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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

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.

By the numbers: States weighing voting changes

Data: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Georgia is not alone in passing a law adding voting restrictions, but other states are seeing a surge in provisions and proposals that would expand access to the polls, according to data from the Brennan Center for Justice.

Driving the news: Just Wednesday, the New York State Assembly passed a bill to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have been released from prison.