The War On Drug’s Ongoing Impact On Black People
Krystina Murray ❘
Its been 50 years since the start of the War on Drugs campaign, and some communities were negatively impacted by the campaign.
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Formerly one of a small handful of holdout states, Nevada has now joined 42 other states, 5 territories, and the District of Columbia in backing a $26 billion settlement that would resolve over 3,000 lawsuits pointed at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and 3 corporate drug distributors over their culpability in the Opioid epidemic.
The deadline to join the settlement, once January 2, was extended to January 26 after negotiations between lawyers for plaintiffs on one hand and the 3 drug distributors involved on the other (McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp, and Cardinal Health Inc). According to Reuters, “lawyers who negotiated the deal…called the three-week extension a positive development that would allow some holdout states and their local governments to sign on.”
Reporting from the same source indicates that more states and/or municipalities may soon sign on as well; a significant portion of the settlement funds, $10.7 billion, are contingent upon local governments backing the settlement and giving up any lawsuits they may have pending against the companies named in the suit — as well as disallowing any more suits of that kind in the future.
Aaron Ford, Nevada Attorney General, said that, “There is no question that the opioid epidemic has devastated Nevada and money is needed now to address comprehensive statewide remediation.” AG Ford also expressed his belief that Nevada localities would sign on before the deadline, and he said that the state could receive over $285 million.
As for J&J and the 3 distributors, none of the entities have admitted wrongdoing; they may soon pay a hefty sum to the victims and families and neighbors of victims of Opioids, however — what’s more, there’s now a major lawsuit that concerns J&J and allegations of funding terror. It was once dismissed, but now Americans may get to see the outcome; the case itself could be seen as part of a larger pattern of immoral and destructive behavior in the name of profit on the part of J&J.
On January 4, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revived a lawsuit against J&J (and other corporate entities, like AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc). The plaintiffs of the suit are relatives of people slain by terror attacks in Iraq; the case has a storied history, and was reported on by The New York Times in 2017.
As The Times reported at that time, the lawsuit “contends that major American corporations doing business with the Iraqi government during the Iraq War also provided it with free drugs and medical devices that became an important source of funding for a Shiite militia that targeted United States troops.”
The 5 companies accused (the as-yet-unnamed ones being General Electric and Roche Holding A.G.) released a statement saying that “further proceedings will show the companies are not responsible in any way.”
There is plenty of evidence to corroborate the accusations, however. According to The Washington Post’s reporting on the subject, “In 2011, Johnson & Johnson entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to pay $70 million to resolve allegations of unlawful payments in a number of countries, including Iraq.”
Essentially, companies like J&J seem to have provided the Iraqi Ministry of Health — which at the time was run by extremists affiliated with Hezbollah — with bribes that included drugs in exchange for the ability to do business in the region. Extremists would then take these drugs themselves or sell them for weapons; these weapons and extremists ended up killing hundreds of Americans.
If J&J and other companies are found to have violated the USA’s Anti-Terrorism Act, consequences could be severe.
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While those consequences are still hypothetical as of writing, one drugmaker has been made to pay a price for misbehavior: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd.
According to Reuters, “New York…had accused the Israel-based drugmaker of engaging in misleading marketing practices that fueled opioid addiction in the state, including by pushing drugs for off-label use.” A jury found that Teva was, indeed, responsible.
The case was one of the 3,000+ that J&J and other entities are hoping to resolve through their multibillion-dollar settlement. Teva, which chose not to be a part of the settlement, will now seek a mistrial.
Based on the evidence presented at the trial, Teva was somewhat gleeful about misrepresenting the danger posed by Opioids. A corporate sales video from 2006 spoofed popular movies, including “Austin Powers” and “A Few Good Men.” In one scene from the sales video, according to Reuters, an “employee tells a lawyer played by Tom Cruise that he ‘can’t handle the truth’ about what sales representatives need to do to meet quotas.”
Damages owed by Teva have not yet been decided, but the company’s stock took a sharp fall after the verdict was revealed. The stock has recovered somewhat since then; it’s been trending consistently and significantly downward over the course of the last 12 months, however.
Whether or not Teva will get their mistrial is not yet known; the fate of the massive Opioid settlement money seems slightly more clear.
According to a January 5 report from The New Republic, money is certainly coming to localities but may be misappropriated once it arrives; in The Republic’s words, “Even in a historic moment of reckoning for the companies that manufactured the opioid crisis, how much harm can be undone will be determined by a patchwork of state regulations and by legislative bodies without the greatest track record when it comes to funneling corporate money into the necessary hands.”
Will Henken earned a B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from the University of Central Florida. He has had his work published in the Orlando Sentinel, and has previous experience crafting copy for political action committees and advocacy groups dedicated to social justice. Addiction and mental health are personal subjects for him, and his greatest hope is that he can give a helping hand to those seeking healthy and lasting recovery.