Not one single opioid-addicted person will get a dime, but private lawyers will get nearly $60 million from the settlement between Oklahoma and Purdue Pharma. Maybe the company is evil. Maybe the lawyers are not evil. But the law is not supposed to work this way.
Purdue manufactures and markets the opioid painkiller OxyContin. Like many other products, opioids can be beneficial but also dangerous. In the case of opioids, like many other medications, the federal government regulates them as a controlled substance. The drug is dispensed by pharmacists. Use of the drug requires a prescription from a physician. State governments license and regulate both professions.
The federal and state governments regulate pharmaceuticals and the medical professions to, among many other reasons, prevent drug abuse. Policymakers took the responsibility out of the hands of Purdue. They put some of that responsibility in the hands of pharmacists and physicians, and kept some for themselves. Yet when it all went wrong, government lawyers went after the manufacturer. Why? Simple: that's where the money is.
Consider the similarities between Purdue Pharma and companies that manufacture firearms. Both make legal products that can be abuse to cause harm. Both operate within a tangled web of government regulations, including restrictions on how their products can be sold. But the direct harm of a drug is limited to the person who takes it. Firearms, when abused, can cause much greater devastation. And no one is required, at least not yet, to get a doctor's note to buy a gun, which puts the manufacturer that much closer to the end user.
Of course, this does not mean that gun makers should be liable for the misuse of a legal product. But no one can have it both ways. The lawyers shaking down Purdue Pharma are setting a precedent that will inevitably used to shake down other companies. No doubt firearms manufacturers will be on that list.