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Pharma companies continue to settle lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic in this country.

Despite the despicable behavior of the Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, the Sacklers were allowed to settle many outstanding state and agency lawsuits against them with a $6 billion dollar deal in March of this year. The settlement allows the family to deny any wrongdoing despite their aggressive marketing campaign to sell physicians and the public on highly addictive pain pills.  The actions of Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers and distributors are seen as the primary cause of the tragic opioid epidemic which has killed more than 932,000 people from drug overdose since 1999. More than 100,000 people died in 2021 alone.

In July, another opioid manufacturer, Teva Pharmaceuticals reached a tentative settlement with approximately 2500 states, local governments, and tribes for their role in the epidemic.  Despite its low profile, the company churned out more generic and brand-name opioids than either Purdue Pharma or Johnson & Johnson. The potential settlement is worth about $4.25 billion and will pay out over 13 years. Part of the deal provides $119 million for overdose reversal drugs to 570 tribes.  This deal is a significant departure from the original settlement offered by Teva. Because Teva sees its role as less damaging because it did not market opioids to physicians, the company offered medications and little cash to settle claims against it.

By August, West Virginia reached a settlement of $30 million with Pharma retailer Rite Aid for its alleged role in oversupplying opioids to the public though its pharmacies.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), West Virginia has the highest rate of death by overdose as seen in the most recent figures from 2020. The agreement reflects dispensing behavior including the failure of Rite Aid to flag suspicious prescriptions and continuing to supply opioids.  In another round of settlements, Rite-Aid reached a deal worth $10.5 million with counties in North Carolina, Ohio, and Georgia for its part in the opioid crises in those counties.

Despite the continuing settlements, the damage cannot be undone.  Lives continue to be ruined and destroyed by the choices made by Pharma companies to pursue the dollar at any cost to human life.

A small ray of light comes in a recent study published in PLOS ONE.  Researchers found opioid prescribing rates have declined slightly for patients with private insurance and who are not suffering cancer-related diagnosis.  Cold comfort compared to a futurescape where opioids had not been marketed to the vulnerable in the first place.

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