The U.S. Justice Department is creating a task force focused on targeting opioid manufacturers and distributors, and holding them accountable for unlawful practices, the Washington Post reports. DOJ also filed a statement of interest in a case involving hundreds of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the department will argue that the federal government has borne substantial costs from the opioid epidemic and it seeks reimbursement. The case includes many cities, municipalities and medical institutions.
“Opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history,” Sessions said. “It has strained our public health and law enforcement resources and bankrupted countless families across this country.” States and cities have suffered the brunt of the drug crisis, which killed more than 64,000 people in 2016 and is straining local emergency and health services. About two-thirds of the overdose deaths were caused by opioids. This week, the White House is holding a summit on the drug crisis. Hearings on eight House bills are beginning on Capitol Hill and the Secretary of Health and Human Services has embraced the expansion of medically assisted drug treatment. In Ohio, a federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits against drug companies may rule by Monday on whether the Drug Enforcement Administration must give plaintiffs and defendants years of data on prescription opioid painkillers that were poured into communities across the U.S.