Department of Justice Files Motion in Multi-District Opioid Case
Attorney General Jeff Sessions today announced that the Department of Justice has filed a motion to participate in settlement discussions and as a “friend of the court” in the ongoing Multi-District Litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
“Following the leadership of President Trump, for the past year the Department of Justice has vigorously fought the prescription opioid crisis, deploying new tools and resources to stop the traffickers and corrupt medical professionals who are profiting off of addiction,” said Attorney General Sessions. “We are determined to continue making progress. Today, we are taking a new step to help those who have suffered the consequences of the opioid epidemic by offering our assistance as friend of the Court in ongoing litigation against opioid manufacturers and distributors. We have already filed a statement of interest in this case, arguing that the taxpayer has paid a heavy price because of dishonest opioid marketing practices, and deserves to be compensated. Now we are formally seeking to provide the federal government’s expertise and legal counsel to the court on a potential settlement. We are determined to see that justice is done in this case and that ultimately we end this nation’s unprecedented drug crisis.”
A “friend of the court” is not a direct party to the case, but provides information and expertise that may help achieve justice in the case.
The Department’s participation, if granted by the court, will ensure that the court will be better able to consider the national consequences of the case, and in particular any legal obligations of settling parties to reimburse the federal treasury.
In addition to this filing, the United States is pursuing its own actions against bad actors at every level of the opioid distribution system through the Prescription Interdiction and Litigation (PIL) Task Force, which Attorney General Sessions created in February.
The Attorney General has 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.
Today’s filing will build on a number of new initiatives begun by Attorney General Sessions over the past year that will help us end the drug crisis, including the following:
- In July, the Attorney General announced charges against more than 120 defendants, including doctors, for crimes related to prescribing or distributing opioids and other dangerous narcotics.
- One week later, the Attorney General announced the seizure of AlphaBay, the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet. This site hosted some 220,000 drug listings – including more than 100 vendors advertising fentanyl – and was responsible for countless synthetic opioid overdoses, including the tragic death of a 13-year old in Utah.
- In August, the Attorney General created the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, a new data analytics program to help find evidence of overprescribing and opioid-related health care fraud.
- The Attorney General then assigned 12 experienced Assistant United States Attorneys to opioid “hot-spots” to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud. By November they had begun issuing indictments.
- In October, the Department announced the first-ever indictments of Chinese nationals and their North American-based traffickers and distributers for separate conspiracies to distribute fentanyl and other opioids in the United States.
- Also in October, the DEA announced the establishment of six new enforcement teams focused on combatting the flow of heroin and illicit fentanyl into the U.S. These enforcement teams are based in communities facing some of the most significant challenges with heroin and fentanyl.
- In 2017, the DEA held two of its National Prescription Drug Takeback Days, when people can dispose of unnecessary and potentially dangerous drugs with no questions asked. In total, DEA took a record 956 tons of drugs out of American communities.
- In January 2018, the Department announced a new resource to target traffickers who sell drugs online called J-CODE: Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement team. The J-CODE team will coordinate efforts across the FBI’s offices all around the world – bringing together DEA, our Safe Streets Task Forces, drug trafficking task forces, Health Care Fraud Special Agents, and other assets – effectively doubling the FBI’s investment into fighting against online drug trafficking.
- Also in January 2018, the DEA announced a 45-day surge of Special Agents, Diversion Investigators, and Intelligence Research Specialists to focus on pharmacies and prescribers who are dispensing unusual or disproportionate amounts of drugs.
- On February 7, 2018, the DEA placed all fentanyl analogues not already regulated by the Controlled Substances Act into Schedule I – the category for substances with no currently accepted medical use – for at least two years. This makes it harder for people to acquire illicit fentanyl and easier for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers.
Note: To view the Motion to Participate in Settlement Discussion and as Friend of the Court click here.