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Justice Department seeks role in opioid settlement talks

From Reuters - April 2, 2018

(Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department on Monday sought court permission to participate in settlement negotiations aimed at resolving lawsuits by state and local governments against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The Justice Department said in a brief it wanted to participate in talks overseen by a federal judge in Cleveland as a friend of the court that would provide information to help craft non-monetary remedies to combat the opioid crisis.

We are determined to see that justice is done in this case and that ultimately we end this nations unprecedented drug crisis, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Last month, the Justice Department asked U.S. District Judge Dan Polster for 30 days to decide whether to participate in the litigation given the costs the federal government had incurred because of the opioid epidemic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in over 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016. U.S. President Donald Trump has called for litigation against companies over their roles in the opioid epidemic.

But Mondays brief signaled that the Justice Department would not be seeking to participate as an active litigant in the litigation before Polster, who is overseeing at least 433 opioid-related lawsuits brought primarily by cities and counties.

The lawsuits generally accuse drugmakers of deceptively marketing opioids and allege distributors ignored red flags indicating the painkillers were being diverted for improper uses. The defendants have denied wrongdoing.

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