County Sues Drug Makers and Doctors Over Opioid Addiction Crisis
Orange County Takes Aim at Big Pharma
#opioid #opiate #opioidcrisis #opioidepidemic #addiction #lawsuit
If you or a family member have suffered injury from use of a prescription or over-the-counter drug or pharmaceutical, including opiates, you and/or your family member may be entitled to money damages. If you are a municipality or other organization that has incurred costs to battle the nationwide opiate addiction epidemic, you also may be entitled to money damages.
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