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Trump Asks Justice Department to Sue Opioid Companies

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On Thursday, President Trump asked U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to sue drug companies that supply opioids.

Trump and Sessions discussed the opioid crisis during a cabinet meeting where the president asked the Justice Department to bring a federal lawsuit against certain opioid companies, separate from the lawsuits the department has already joined. Those are state lawsuits against drug companies believed to have fueled the crisis, including Johnson & Johnson and OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

“Some states have done it. But I’d like a lawsuit to be brought against these companies that are really sending opioids at a level that it shouldn’t be happening,” Trump told Sessions. “People go into a hospital with a broken arm, they come out, they’re a drug addict.”

Trump didn’t specify which companies he wanted to sue but said he wanted to target foreign companies.

“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.”

Sessions replied:

We absolutely will. We are returning indictments now against distributors from China; we’ve identified certain companies that are moving drugs from China, fentanyl in particular. We have confronted China about it … Most of it is going to Mexico and then crossing the border, unlawfully, from Mexico.

Studies show the majority of people who are prescribed opioids take them as prescribed from their doctors and do not become addicted (most people who abuse prescription medication obtain them from a friend or relative, dealer or “doctor shop”), and that fentanyl is now involved in a majority of fatal opioid overdoses — from 14 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2016. Trump has frequently blamed China due to how easily you can buy fentanyl and other powerful opioids online from Chinese sellers.

Trump’s past strategies for fighting the opioid crisis have included urging people to not use opioids in the first place, producing commercials that highlight the stories of people who became addicted, reducing opioid prescriptions by one third over the next three years, and increased funding for “non-addictive” alternative pain medication.

Originally published: August 17, 2018
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