As drug overdoses increase, North Carolina medical providers and community workers await long-expected settlement funds as part of landmark litigation by states’ attorneys general against opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in a decades-long national opioid epidemic.
OxyContin creator Purdue Pharma and nine attorneys general, not including North Carolina’s Josh Stein, are nearing a settlement expected to eclipse the original $4.3 billion agreed to last fall. Stein initially opposed the agreement before reversing his position last summer.
North Carolina is preparing to distribute at least $750 million from a $26.4 billion settlement reached in November between states and Johnson & Johnson, along with three distributors.
Another $100 million — if not more — will be decided in the coming days as nine states look to conclude negotiations with the Sackler family, which owns pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma.
The company pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges in November 2020, including conspiracy to defraud the government, after admitting to illegal kickbacks and pushing its highly addictive painkiller, OxyContin, to doctors suspected of writing illegal prescriptions.
Many experts point to the widespread abuse of OxyContin as a driver of the epidemic. More than 930,000 Americans died from fatal drug overdoses from 1999 to 2020, according to a study by the National Center for Health Statistics. Preliminary reports estimate an additional 100,000 overdose deaths in 2021.
From 2000-20, more than 28,000 people in North Carolina died from drug overdose, according to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.