A pair of West Virginia University College of Law professors question whether the historic $8.3 billion settlement with Oxycontin makers Purdue Pharma will actually trickle down to communities ravaged by the opioid epidemic. Patrick McGinley and Suzanne Weise helped force the federal government to unseal documents that revealed that 100 billion prescription opioid pills flooded the U.S. from 2006-2014. This led to West Virginia having the highest opioid death rate in the country and the highest annual concentration of addictive pills per person per year at 66.5.
McGinley and Weise, who helped represent pro-bono HD Media (parent company of Charleston Gazette-Mail) and the Washington Post in federal court to disclose the data, are available for comment on the Justice Department’s settlement with Purdue Pharma, which also agreed to plead guilty to three felonies.
“In the last two decades, hundreds of thousands Americans died from prescription opioid overdoses. Millions more are currently addicted. State and local governments estimate present and future costs of treating opioid addiction will total $ 2.15 trillion. Now, the Justice Department has announced a $8.3 billion settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma. The Department found that the company feloniously pushed ‘unsafe, ineffective and medically unnecessary’ uses of the drug. ‘The devastating ripple effect of Purdue's actions left lives lost and others addicted’ a government statement added. However, the Sackler family, billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma, continue to deny criminal and civil culpability.”
“This was literally a legal drug cartel where billions of dollars were made selling these addictive drugs without any serious law enforcement actions, as opposed to what happens when you’ve got El Chapo or Pablo Escobar who are public enemy No. 1. That’s why it’s important for the public to know how this epidemic evolved and grew and who the players were.” — Patrick McGinley, Charles Haden II professor of law, WVU College of Law Contact: Patrick.Mcginley@mail.wvu.edu
“The company is in bankruptcy and critics claim that it isn’t clear if any of the billion dollar settlement will actually go to states, counties and cities to fund expensive addiction treatment programs. Twenty-five state attorneys general have objected to the settlement arguing it is too lenient and fails to adequately hold the company’s managers and owners responsible for the harm they caused. It remains to be seen whether the settlement is fair, just, and will actually assist the thousands of communities across the country struggling to deal with the ongoing human devastation caused by prescription opioid addiction.” — Suzanne Weise, associate teaching professor, WVU College of Law Contact: Suzanne.Weise@mail.wvu.edu
Unmasking the Enterprise of Death: WVU Magazine article that chronicles how McGinley and Weise fought to disclose federal pain pill data.
WVU College of Law professors fought to disclose opioid pill data: WVUToday press release
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