But over the past 20 years, states have spent just 2.6% of the more than $453 billion they have received in both settlement payments and tobacco taxes on tobacco cessation and prevention programs, according to a Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report released last December. Myers said states had virtually no stipulations on how much of the settlement money they were required to spend on tobacco-related health issues, which led many policymakers to use the funds for other purposes.
Barbara Eyman, Washington counsel for America’s Essential Hospitals, which represents the nation’s safety-net hospitals, said hospitals should look to partner with patient and public health advocates to lobby for the money that comes from such legal actions to help fund their treatment and recovery initiatives. “There’s a broad coalition of stakeholders who really would have a common interest in seeing the funding flow to help the people the suits were intended to help in the first place,” Eyman said.
E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, said healthcare providers need to have a seat at the table when it comes to deciding how opioid settlement money is spent in order to describe the tremendous burden they have experienced as a result of the crisis.
Gee recently announced he has partnered with former Ohio Gov. John Kasich to create a not-for-profit organization to help advocate for requirements that the proceeds from any national opioid settlement go directly to hospitals instead of local and state governments.
An estimated 2,000 lawsuits are currently pending against opioid manufacturers that have been filed by local, county and state government entities across the country. “People need to understand the kind of strain and incredible expense we’re going through to deal with this issue,” Gee said. “It’s a very compelling story—the information side of this I think will tell the story for us.”
In March, Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, agreed to pay Oklahoma $270 million to settle a lawsuit the state brought against the company for allegedly helping to fuel the opioid addiction crisis. But the terms of the agreement required about $200 million go toward a plan to establish a new national center for addiction studies and treatment at Oklahoma State University. Only $12.5 million from that settlement was allocated to the state’s municipalities and counties to address their costs for the epidemic’s effects.
Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said her members view the Johnson & Johnson ruling as more of a marathon rather than a sprint in terms of when hospitals might start to receive some of the funding to help with their treatment efforts as the pharmaceutical giant appeals the ruling.
Davis said she was optimistic that the terms of the state’s abatement plan in the order signify there will be opportunity for providers to discuss with policymakers how best to allocate those resources.