The opioid epidemic has raged on for at least four years now, and there appears to be no end in sight. Americans are taking drugs and dying from drug overdoses at an alarming rate. The question remains, “Who is responsible for it?” A sharp rise in opioid prescriptions coincided with drug-related deaths. A large share of those drug-related deaths were driven by opioids. The government’s logic went that if you reduced opioid prescriptions, opioid-related overdoses would also subside. However, Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids From Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead explained how tamp down drug use, and the results are playing out like Shock Exchange predicted.
According to the CDC, drug overdoses were an estimated 93,000 in 2020, up nearly 30% Y/Y:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewed death certificates for drug overdoses in 2020 and estimated over 93,000 occurred which translated to roughly 11 deaths every hour, the Associated Press reported.
The previous high was from last year at about 72,000 drug overdose deaths, an increase of 29 percent. The 21,000 increase is the biggest jump since the count rose by 11,000 in 2016.
For historical context: The CDC said there were fewer than 7,200 total U.S. overdose deaths reported in 1970, during the heroin epidemic. There was also about 9,000 deaths in 1988, around the height of the crack epidemic.
Drug overdose deaths continue to spike. The populace has turned to opioids on the black market and street fentanyl. Meanwhile, opioid manufacturers and distributors are being sued for tens of billions of dollars for their role in the opioid epidemic. Johnson & Johnson and major distributors have settled for over $30 billion. Teva, Endo and AbbVie are still negotiating. Teva and Endo are smaller firms and may not have the same resources as a J&J. Nonetheless, one would think that after receiving over $30 billion in awards, the government would quickly settle with smaller players.
Chatter suggests plaintiffs’ lawyers may be stalling a settlement because (1) Teva wants to offer free drugs and (2) lawyers only receive fees based on cash. Lawyers for the plaintiffs include Joe Rice of Motley Rice, Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, Peter Mougey of Levin Papantonio Rafferty, Paul Geller of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Chris Seeger of Seeger Weiss, amongst others. They are set to receive about 7.5% of the global opioid settlement, which equates to about $2 billion and counting. While the settlement talks never end, TEVA and ENDP trade sideways or fall. The talks have cost shareholders dearly, and could become a public nuisance. If plaintiffs’ lawyers are holding up a deal then it could be solely based on greed and not a desire to put money towards treatment and prevention.