What to do about opioid lawsuits?

0 5

Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida, @barav is AHCJ’s key topic leader for infectious diseases. She is an independent journalist who has published extensively on health policy and infectious diseases. Her writings have appeared in The National Journal, Agence France-Presse and McClatchy News Service. MSNBC. NPR. Politico. The Washington Post.

Taylor Knopf, a North Carolina health news reporter and moderator of the “Following the opioid settle money” panel session at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin.
In the States, billions of dollars will soon be spent to resolve thousands of cases against distributors and manufacturers of opioids.
Journalists will play an essential role in shedding light on whether the dollars will actually go towards addressing the opioid crisis, which killed an estimated 80,816 Americans in 2021, and more than 500,000 since 1999, according to CDC data. In 2021 there were 107622 drug overdose deaths, an increase of 15% over 2020.
To help reporters cover this topic, Taylor Knopf, a North Carolina health news reporter, Shelly Weizman, a lawyer at the Georgetown University O’Neill Institute for National and Global Law center and Albie Park, an addiction counselor, offered resources and tips during a May 1 session at Health Journalism 2022 in Austin.
“If we are going to get this right with these opioid settlements, it’s going to take a great deal of accountability and transparency and staying on top of this,” said Weizman, who is also associate director of addiction and public policy initiative at the O’Neill Institute.
Earlier this year, the nation’s three largest drug distributors and a drug manufacturer agreed to pay $26 billion to settle thousands of state and local lawsuits, while Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, agreed to pay as much as $6 billion to settle lawsuits and emerge from bankruptcy protection. There are many other lawsuits that are still pending. However, the money from cases settled is expected to start flowing in 2022.

Weizman and Park said their biggest concern was that most of the settlement money wouldn’t go to trying to address the opioid epidemic, but instead would end up in general state and local government coffers to be used for other things like roads and education. The 1998 settlement money from the tobacco litigations was exactly this. The majority of states did not spend much of this money on prevention or smoking cessation programs.
It is important to be up-to date on all the lawsuit settlements in your state and find out what is going on in the next few months. Weizman’s presentation gave a guideline for understanding the legal system. She says that the lawsuits can be divided into three categories: The first one is multi-district litigation, which brought together over 3,000 state, local, and government lawsuits before a federal judge in Ohio. The second category is state attorneys general cases. And the third, civil enforcement, federal criminal prosecutions, and malpractice lawsuits brought against executives and doctors of companies.
Multidistrict and attorneys general lawsuits came together to settle a total of $26 Billion. However, not all states and tribes agree to the settlement. You can check out what’s happening in your state regarding the lawsuits.
On a separate legal track is Purdue Pharma, which filed for bankruptcy and wasn’t subject to the multi-state and attorneys general suits. The company agreed to pay $6 billion to emerge from bankruptcy in exchange for absolving the company’s owners — the Sackler family — from legal liability.
Weizman’s organization is also tracking what is happening in the states, where some legislatures have proposed or passed bills to make clear where opioid settlement dollars should be allocated. Reporters should watch that the state isn’t just supplanting money from the opioid settlement and using it elsewhere rather than expanding addiction and prevention programs to stop the opioid epidemic.
“Keep a close eye on whether this is actually new money” being allocated to [opioid addiction and prevention] programs, Weizman said. This organization created a model public policy for state governments to follow in order to expand and build drug addiction programs.
Park, who co-founded Harm Reduction Works and HRH413 urged reporters to look into whether opioid dollars will be allocated toward addiction programs that emphasize abstinence-only approaches, which don’t work for most people. There is increasing evidence that a mixture of methods, such as providing safe areas for drug users and medication, can be used to treat opioid addiction and decrease overdose deaths.
“We have this abstinence-only narrative about recovery and treatment,” said Park. “That narrative only works for a small minority of people.”
Bara Vaida, @barav is AHCJ’s key topic leader for infectious diseases. She is an independent journalist who has published extensively on health policy and infectious diseases. Her writings have appeared in The National Journal and Agence France-Presse as well as McClatchy News Service (MSNBC), MSNBC. Politico, The Washington Post, and many other outlets.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.