States says opioid crisis has cost them $630B since 2007

U.S. state and territorial governments say the opioid epidemic has cost them $630 billion since 2007 and that the cost could balloon to more than $2 trillion over the next 20 years.

Attorneys general for nearly every state and territory made that calculation public Monday in OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy case.

The cost estimate pertains to the overall toll of an opioid overdose epidemic that has contributed to nearly 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades. It’s based on past and future costs of opioid-related medical care of state employees and Medicaid recipients, justice and child welfare system costs, prevention programs and other spending. It also includes future opioid abatement programs that advocates say are needed.

The estimate applies to the government costs attributed to the entire epidemic, not just those related directly to Purdue.

The state filing does not include an estimate for Oklahoma, which previously settled its lawsuit against Purdue, or Kentucky before 2016, when its previous settlement with the company took effect.

The states and other entities had until the end of July to file claims as part of the bankruptcy process, which the Connecticut-based company is using to attempt to settle thousands of lawsuits filed over its role in the overdose epidemic.

More than 142,000 entities, mostly individuals who say they or their loved ones were harmed by Purdue’s drugs, filed claims. Other drug manufacturers, distribution companies and pharmacy chains also are facing lawsuits.

The company’s settlement proposal calls for it to become a public benefit trust in which future profits would be used to combat the opioid crisis. As part of the deal, members of the Sackler family that own the company would give up their stake and contribute at least $3 billion in cash.

States are divided nearly evenly on whether that’s a deal they should accept.

Opioids are a class of drugs that include powerful prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and illegal drugs that include heroin and illicitly made fentanyl.