For years, prescription opioids were improperly marketed to American health professionals. The risks of these medications were downplayed while the benefits were oversold. This fueled the negligent prescribing and opioid distribution that has destroyed countless lives and shattered countless communities, all while generating significant profits for the industry.
Now, these opioid makers and distributors are being held to account in lawsuits across the country. When the consolidated lawsuit, called the National Prescription Opiate Litigation, is settled financially, it will be up to the state lawmakers to determine how to allocate funds. However, in the coming months, it will be our responsibility to ensure that these funds are spent wisely, and not spent filling state budget gaps for unrelated issues.
The tobacco settlement in 1998 is not a good precedent to follow. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, in Fiscal Year 2020, states will collect $27.2 billion from the settlement and taxes. But they will spend just 2.7% of it – $739.7 million – on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit. Instead of using these dollars to prevent nicotine addiction, the states have used it to close budget gaps and other unrelated activities like road construction. We cannot let this happen with the opioid litigation funds.