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Cato Institute decries opioid settlements
July 23, 2021 - 8:29 am

Yesterday a settlement was announced between several states and the pharmaceutical distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, and Amerisource Bergen, along with drug maker Johnson and Johnson, who were accused of contributing to the opioid overdose crisis. The three distributors agreed to pay the states $21 billion over 18 years and Johnson and Johnson agreed to pay $5 billion over 5 years, ostensibly to go towards drug treatment and education programs. Johnson and Johnson and the three distributors continue to dispute the allegations while agreeing to the settlement.

Some, like the editors of the Wall Street Journal, criticize the outcome because roughly 10 percent of the settlement goes toward legal fees. They also argue that the defendants were wrongly accused:

They have a point. But the suit was even more misguided because the overdose crisis was never caused by doctors “hooking” their patients on opioids. That’s a false narrative that is convenient for politicians searching for a scapegoat and an easy solution. As I have written before, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show no correlation between the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors and the non‐​medical use of opioids or opioid use disorder. And Drs. Nora Volkow and Thomas McLlellan of the National Institutes on Drug Abuse pointed out in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016 that, “Unlike tolerance and physical dependence, addiction is not a predictable result of opioid prescribing. Addiction occurs in only a small percentage of persons who are exposed to opioids — even among those with preexisting vulnerabilities.”

Policymakers and the press continue to confuse chemical dependency with addiction. They are two completely different things.

Source: Cato Institute

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