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Opioid overdose in Warren, Ohio. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

The city of Detroit yesterday joined a torrent of an estimated 400 cities, counties and states suing opioid makers. Their main allegation: the companies are complicit in an addiction crisis that has killed about 37,000 people in the U.S. in just the 12-month period ending in May, or 103 per day.

  • Read this statistic: When you add in heroin, to which opioid addicts often turn because it's cheaper and often easier to obtain, the 12-month number of opioid deaths through May exceeds 53,000, meaning 145 people per day.

More suits will be filed this week in Illinois, and Paul Hanly, one of the leading lawyers for the plaintiffs, tells Axios that the number of cases will rise to almost 1,000 by this time next year, a deliberate strategy of driving the opioid-makers to the negotiating table. The suits, first filed in 2014, have vastly accelerated pace this year. In a settlement, Hanly said, "we're talking tens of billions if not hundreds of billions for a nationwide resolution." The lawyers' model is 1990s litigation that led to a $246 billion settlement with Big Tobacco under similar allegations.

  • Any settlement, Hanly said, is meant to reimburse localities for services like ambulance, hospitalization and, too often, morgues, funeral homes and cemeteries.
  • The lawsuits list Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, the principal opioid on the market; Janssen Pharmaceuticals; Endo and others. In September, Purdue filed motions to dismiss lawsuits filed by the states of Ohio and Wisconsin. If it wins, the company presumably will use that as a model for its defense.

In a statement given to Axios, Purdue said, "We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we've distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense."

Go deeper

4 mins ago - World

Putin calls talks with Biden "constructive," says ambassadors will return to posts

Putin at the summit with Biden. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings.

Updated 9 mins ago - World

Live updates: Putin holds press conference after Biden summit concludes

President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva for less than four hours of talks on Wednesday, a highly anticipated summit that comes as both sides say U.S.-Russia relations have sunk to a new post-Cold War low.

The latest: The summit concluded at about 11:15 a.m. ET, according to the White House. At a press conference, Putin called the talks "very constructive' and announced that the U.S. and Russia's respective ambassadors would return to their posts. Biden is expected to deliver his own press conference at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Southwest heat wave intensifies, breaks records and worsens drought

A temperature "misery index" shows peak levels across the Southwest (orange and yellow), and the upper air flow shows how the jet stream is being pushed north, away from the heat dome parked over the Four Corners region. (Earth.nullschool.net)

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.