The next 12 months might just redefine the way America thinks about and responds to the opioid epidemic that now claims more than 40,000 lives each year. The nation's biggest drugmakers and distributors face a wave of civil lawsuits that could total tens of billions of dollars in damages.
Thousands of state and local governments, including cities and tribal governments, are demanding that companies like Purdue Pharma, Walmart and Rite-Aid compensate them for the costs of responding to the crisis. They're also pushing companies to reveal far more internal documents, detailing what they knew about the risks of prescription pain medications.
"Our next battle is to get the documents that are being produced made available to the public instead of everything being filed under confidentiality agreements so we can get the facts out," said Joe Rice, an attorney representing local governments suing the drug industry.