CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A federal judge presiding over the case regarding communities affected by the opioid crisis is pushing for agreements between the communities and drug distributors.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of the Northern District of Ohio is presiding over the case involving more than 600 communities and drug manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies regarding the opioid crisis. Charleston and the Kanawha County Commission are among the more than 30 West Virginia communities represented in the case.

According to co-lead counsel Joe Rice, Polster has the issue on two separate tracks: litigation and resolution.

“In my opinion, he is of the view that the litigation track is to aid the parties to reach a resolution,” Rice said. “He’s going to go pedal to the metal in both tracks.”

Rice said the case began in January, adding most of the plaintiffs are city and county bodies.

“Judge Polster’s made it clear this is an epidemic for today and not one for tomorrow,” he said. “People are dying today and to be responsible citizens and stewards of our health, we should be focusing on getting something done today.”

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations questioned pharmaceutical company leaders about the opioid crisis, to which only one executive said their company’s actions contributed to the epidemic.

“It sort of reminded me of the hearings that were in Congress when the CEOs of the tobacco industry stood up and said, ‘Our product is not addictive, our product is not addictive,'” Rice said of the hearing. “Several years later amid litigation, the industry admitted they had an addictive product that caused cancer and caused death.”

The first trial date is set for March 2019.

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