Dec 20, 2018

Huge national opioids lawsuit moves forward

Oxycodone. Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

An Ohio district court judge's procedural ruling in the national opioids lawsuit Wednesday has big implications — because it could open up opioid makers, drug distributors and others to face serious charges in court.

Why it matters: The plaintiffs — various cities, counties and states — are suing the health care companies for their role in the opioid epidemic. Yesterday's ruling, in which the judge denied health care companies' motion to dismiss the lawsuit, may increase the amount of money at stake, which would go toward the fallout from the epidemic.

  • "It is accurate to describe the opioid epidemic as a man-made plague, 20 years in the making. The pain, death, and heartache it has wrought cannot be overstated," Judge Dan Polster said in the ruling.

While the judge sustained nearly all of the legal theories on which the plaintiffs are suing the opioid companies, 2 are particularly important, according to Joe Rice, one of the plaintiff's lead attorneys.

  • The plaintiffs are suing under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. If the plaintiffs win on this charge, the companies would have to pay for the damage caused.
  • The plaintiffs are also allowed to proceed on a "public nuisance" claim. If the defendants are found liable, Rice says, they would have to cure or abate the nuisance — putting them on the hook for even more money.
  • Purdue Pharma, one of the defendants and the one named on yesterday's ruling, declined to comment.

We don't know yet whether this case will go to trial or whether the parties will eventually settle. But the seriousness of the charges will inevitably affect that calculation.

  • "I think this makes the case much easier to try," Rice says.

Go deeper: Where the national opioids lawsuit could be headed

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 665,164 — Total deaths: 30,852 — Total recoveries: 140,225.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 124,665 — Total deaths: 2,191 — Total recoveries: 1,095.
  3. Federal government latest: President Trump announces new travel advisories for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, but rules out quarantine enforcement. Per the CDC, residents of those states must now "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days," with the exception of critical infrastructure industry workers.
  4. State updates: Alaska is latest state to issue a stay-at-home order — New York is trying to nearly triple its hospital capacity in less than a month and has moved its presidential primary to June 23. Some Midwestern swing voters who backed Trump's handling of the virus less than two weeks ago are balking at his call for the U.S. to be "opened up" by Easter.
  5. World updates: In Spain, over 1,400 people were confirmed dead between Thursday to Saturday.
  6. 🚀 Space updates: OneWeb filed for bankruptcy amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Hollywood: Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to U.S. after being treated for coronavirus.
  8. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  9. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Coronavirus updates: Global death toll tops 30,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

The novel coronavirus has now killed more than 30,000 people around the world — with Italy reporting over 10,000 deaths, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: The number of deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. surpassed 2,000 on Saturday. The United States leads the world in confirmed coronavirus infections — more than 124,000 by early Sunday. The number of those recovered from the virus in the U.S. passed the 1,000-mark on Saturday evening.

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Gilead expands access to experimental coronavirus drug in emergency cases

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O’Day said in an open letter Saturday the company is expanding access to its experimental anti-coronavirus drug remdesivir to include severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The big pig picture: President Trump has called the antiviral drug "promising," but the results of six clinical trials on this investigational medicine are still being conducted, so its effectiveness the treatment of the novel coronavirus has yet to be proved. The World Health Organization is involved in the tests.

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Health