A $26 billion settlement between four pharmaceutical companies and U.S. states and local governments may be forthcoming. That amount serves as compensation for the role that companies play in the opioid epidemic. It is estimated that 500,000 Americans have died since the 1990s due to addiction to heavy pain killers.
42 states support the settlement proposal of drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson and drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. The states had until yesterday to say if they were in favour of the proposal. Local governments have until January 2nd to agree or not. With the settlement, the companies want to buy off the 3000 civil lawsuits filed in one go.
Pharmaceut Purdue Pharma, the creator of the highly addictive OxyContin (with the active substance oxycodone), did something similar. Last week, the judge approved Purdues settlement proposal worth about $10 billion. Part of the deal was that the company is being disbanded, but also that civil proceedings can no longer be filed against the owners.
Since the 1990s, the use of painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl has exploded. The number of prescriptions issued for so-called opioids quadrupled over 25 years.
Pharmaceuticals and distributors played a bad role in this. The dangers of the painkillers were downplayed. According to the manufacturers, the drugs were less addictive and had fewer side effects than, for example, morphine. Aggressive marketing techniques brought the pain killers to the market.
According to the four companies, they have no fault for the opioid epidemic. They point out that the drugs have been approved by the U.S. Drug Authority FDA. Doctors and supervisors are responsible for having so many prescriptions written out is their defense.