CBS Local — As pharmaceutical companies prepare to square off in hundreds of lawsuits blaming drugmakers for the nation’s opioid crisis, one federal judge is trying to end the chaos before it starts.
U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland, who is overseeing the nearly 250 lawsuits filed against opioid makers, has reportedly asked lawyers from both sides to settle the matter before it goes to court. “About 150 Americans are going to die today, just today, while we’re meeting,” Judge Polster said earlier in January, via USA Today. “Everyone shares some of the responsibility, and no one has done enough to abate it.”
The lawsuits come from all across America, from large cities like Philadelphia, to the entire state of Ohio, to smaller counties in states like Wisconsin. The suits all claim that opioid makers and distributors are responsible for the widespread epidemic of addiction and fatal overdoses connected to the use of the powerful painkillers. “It is very addictive and the drug companies knew that and they lied about it,” Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine claims, according to CBS News.
Plaintiffs in the massive opioid battle claim that drugmakers named in court filings are already working to derail the case. “Those under investigation are trying to influence the investigators by giving large amounts of money. They are not doing so out of the goodness of their heart,” Marquette University Professor Paul Nolette alleges.
Judge Polster added that several levels of government have already “punted” on solving America’s opioid issue and he’s pushing both sides to do more than agree on a financial settlement. “What we’ve got to do is dramatically reduce the number of pills that are out there, and make sure that the pills that are out there are being used properly,” Polster said, via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
According to the CDC, more than 42,000 people in the U.S. died of opioid-related overdoses in 2016; five times the number that died in 1999.