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Opioid MDL Judge’s Hopes for Expediency Face Tough Challenges

opioid mdl case may not be as fast as judge had hoped“My objective is to do something meaningful to abate this crisis and to do it in 2018.” These are the words that US District Judge Dan Polster used to open a multi-district litigation brought by municipalities from around the country against the Big Pharma companies they believe have exacerbated the nation’s opioid overdose and addiction crisis.

His goal has been for the parties to reach what is known as a global settlement; or an agreement on an amount of restitution to be paid by Big Pharma to effectively settle all remaining opioid-related litigations. Such a settlement would also be highly likely to include actions mandated for Big Pharma to take to curb the epidemic, stop the flood of opioids into the nation’s towns and cities, and give families a way of starting to put their lives back together.

Hopes for such a resolution have appeared to fade recently, however, as both sides in the case have thrown up roadblocks to a rapid resolution. Such roadblocks could contribute to the need for individual trials which would run completely contrary to the goals of an MDL in the first place.

No specific reasons were given in a recent New York Times article for the sudden shift in the direction of the trial. Judge Polster has ordered settlement talks and negotiations to continue and has ordered the parties to reconvene for another hearing in May.

The delays have to be frustrating for a judge who has shown every indication of having a strong desire to affect some sort of change in the nation’s opioid crisis. From the start, he has signaled that this was not just an academic exercise to him. “People aren’t interested in figuring out the answer to interesting legal questions like pre-emption and learning intermediary, or unraveling complicated conspiracy theories,” he said. He’d later continue by saying that he was “confident we can do something to dramatically reduce the number of opioids that are being disseminated, manufactured, and distributed… Just dramatically reduce the quantity and make sure that the pills that are manufactured and distributed go to the right people and no one else.”

It appears as though others might not be so keen on resolving this matter quite so quickly.