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In season three of "Justified" U.S. Marshal Raylan battles illegal OxyContin dealers in the hills of Kentucky. As it turns out, Kentucky itself has been battling legal Oxy producers in court for the past 8 years, and the state finally secured a $24 million settlement in the case.
The so-called "Heroin of the Hills" has been ravaging the state for over a decade, leading to explosions in drug addiction and abuse, and increased medical costs. Kentucky is hoping to use the funds to prevent drug use and provide addiction treatment services to state residents.
The Devil You Know
OxyContin is a powerful opioid often prescribed as a painkiller. When swallowed, the pill has time release properties that slowly administer the drug over 12 hours. But when crushed and ingested, the pill creates an instant high not unlike heroin. According to Insurance Journal, eastern Kentucky was hit especially hard by the drug when it was prescribed to injured coal miners, who then became addicted.
The state's lawsuit alleged that OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma misled consumers about the drug's addictive potential. "Drug companies that mislead consumers about the nature of their drugs must be held accountable," Attorney General Jack Conway said in a press release. "Purdue lit a fire of addiction with OxyContin that spread across this state, and Kentucky is still reeling from its effects."
When the case was first filed in 2007, Conway said Purdue Pharma offered Kentucky $500,000 to settle the lawsuit. But the former AG that filed the suit, Greg Stumbo, said the case could have been worth up to $1 billion if it ever went to trial. Under the current settlement agreement, Purdue will pay Kentucky $12 million this year, followed by another $12 million over the next eight years.
If the funds help the Bluegrass State get a handle on its Oxy addiction, it will be money well spent.