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Federal Docket Created for National Prescription Opioid Litigation

The Opioid Epidemic in the US graphic

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation consolidated more than 100 lawsuits filed by counties, cities and other parties against opioid manufacturer and distributors into the “National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL No. 2804 earlier today.

The JPML assigned US District Judge Daniel Polster in the Northern District of Ohio to supervise the litigation. While the manufacturers had argued for consolidation in corporate defense friendly New York, and various distributors supported consolidation in West Virginia. The location of this MDL in Ohio, which has been one of the hardest hit states by the “opioid crisis" may have far-reaching implications toward the management and the final resolution of the onslaught of opioid claims.

The JPML said, "We find that the actions in this litigation involve common questions of fact, and that centralization in the Northern District of Ohio will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation."

Defendants include AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., AmerisourceBergen Corp., McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health, Inc., and Cardinal Health subsidiary The Harvard Drug Group, L.L.C

Plaintiffs include cities, counties, and states that allege that: (1) manufacturers of
prescription opioid medications overstated the benefits and downplayed the risks of the use of their opioids and aggressively marketed (directly and through key opinion leaders) these drugs to physicians, and/or (2) distributors failed to monitor, detect, investigate, refuse and report suspicious orders of prescription opiates.

All the actions involve common factual questions about the manufacturing and distributor defendants’ knowledge of and conduct regarding the alleged diversion of these prescription opiates, as well as the manufacturers’ alleged improper marketing of such drugs. Both manufacturers and distributors are under an obligation under the Controlled Substances Act and similar state laws to prevent diversion of
opiates and other controlled substances into illicit channels.

Plaintiffs assert that defendants have failed to adhere to those standards, which caused the diversion of opiates into their communities. Plaintiffs bring claims for violation of RICO statutes, consumer protection laws, state analogues to the Controlled Substances Act, as well as common law claims such as public nuisance, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and unjust enrichment.

The text of the transfer order is available at the JMPL website.

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