Forty-nine states are seeking a total of $2.2 trillion from Purdue Pharma L.P. for its role in the opioid epidemic, according to a Reuters report. Purdue makes OxyContin, an opioid prescription analgesic. It is alleged that Purdue marketed the painkillers to physicians but did not do enough to explain the possibility of addiction and overdose.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that the United States government is claiming $11 billion from Purdue. This money would be both criminal and civil compensation.
Purdue declared bankruptcy in 2019 after a wave of lawsuits were filed against the company and the Sackler family, who own the company.
According to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, the opioid epidemic reaches back to the 1990s when companies understated the risks of addiction to the medications and physicians increasingly prescribed the opioid painkillers to their patients. It turned out, however, these drugs were incredibly addictive. The crisis became a public health emergency in 2017. According to HHS an estimated 130 people die every day from an opioid-related drug overdose. Many people who are addicted to the painkillers turn to heroin if they can’t get any more medication. In 2018, 15,449 people overdosed on heroin; 81,000 people used heroin for the first time.
The American Psychological Association says the opioid crisis has claimed more victims than addicts. Between 2013 and 2015, 7% more children were taken into the foster care system. The article cites parental substance use as a factor in 32% of all placements, up 10% from 2005.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the economic burden of the opioid crisis to be $78.5 billion a year.