Annual Meeting

Opioid settlement money should be spent on treatment and services, ABA House of Delegates urges

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Jurisdictions suing pharmaceutical companies for alleged irresponsible marketing of opioid painkillers should be careful to use any settlement money to address opioid-related harms, the ABA House of Delegates said Tuesday.

The House voted to support Resolution 117A, which suggests that any opioid settlement money be used for drug treatment, housing programs and other social services, public education and improving health care infrastructure.

The resolution was moved in the House by Robyn Shapiro, founder of the Health Sciences Law Group in Wisconsin and a delegate from the Health Law Section.

“The opioid epidemic … is probably the greatest public health emergency to face this country in the past 100 years,” she said. “The deaths attributable to overdoses are annually about 100,000. It now exceeds the number of Americans lost in the entire Vietnam war.”

As Shapiro observed, Resolution 117A is very much based on the outcome of the tobacco litigation of the 1990s—which Shapiro called “less than optimal.” The tobacco settlement money was frequently used for normal operations of state governments, she said, rather than for mitigating the public harms of tobacco use. Observers are concerned that something similar might happen with the opioid litigation, as Stateline, a publication of the Pew Charitable Trusts, reported in July. The report suggests a variety of public health uses for the money intended to address the social harms of opioid addition.

The resolution passed without audible opposition.

Follow along with our coverage of the 2019 ABA Annual Meeting.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Opioids, justice & mercy: Courts are on the front lines of a lethal crisis”

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