The public health crisis generated by opioid use led state and local governments to file nearly 2,000 lawsuits against the pharmaceutical industry that produces and distributes these products.
After lengthy negotiations, McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc., and Amerisource Bergen Corp. have proposed to pay $10 billion in compensation for their responsibility for the high additional health costs incurred by public entities, according to Bloomberg.
More than 130 people nationally die every day from opiate overdose, and about 47,000 people died in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to CNBC.
The 35 plaintiff states raised the demand for compensation to 45 billion dollars, and local governments are demanding various other figures.
The proposal so far has been verbal and is part of conversations held with the National Association of Attorneys General.
U.S. District Judge Daniel A. Polster, in Cleveland, is the one tasked with consolidating the lawsuits.
Polster argues that “any resolution has to be global.”
The distributors’ offer of compensation has had a negative impact on the value of their shares.
For McKesson it meant a 3.9% decline, Cardinal Health shares fell 5.8%, and AmerisourceBergen lost 5.2%, according to CNBC.
Mallinckrodt, the largest manufacturer of painkillers with oxycodone and hydrocodone, lost 12% in the value of its shares. The company also announced on Tuesday that it would suspend its plans to expand its generic unit, which includes opioids.
An example of the aggressiveness with which opioid distributors flooded the market is seen in the state of West Virginia where Kermit, with a population of 400, received about 5 million doses between 2005 and 2006.
Similar shipments of millions of doses were sent in subsequent years, according to Bloomberg data.
Also, according to data from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, in six years, about 76 billion painkillers were distributed, including those from the aforementioned producers McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen.
The opioid crisis
President Donald Trump has made the opioid crisis a central theme of his administration. A few months after taking office, he commissioned a comprehensive investigation into the causes and solutions to the opioid addiction epidemic in the United States.
In October 2017, the president declared the abuse of opiate analgesics a “public health emergency,” allowing existing state and federal funds to be allocated to the fight against addiction.
“We will work to strengthen vulnerable families and communities, and we will help build and grow a stronger, healthier, drug-free society,” the president said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 69,000 people worldwide die each year from opioid overdose, and the United States leads the way in the use of those substances.