Opioid Epidemic: Law and Policy Seminar

Though opioid and heroin addiction is not a new issue, the unfolding opioid crisis in the United States has commanded public attention as accidental overdose and overdose death rates skyrocket to unprecedented levels—resulting in the loss of 70,000 lives a year in the US. Long before President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency in 2017, this crisis has demanded the attention and action of federal, state, and local health officials, governors, and others. In Maryland, as in many other states, the opioid epidemic has led to the declaration of a state of emergency and a raft of new laws and legislative proposals. The attorney staff at our Center for Health and Homeland Security has worked extensively with the State and county governments on these efforts. Moreover, the Attorneys General of many states have sought legal remedies, filing suit against pharmaceutical companies, distributors, and prescribers for their role in the opioid crisis.

This seminar course will examine the legal and policy questions that surround the US opioid epidemic, and responses to this crisis at the federal, state, and local levels. The course will begin by examining what led to the current opioid crisis, including the rise of oxycodone for chronic pain management, along with medical and social factors that may influence addiction; the legal and policy issues that may have led to the rise in prescribing opioids; the use of Emergency Declarations to combat the crisis and actions taken under those declarations; and legislative trends and initiatives to address the opioid crisis, from the expansion of drug courts, to “safe centers,” to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in incarcerated populations. The course will also include readings and discuss pending lawsuit(s) filed in many states against oxycodone manufacturers and distributors, which many have analogized to the lawsuits that eventually led to the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies in the 1990s.

In addition to discussing the assigned readings, as outlined in the syllabus, the beginning of every class will be reserved for discussing current events related to the opioid crisis and related legal and policy issues. Students are expected to share news stories or other relevant and interesting materials with the class.

Key to Codes in Course Descriptions
P: Prerequisite
C: Prerequisite or Concurrent Requirement
R: Recommended Prior or Concurrent Course