The Department of Justice will ramp up its investigations of opioid manufacturers and distributors and weigh in on a number of state lawsuits, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on Tuesday, ahead of an “opioids summit” to be held at the White House later this week.
Sessions, in addition to announcing new staffing and the creation of a task force aimed at distributors and manufacturers, said the department will submit a statement of interest “in a lawsuit against a number of opioid manufacturers and distributors for allegedly using false, deceptive, and unfair marketing of opioid drugs.”
A long list of manufacturers, including Purdue, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Insys, Janssen, and Teva, have faced scrutiny and often aggressive legal action from state and local governments seeking compensation for what many plaintiffs allege are the costs resulting from the companies’ disingenuous marketing tactics.
Sessions’ decision to add DOJ’s clout to the legal actions against manufacturers and distributors comes after a year of enforcement-side actions from the administration, including crackdowns on fentanyl importation and a broader crackdown on opioid dealer and distribution networks across the country.
“The hard-working taxpayers of this country deserve to be compensated by those whose illegal activity contributed to those costs,” Sessions said. “And we will go to court to ensure that the American people receive the compensation they deserve.”
Sessions’ decision to enter the fray is particularly noteworthy in light of the withdrawal of Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) as President Trump’s nominee for “drug czar.” Marino withdrew after reports revealed his role in legislating diminished enforcement powers for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
President Trump has still not nominated a new DEA director, and only recently nominated a replacement for Marino at the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
The news comes amid a wider flurry of activity on the opioid crisis. Sessions is attending a White House event on Thursday at which he and other administration officials will tout recent activity. Bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill have also allocated money in future budgets and unveiled an aggressive new bill aimed at addiction treatment and prevention.