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The opioid industry faces sweeping legal challenges. Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty

Cities and counties in Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee have filed lawsuits over the past couple weeks against opioid manufacturers and drug distributors, accusing the companies of pushing doctors to prescribe addictive painkillers and failing to monitor where the drugs have been going, which has led to the country's staggering opioid crisis.

Why it matters: These lawsuits continue to pile up and have the potential to lead to large settlements — if judges accept the legal theories.

The latest examples: The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, said in a lawsuit this week the drug companies and wholesalers "created the foreseeable opioid crisis" and forced the tribe to spend tens of millions of their limited dollars on drug recovery and treatment.

Johnson County, Tennessee, which was featured in an October NBC News story about babies who are born addicted to opioids, said in its lawsuit that "in 2016 for every 100 Johnson County residents, there were 106.6 opioid prescriptions dispensed."

The companies being sued: Several of the largest opioid makers, including Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson, as well as the big three drug distributors, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

10 hours ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.