Forty-nine states are seeking a total of $2.2 trillion from Purdue Pharma L.P. for their 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 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 has its roots in 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 overdoses. Many people who are addicted to the painkillers turn to heroin if they can’t get any more medications. In 2018, 15,449 people overdosed on heroin; 81,000 people used heroin for the first time.
According to an article by Lorna Collier, written for the American Psychological Association, there are more victims to the opioid crisis than those who became addicted. Between 2013 and 2015, 7% more children were taken into the foster care system. Collier wrote “[P]arental substance use was cited as a factor in about 32 percent of all foster placements, a rise of 10 percent from 2005.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate the economic burden of the opioid crisis is $78.5 billion dollars a year.