In early October, Purdue Pharma declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in order to settle a $10 billion lawsuit with 24 states and more than 2,000 cities and counties. Johnson & Johnson has to pay $572 million for using sales practices that minimized the risks of opioid addiction. Dr. Kevin J. Tracey, President/CEO of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, believes that the money spent on these lawsuits should be on the research of addiction and funding to find a cure for it.

The Big Tobacco Settlements in the 90s

In the 90s, the Big Tobacco settlements provide an example of how the money distributed by these lawsuits should be used today. Instead of the money going towards prevention and cessation programs, it should be towards addiction and pain research. In 1998, the “Master Settlement Agreement” forced four major cigarette manufacturers to pay $206 billion to 46 states to recover tobacco-related health costs. Lawmakers, health officials, and anti-smoking advocates used the money to fund cultural and educational smoking programs like creating The Truth Initiative. Theses initiatives help prevent millions of young people from becoming smokers. The problem is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

The Problem with Opioid Settlement Funds

There are some states that have put a percentage of the restitution money towards, but not enough. Scientists still have not discovered the molecular basis of addiction which will not bring us any closer to finding a cure. This means that scientists need to study the molecular, neuroscientific, and behavioral elements of dependence. Addiction is a serious financial and social problem in that $1 trillion has been spent as a result of addiction and treatment. Addiction can result in job loss, families and community separation, and the loss of life. All we have today is an understanding of what addiction is, but not about what the cure can be.

What Needs to Be Done Now

The settlements from Purdue Pharma and Johnson & Johnson should be supporting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) used for addiction and pain research programs. The results that come from this research can help develop new therapies for those seeking recovery. A faction of NIH is used towards opioid addiction research. While these research investments are expensive, they can be the key to unlocking the cure for addiction.

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