A new Prescription Interdiction & Litigation (PIL) Task Force as been established by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to aggressively coordinate all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to reverse “the tide of opioid overdoses in the United States,” with particular focus on opioid manufacturers and distributors, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week.
“Over the past year, the Department has vigorously fought the prescription opioid crisis, and we are determined to continue making progress. Today, we are opening a new front in the war on the opioid crisis by bringing all of our anti-opioid efforts under one banner,” Attorney General Sessions said. “We have no time to waste.”
Every day in the U.S., 180 people die from drug overdoses, a trend that has lowered the American life expectancy in 2015 and 2016 for the first time in decades. The opioid epidemic is now the leading cause of death for Americans younger than 50. “These are not acceptable trends and this new task force will make us more effective in reversing them and saving Americans from the scourge of opioid addiction,” Sessions said.
Last year, President Trump called the opioid epidemic a National Public Health Emergency. Attorney General Sessions’ announcement further enforces the efforts the federal government is taking to combat the growing problem with the highly addictive painkillers.
The PIL Task Force will include senior officials from the offices of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, and the Associate Attorney General, as well as senior officials from the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, the Civil Division, the Criminal Division, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
At the manufacturer level, the PIL Task Force will use criminal and civil resources to hold opioid makers accountable for unlawful practices, and will strengthen existing Department of Justice initiatives to ensure that the manufacturers are marketing their products truthfully and in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules. The Task Force will also provide support, if needed, to state and local governments who have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.
The PIL Task Force will also use criminal and civil actions to ensure that distributors and pharmacies are obeying DEA rules designed to prevent diversion and improper prescribing, and will crack down on pain-management clinics, drug testing facilities, and physicians that make illicit opioid prescriptions.
Doctors, pharmacies and others that break the law will also face criminal and civil charges under the Controlled Substances Act, Attorney General Sessions added. The Department of Justice will work closely with the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate and hold accountable parties who engage in illegal activities surrounding prescription opioids.