Save this one for posterity, folks, because West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is right.
It was recently revealed that West Virginia would be receiving a mere 1.16% of a $7 billion legal settlement from now-bankrupt OxyContin creator and opioid crisis pioneer Purdue Pharma.
Morrisey, in an objection, blasted the agreement for dividing the settlement money based on population figures. It’s a valid criticism, considering how much harder West Virginia was hit by prescription opioids and, later, illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl that filled the void after pill mills that peddled oxycodone and hydrocodone were shut down.
Indeed, the highest volume of those pills wound up in the Mountain State. Pharmacies in sparsely populated Southern West Virginia hamlets like Kermit were, at one time, receiving more prescription opioid shipments than any other location in the entire United States. West Virginia also consistently tops the nation for per capita overdose deaths.
According to the settlement, all of that suffering and death is worth about $81 million for West Virginia. It’s another slap in the face to the state that has been the poster child of the raging drug epidemic.
Money can’t bring people back. It can’t undo the wrongs committed by Purdue Pharma in aggressively marketing a product its leaders knew was extremely potent and highly addictive, all while raking in billions of dollars. And make no mistake, that’s what was happening.
The myriad lawsuits swirling around the crisis have unearthed numerous communications from Purdue Pharma bigwigs, boasting about how much money they were going to make and formulating marketing strategies to downplay OxyContin’s potency (so doctors would prescribe it for minor injuries and for longer periods of time than necessary). When the first signs of trouble began to appear, office communications show those same executives coming up with a public relations strategy to smear and marginalize the addicted that they helped create.
Here’s what money can do. It can be used for early intervention programs. It can be used for treatment. It can help save those lost to the even more dangerous drugs that supplanted the pills.
West Virginia helped the prescription opioid industry soar, while many in the state sank into the misery of addiction. As Purdue Pharma tanks, it’s only fair that West Virginia be given its due to try and recover.