Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin, recently settled lawsuits from the government for billions of dollars over their role in the opioid epidemic. The money was meant to cover both the human toll and the strain on society, including the medical community. Instead, the opioid epidemic touched every corner of America, and billions of dollars are being diverted to the cause of addiction prevention and treatment.
However, even as these payouts go out to governments, there are still incredible losses for the communities to bear. The most significant losses, of course, are the victims of overdoses and their families. For them, there will be just a small, token payout for their suffering.
Families Still Struggle With the Aftermath
As the financial details were being finalized for the most significant drug company settlements in history, families across the US gathered items to make their case. With loved ones who died of overdoses, there is always a trail to start from.
One family who lost a loved one to overdose described the painful process of gathering insurance receipts, drug test results, doctor visits, and addiction treatment bills to NPR. For other families, the loss of income from a loved one might be included if they still held a job. For others, only the receipts from detox and treatment prove their loved one was trying; the courts, however, are the ones who decide how much each lost life was worth. Experts estimate that the number will probably be in the lower range of $40,000 to $60,000.
A Focus on the Future
While families struggle with a remnant of the past, most of the opioid lawsuit money will go into prevention and harm reduction. For example, new fentanyl test strips will help drug users test the purity of their opioids. Narcan can help reverse an overdose. And many states have added Medication-Assisted Treatment to their emergency rooms, hoping to help addicted persons take the first step to getting clean and sober.
With the focus on the future, we cannot forget the past. The opioid lawsuits paint a story of how corporations made millions of dollars off their patients’ addiction, actively encouraging doctors to up the dosages to vulnerable patients.
Preventing opioid use is one step in the right direction, but regulators are the ones who are poised to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Fentanyl is becoming the greatest danger to drug users across the US; it, like Oxycontin, is a legal prescription. But, unfortunately, it’s the most pervasive drug on the street, and regulators haven’t caught up to prevent its usage. Let’s hope they come up with solutions before it’s too late and fentanyl becomes as pervasive as Oxycontin.