Oklahoma Officials Reach Opioid Settlement with Drug Companies
In the last few years, several pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies have lost critical lawsuits against states, counties, cities, Indigenous tribes, and individuals who alleged pharma companies played a key role in creating America’s opioid epidemic. One such case was that of Oklahoma Vs. McKesson, Cardinal, and AmerisourceBergen. The state of Oklahoma alleged the three distributors flooded the state with addictive opioids to boost their profits.
Oklahoma won its lawsuit, and now it’s critical the state use the settlement money to create addiction treatment opportunities for struggling addicts, many of whom first experienced addiction by taking prescription painkillers for legitimate medical concerns.
The Close of a Long Story of Litigation in Oklahoma
Earlier this year, Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor announced the state had reached an opioid settlement to the tune of $250 million with pharma distributors McKesson, Cardinal, and AmerisourceBergen. Quoting O'Connor, “Many Oklahoma families have been ravaged and lives have been lost by opioid addictions and overdoses. Money cannot possibly heal those wounds or bring back our loved ones. The funds we are recovering will be used to prevent and treat addictions to opioids.” O'Connor went on to say that Oklahoma will share the settlement between city and county governments in their efforts against opioid abuse.
“Many Oklahoma families have been ravaged and lives have been lost by opioid addictions and overdoses. Money cannot possibly heal those wounds or bring back our loved ones. The funds we are recovering will be used to prevent and treat addictions to opioids.”
The settlement brought the close of a lawsuit in which Oklahoma had accused the companies of fostering America’s opioid addiction epidemic, a crisis from which Oklahomans have suffered greatly. It also came on the heels of numerous other court cases that Oklahoma had settled, including $270 million from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and $85 million from Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries.
How Will the Settlement Money be Used?
Oklahoma ranks 28th in the nation for health outcomes, with 52 being the worst ranking for health outcomes and 1 being the best ranking. With that in mind, there’s no question that the recent settlement money is needed; the only concern is that it be used for the right treatment services.
Because the State of Oklahoma is leaving it up to individual counties and cities to decide how to use the settlement money, the funds will likely vary considerably from region to region. That’s why local constituents need to call and write their representatives and demand that the settlement be allocated to fund local drug and alcohol rehab programs. The addicts of today still need help from the crimes of pharma giants years ago, and what better way to use settlement money than to help those addicts get clean?
Oklahoma and the Opioid Epidemic
According to one paper, Oklahoma has the fourth-highest fatal overdose rate in the nation. This has resulted partly from the epidemic of prescription opioid abuse expanding throughout the state. Oklahoma exceeds the national average for painkiller abuse by 232%.
For Oklahomans ages 25 to 64, overdoses are now the leading cause of injury and death. In fact, prescription painkillers take more lives in Oklahoma than meth, heroin, and cocaine combined.
The Need for Treatment for Addicts to be Coupled with Pharma Accountability
All of the above data points indicate one clear conclusion. Oklahoma has suffered immensely from the prescription opioid epidemic, caused partly by pharmaceutical companies that have now had their day in court.
Critically, Oklahoma residents must now push to use the justice delivered to them to do right by the residents still struggling with drug addiction. A multi-billion dollar pharma giant facing justice is of no material benefit to the struggling addict unless that addict can be helped into a residential drug treatment center and be freed from the prison of addiction.
If you know someone struggling with drug and alcohol addiction in Oklahoma, please assist them in finding and entering a qualified, residential rehab center. Please don’t wait until it is too late for them.
- USNews. “Oklahoma Reaches Opioid Settlement With 3 Drug Companies.” US News, 2022. usnews.com
- odmhsas. “Overall Ranking.” Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, 2016. odmhsas.org
- OK Policy. “Oklahoma’s biggest drug problem isn’t what you think.” Oklahoma Policy Institute, 2019. okpolicy.org