July 10th, 2019
On July 9, 2019. the WBUR (Boston NPR affiliate) opinion blog, Cognoscenti, published an opinion piece penned by PHAI’s executive director seeking to leverage any forthcoming settlement of the the more than 2,000 lawsuits pending against opioid pain manufacturers, their distributors, and their retailers to create an independent foundation to help coordinate a national response to the opioid epidemic.
The commentary, along with an amicus brief by PHAI and other public health organizations submitted to the court overseeing the litigation, considers the public health experience with the Master Settlement Agreement between the states and cigarette companies in 1998. It resulted in large payments from the settling defendants to the states that sued them. But those funds have not been adequately invested to develop the public health interventions and infrastructure needed to minimize the addiction, disease, and death caused by tobacco products.
While it is obviously important for the plaintiffs to recover damages as part of a settlement, the commentary urges that a portion of the settlement should be used to create a national foundation to fund local addiction recovery, provide overdose reversal medication, education, and fostering of promising demonstration projects. Such a foundation should also serve as a watchdog for the opioid medication and addiction treatment industries.
In the face of a crisis, no public health opportunity to address it should be squandered.