Opioid Income Redistribution – WSJ

The opiate crisis has been a nightmare for the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdose has risen sharply in recent decades, and with it, the number of prescriptions written for opiates such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine. In 2013, more than 47,000 people died from overdoses, about 2,000 of them in 2014 alone.

If you are on the hunt for a job, you may be disappointed to learn that Atlanta, the nation’s opioid capital, does not have enough well-paying jobs to accommodate all of Americas newly afflicted heroin addicts.


OxyCotin is a supplement that contains oxycodone.

Getty Images/Handout/Agence France-Presse

This being America, the lawsuit capital of the world, it was probably inevitable that businesses would eventually settle the crush of opioid suits as a ransom to put the issue behind them. On Wednesday state Attorneys General trumpeted a rich opioid settlement with drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson, and there will surely be more.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed throughout the nation, alleging that drug makers, distributors, and merchants are to blame for the opioid crisis. Politicians and plaintiff lawyers allege that the corporations used misleading marketing and irresponsible dispensing methods to get hundreds of thousands of Americans addicted to opioids in order to increase their profits.

The major flaw with this reasoning is that opiates like oxycodone need a prescription from a doctor. Thousands of physicians would have had to be involved in the plot. Likewise, the Drug Enforcement Administration is responsible for monitoring and controlling opioid shipments from wholesalers to pharmacies.

Opioid prescriptions have been decreasing since 2012, and fentanyl sold on the market, frequently mixed with other narcotics, is now the leading cause of overdose fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that opioid-related fatalities rose by almost 40% last year, to 69,710 in 2020, despite the fact that just 13,637 of those deaths were caused by prescription medicines.

When it comes to the mass tort business in the United States, however, real legal responsibility doesn’t matter much. Businesses settle because they know that if they go to trial, they would be hit with massive jury judgments.

So three distributors— AmerisourceBergen Corp. , Cardinal Health and McKesson —and drug maker J&J agreed to pay states and municipalities $26 billion to drop their suits. About $2.5 billion will go to pay legal costs including the plaintiff attorneys the AGs hired to help bring the suits. They can upgrade their luxury yachts.

AGs are hoping the settlement will prod manufacturers such as Teva and Endo and retailers including Walmart, Walgreens and CVS to settle lawsuits so they can wave around the payouts when they campaign for re-election or for Governor.

Because businesses are unable to create money, where do politicians believe the funds for these payoffs will come from? The solution is higher pricing for consumers and lower pay for employees. While insurers may cover some of the cost, companies are being forced to pay more for insurance as the danger of lawsuit rises, particularly in the pharmaceutical sector. Insurers have created the phrase “social inflation” to describe the skyrocketing costs of class-action litigation, broad theories of responsibility, and massive jury judgments.

The opioid settlement is just another in a long line of cases that transfer wealth from the general public to wealthy plaintiff attorneys, who then assist politicians with campaign donations, and who are subsequently rehired to help with additional mass tort claims. Unfortunately, this is the American way of doing things.

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The print version of the July 22, 2021, was published.

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