Trump Wants Opioid Manufacturers to Face a Federal Lawsuit

Marcia Frellick

August 16, 2018

President Trump directed Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday to bring a lawsuit against certain opioid manufacturers as part of an effort to help stem the opioid epidemic in the United States, several news outlets have reported.

The president has not specified which companies he would like Sessions to sue, according to CNN.

Also on Thursday, the Trump administration proposed that drugmakers cut production of the six most-abused opioids by an average of 10% next year. The six drugs are oxycodone, hydrocodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, morphine, and fentanyl.

The federal government's lawsuit would be separate from lawsuits filed by states and other entities. This week New York State was the latest to sue Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, alleging that the company's marketing downplayed the risk for addiction.

"The opioid epidemic was manufactured by unscrupulous distributors who developed a $400 billion industry pumping human misery into our communities," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal reports that in addition to Purdue Pharma, the companies states are targeting include Johnson & Johnson, Endo International, and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The suits generally allege that the companies' marketing misrepresented the drugs' addiction risk, and they ask the companies to pay costs of the crisis borne by government entities.

The Wall Street Journal adds that many suits also name drug distributors, including AmerisourceBergen Corp, Cardinal Health, and McKesson Corp, saying the companies didn't properly control opioid distribution to pharmacies.

The Journal reported that the companies deny the allegations and say their marketing and sales practices are appropriate.

Last year in October, Trump declared the opioid crisis a national health emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported this week that 72,000 people died of a drug overdose in the United States last year, up 10% from 2017. Opioids contributed to 49,068 of those deaths, the CDC said.

CNN also reported that Trump directed Sessions to take legal action against foreign companies, especially from China, that have contributed to the influx of fentanyl into the United States.

"In China, you have some pretty big companies sending that garbage and killing our people. It's almost like a form of warfare," Trump said. "I'd like you to do what you can legally."

According to CNN, Sessions answered, "We absolutely will."

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