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Florida Could Reap Windfall From Opioid Settlement

Jun 14, 2019

Millions of dollars could be coming to Florida as part of a potential settlement of lawsuits filed over opioid abuse. But legal experts say strings should be attached to that money.

Hernando County is the latest to file suit against drug makers and distributors.

In a suit filed this week, the county claims opioid overdoses and deaths have put a strain on its social safety net, law enforcement agencies, and health care system. Thousands of local governments, and many states (including Florida), have filed similar suits.  

On Friday, NPR reported attorneys are close to reaching a framework for a possible settlement. It would be similar in some ways to the landmark 1998 deal between states and tobacco companies. Cigarette makers agreed to pay $206 billion to 46 states, curb advertising, and promote anti-smoking programs.  

But that settlement had problems, according to Stanford University law professor Michelle Mello.  

“We saw the tobacco settlement used to pave roads and build golf courses and do all kinds of things that were not related to helping people who were addicted to tobacco,” Mello said.  "I hope this settlement will be structured in a way so that doesn’t happen.” 

Earlier this year, Purdue Pharma-the largest maker of opioids-agreed to a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma.  Most of that money will go toward addiction research and treatment.