The Justice Department announced Tuesday the creation of a new task force committed to keeping manufacturers and distributors of opioids accountable for their alleged contribution to the epidemic of fatal drug overdoses, the Washington Post Reported.
“Opioid abuse is driving the deadliest drug crisis in American history. It has strained our public health and law enforcement resources and bankrupted countless families across this country," United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during a news conference.
The Prescription Interdiction and Litigation Task Force will "examine existing state and local government lawsuits against opioid manufacturers to determine if we can be of assistance," said Sessions, CNBC reported.
The Justice Department has also filed a statement of interest in hundreds of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers that claim the companies used deceptive tactics in marketing the pain killers.
The plaintiffs in the suit include many cities and other municipalities in the U.S. that are seeking to recover the costs associated with fighting the epidemic, including the price of law enforcement and local health programs.
It is estimated the U.S. has spent over $1 trillion on the opioid crisis since 2001, and an additional $500 billion will be spent through 2020, according to a study released by health nonprofit Altarum.
Almost 64,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2016, the largest number on record, and about two-thirds of the deaths involved opioids.
"We will continue to work tirelessly to bring down the number of opioid prescriptions, reduce the number of fatal overdoses, and to protect the American people," said Sessions.