Trial lawyer Mike Papantonio (host of America’s Lawyer on RT America and Ring of Fire on YouTube TV) is one of the attorneys leading the fight against opioid narcotic drug pushers, and he recently appeared on Bloomberg TV to explain the corporate conduct that fueled the crisis, as well as the financial costs that we, the taxpayers, are having to pay every year as a result.

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Kevin Cirilli: We are joined by Mike Papantonio. He’s the senior partner with Levin Papantonio and he’s representing more than 500 counties nationwide, 15% of the US population, involved in litigation against big drug companies, suing them for their $200 billion lawsuit for their involvement in the opioid epidemic. We’ve interview lawmakers on the left and the right. They all say opioid addiction is a problem. What role, sir, do you think that these drug companies played in this issue?

Mike Papantonio: Well, here’s the bottom of the line is that since 2001, the opioid crisis has cost the country over one trillion dollars, and those costs have now risen to $500 billion a year starting in 2015. The reason that’s important to the people that are watching this program is because taxpayers are now having to foot that bill.

In other words, you have companies like McKesson and Purdue, and these manufacturers and distributors making $24 billion a year, and they’ve left the country with this mess. Now, taxpayers have to clean it up unless we succeed in court and we show that they have got to pay for this disaster they’ve left.

Kevin Cirilli: It is a mess, and I think everyone would agree with it, that it’s a mess. I want to pull up what Purdue Pharma said when we reached out to them. “We believe it is inappropriate for these jurisdictions to substitute their judgment for the judgment of the regulatory scientific and medical experts. At FDA, we look forward to presenting our substantial defenses to these claims.” So they’re saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Blame the FDA. Blame DEA.” Why is it Purdue’s fault? Why is it McKesson’s fault and not the drug regulators?

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. Well, Purdue is talking mighty big because they’re already trying to set up for bankruptcy. That’s the next thing we’ll se Purdue do is, having killed all these people, created this catastrophic economic disaster all over the country, the next thing they’ll try to do is get court protection and bankruptcy. That’s my prediction. So why are they responsible? Well, Purdue are the people who created the lie.

They went out with a story telling everybody, telling doctors that we have a new product that is not addictive. Don’t worry about it, doctor. You can prescribe as many as you want. The doctor’s believed them because they had biostitutes all over the country … Biostitute is somebody who works in a university, maybe they’re a professor, they’re getting paid $150,000 a year. A company like McKesson comes through and says, “Doc, would you write a piece of literature that says that this is not addictive,” and you had them happening all over the country.

This was driven by the industry. Now, you talk about the FDA. The FDA has been totally dysfunctional where it comes to this particular catastrophe. The only-

Kevin Cirilli: So how does Washington fix that? How does Washington fix that? How do lawmakers on Capitol Hill … Your team talks to these lawmakers. How do they fix that problem?

Mike Papantonio: Here’s how they do it. Here’s how they do it. They handle this just like they would any other criminal entity. If you have a CEO from a company who’s made decisions, that CEO understands that that decision is killing people, it’s manslaughter, if you have decisions like that made, why do we treat that character different than we do a kid on the corner that’s selling marijuana? Why do we treat them different? Because they look different.

They’re dressed up in Armani suits. They have Rolex watches. They don’t have a hoodie on their head. So we have a culture that has said, “Let’s treat them differently because they have access to Congress. They have money to spend around. They have great PR machines,” and so we have to change that culture.

Kevin Cirilli: Mike, this is an issue that invokes a lot of passion. It’s a fiery issue, and people on both sides are passionate. The drug makers, we’ve reached out to them, they say they want to fix this problem. $200 billion, more than 500 cities nationwide. Let’s just take a deep breath for a second. Where would that money go? How would that money be allocated in these settlements to make sure that that money helps alleviate this problem?

Mike Papantonio: It would go to the cities that had to spend millions of dollars for things like police, improving the police force, for things like EMT services, for things like hospital rehab services, all of these things. This is a very tangible number, Kevin. This isn’t something these people are making up. We can look at their balance sheets and see that some of these cities were losing $300 million a year while the drug manufacturers and distributors were making $24 billion a year.

Kevin Cirilli: Right, so it’s-

Mike Papantonio: Our word to them is, “You know what? It’s time to pay up.”

Kevin Cirilli: You know what? I wish we had more time to talk about this issue that a lot of these stakeholders need to have much more of a conversation on. I want to thank Mike Papantonio, senior partner with Levin Papantonio, for coming on, joining us from Pensacola Florida. Thank you, Mike.

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.