On Monday, President Trump delivered an opioid speech in New Hampshire in which he promised to get tough on opioid investigation and enforcement. This follows on the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) prior assertion that it will strengthen its efforts against pharmaceutical industry members.

On February 27, 2018, the DOJ announced the creation of a Prescription Interdiction & Litigation (“PIL”) Task Force.

According to the press release, the PIL Task Force is charged with investigating and bolstering existing claims brought by municipalities, carefully monitoring pharmaceutical manufacturer and distributor compliance, and supporting preexisting strategies to combat the opioid epidemic:

“The PIL Task Force will aggressively deploy and coordinate all available criminal and civil law enforcement tools to reverse the tide of opioid overdoses in the United States, with a particular focus on opioid manufacturers and distributors… 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…The Department will also use all criminal and civil tools at its disposal to hold distributors such as pharmacies, pain management clinics, drug testing facilities, and individual physicians accountable for unlawful actions.”

The Task Force will also create a working group to: (1) improve coordination and data sharing across the federal government to better identify violations of law and patterns of fraud related to the opioid epidemic; (2) evaluate possible changes to the regulatory regime governing opioid distribution; and (3) recommend changes in laws.

On the same day as the PIL Task Force was announced, the DOJ communicated its intention to release a Statement of Interest in the multidistrict opioid litigation hearings headed by various municipalities, occurring in Ohio.

The main thrust of the DOJ’s statement will be that “the federal government – through various federal health programs and law enforcement efforts – has borne substantial costs from the opioid epidemic and seeks reimbursement.”