More than 250 federal lawsuits have been filed against various pharma companies for their alleged involvement in the conditions that created the present opioid epidemic.
The settlement talks are the purview of U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland. According to him, the epidemic is “100 percent man-made."
Judge Polster also said that other branches of government have “punted” on handling the crisis. (Related: Maker of highly addictive OxyContin says it will stop incentivizing doctors to push its deadly drugs.)
Dozens of attorneys who represented the plaintiffs and the pharma companies were in attendance. Also present were attorney generals from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Virginia, which are some of the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis.
“He’s dead serious about getting something resolved,” shared Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine regarding Judge Polster's handling of the initial settlement talk. "I’m very encouraged."
His counterpart from Kentucky, Andy Beshear, had scathing words for multinational pharmaceutical companies that were trying to extricate themselves from legal entanglement. He called on them to owe up to their mistakes and compensate victims for the various damages they caused.
“If you call yourself a health care company, and not simply a for-profit corporation, you should be willing to do that,” said Attorney General Beshear.
The start of settlement talks is a bright spot of hope in the wake of the sober statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding the modern-day plague. More than 42,000 people died from opium overdose in 2016 alone. That's a five-fold increase compared to the statistics from 1999.
The tally of fatalities for 2017 is expected to be higher, though the CDC has yet to release the newest information to the public.
For many years now, the U.S. has been plagued by a disaster of addiction, abuse, and deaths related to opioid drugs. These highly-addictive substances include medical painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin and illegal street drugs like fentanyl and heroin.
The plaintiffs are fighting to force Big Pharma into a global settlement that would force the recalcitrant pharmaceutical industry to acknowledge its complicity in the deadly crisis. Many hope such an agreement would include the federal lawsuits they filed in state courts.
One of those plaintiffs is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took legal action against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies for their culpability in the shockingly huge wave of addictions that were rotting the Big Apple from the inside.
Despite its gruesome body count and the untold amount of suffering it had caused, the opioid epidemic did achieve something positive: It united Democrats and Republicans against a common and truly formidable foe.
Kentucky Attorney General Beshear, for instance, is a Democrat. He believes the campaign to prosecute the greedy giants of the pharmaceutical industry is a bipartisan movement supported by both major parties.
His Republican colleague from Ohio, Attorney General DeWine, declined to share the amount of the settlement he hoped to wring out of pharmaceutical companies and distributors. However, Bloomberg brought up an Ohio State University study that calculated Ohio spent as much as $8 billion every year to deal with opioid-related problems inside its state borders.
When pressed by Fox News for their side of the talks, attorneys representing the pharmaceutical industry refrained from responding.
For more stories regarding prescription drug abuse, visit Opioids.news.