Kentucky has been one of the hardest hit states in terms of substance abuse – from meth to painkillers and now showing an increase in heroin. It also has one of the biggest gaps between available beds and those in need of treatment.
Attorney General Jack Conway filed suit against two pharmaceutical companies, Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. and GlaxoSmithKline, for damages that a couple of their drugs caused citizens of the state. The $32 million reportedly left over in the settlement is being earmarked for substance abuse treatment and prevention, which the state sorely needs help with.
Drug companies are notorious for paying out large sums as damage control for their products. For many, it is simply the cost of doing business that they’re willing to deal with when they’re raking in billions of dollars in profits. The industry as a whole isn’t bad, of course, as there are so many life-saving drugs out there. However, as more of their deceptive marketing tactics and hidden failed trial research surfaces, it’s no wonder that they’re levied with sums in the tens- and even hundreds of millions of dollars.
There is also the fact that prescription drug abuse has hit epidemic levels and there doesn’t seem to be an immediate end in sight. While the recent settlement in Kentucky was from drugs that didn’t have abuse potential, the highest payout for such a drug came back in 2007 when the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, was forced to pay $700 million in fines.
The cycle continues though, as a new drug called Zohydro was just approved and has as much potential for disaster as OxyContin did.
Maybe rather than making taxpayers and governments sue the drug companies for damage settlements, they should just go ahead and dump a portion of their revenue directly into healthcare funds for people. Every single state could use extra money for drug addiction treatment, and less of it would be diverted to attorneys that way.