Louisiana’s attorney general is taking charge of a state lawsuit against drug manufacturers, under a deal that ends a dispute with the governor’s office over who controls litigation against the companies over the opioid crisis in Louisiana.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry said the lawsuit, initially filed through the state health department, will expand to more state agencies alleging damaging impacts from opioid use.
“I am confident that the attorney general’s office will be able to pursue these claims vigorously and will hold the opioid manufacturers responsible for flooding our state with these highly addictive drugs and misleading the public about their addictive nature,” Edwards said in a statement.
Before the agreement, the battle between the Democratic governor and Republican attorney general had worked its way into court, with a state district judge asked to decide which official should handle the litigation.
“I thank the governor for putting his faith in our office’s leadership on this issue. We will work hard to hold drug companies accountable for contributing to the opioid abuse, misuse and addiction that have destroyed so many Louisiana families,” Landry said.
The deal was a rare compromise between the governor and attorney general, who have quarreled repeatedly since taking office in 2016, over finances, contracts and the limits of their jobs. Landry is seen as a possible challenger to Edwards in 2019.
The Edwards administration filed the opioids lawsuit in September through the state health department against more than a dozen drug companies, accusing them of “an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana” with opioids to boost their profits. The lawsuit seeks damages for payments made through the Medicaid program for opioid prescriptions and for treatment costs tied to opioid abuse.
Landry wants to include opioids’ impacts on other agencies, such as increased costs to the state’s criminal justice and education systems and the impact on social services. He previously said the health department had no experience handling the type of complex litigation involved in suing a deep-pocketed industry.
Under the deal, no settlement with the drug companies could be reached without both the attorney general and the governor’s administration in agreement.