Where does the buck stop with this opioid epidemic? Is it the producers? Is it the big pharmaceuticals? Mike Papantonio, host of America’s Lawyer, joins Lee Camp to discuss the fight against the opioid crisis.

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Lee Camp: One of the questions I wanted to get to next is the opioid epidemic that’s going on. What are the updates on these opioid producers? Are there legal actions going on? Does it seem like they’ll be held accountable at all?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well, as you may or may not know, my law firm is one of the handful of firms that have been asked to head the case up up in Cleveland, the national opioid litigation up there. Here’s what I see. Here’s what’s happening right now. What’s happening is the attorney generals from every state just blew it the first time. These attorney generals, the first time they had a chance to do something, they settled with the opioid manufacturers and distributors for 25 million dollars for the entire nation. All of these tough attorney generals got together and they said, “By golly, we stopped the opioid crisis. We’ve settled for 25 million dollars. That was about eight years ago.

Lee Camp: Right.

Mike Papantonio: If you look at the headlines after they settled they said, “Opioid crisis is solved. We made them pay 25 million dollars.” It amounted to nothing. We see that same thing spinning right now. Attorney generals still trying to gain control of everything and say, “We want to settle for a little bit of money and let all the white collar criminals go their way.”

Lee Camp: In your research on that topic, where does the buck stop with this opioid epidemic? Is it the producers? Is it the big pharmaceuticals? Purdue and the Sackler Family or is it other levels of this system?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. The people I’m concentrating on, my law firm is concentrating on the distributors, McKesson, Amerisource, Cardinal. Those are the big distributors. Those are really the drug pushers. They’ll come to a town like in West Virginia where there’s 100,000 people and they’ll sell three million pills over a period of about a year. So 100,000 people buy three million pills. They have somebody who lives in that town. Understand, this is how it works. They have what they call a distributor, a detailer, living in that town, right? So the detailer drives by the pill mills and every morning sees … And we do have actually pictures of this … People lined up around the pill mills standing in their pajamas at 8:00 in the morning waiting to get in to buy the pill.

Well, the distributor, the Sally distributor who works for McKesson, drives by that every day. Sally then goes home and she sees the reports about overdoses in her town. People dying from the drug problem in her town. She has a responsibility to do something but what she did was she kept quiet about it. She covered it up. She kept selling pills until a town of 100,000 people are buying three million pills. I want you to think about this. This is amazing.

Lee Camp: Yeah.

Mike Papantonio: They are buying pills that are … one of them is an 80 mg, an 80 mg Oxycontin. That is equivalently of 24 Vicodin. So they’re telling the doctors, “Oh, well it’s just fine to give them two a day.” So a person taking that 80 mg opioid is taking the equivalent of 48 Vicodin a day under that prescription. In seven days, they’re hooked. Once the pill mill closes down the only thing they can turn to is fentanyl and heroin. That’s why you have all these overdoses. The industry knew exactly what was happening. They had memos talking about how it was happening, where this was going to hit.

Now we’re dealing with the tail of the problem where people are hooked on heroin because now they’re backing out on Oxycontin and some of these opioids. The only place these people who are addicted, I mean physically addicted. They don’t want to buy it. Their body will die if they don’t have it so they buy heroin.

Lee Camp: Yeah, it’s such a fucked up disgusting situation and they’re advertising this stuff on television or in magazines or wherever they choose to do it. They ask people, “Hey, do you have pain? Well, then try this pill that is going to hook you on it for life.” It’s a sick system.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.