Home » Blog Articles » Healthcare Trends » Opioid Addiction: the Impact of COVID-19, Ohio Lawsuits & Economic Cost

As a company, we provide medical billing services, as well as other related assistance for behavioral health professionals. This includes addiction treatment facilities and community behavioral health centers. Due to this fact, we are particularly aware of the impact of opioid addiction on communities, especially in the state of Ohio.

Here is a brief update on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals with opioid addiction, the overall economic cost as well as ongoing opioid-related litigation.

According to data from the American Medical Association, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the rate of drug overdoses across the United States. The AMA has pooled data from multiple sources ranging from the local to national level. Every U.S. state reported a jump in the recorded number of overall deaths during the pandemic. The coronavirus was a challenge for many people, but for people with substance use disorders, it created major barriers for gaining access to treatment.

Opioid-Related Lawsuits:

Numerous entities have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. In 2017 both the states of Ohio and the city of Indianapolis had filed lawsuits against drug makers and distributors: Purdue Pharma, Endo Health Solutions, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon Pharmaceuticals, and Allergan Pharmaceuticals. The Ohio Attorney General argued that these companies had purposely encouraged the over-prescription of opioid painkillers which later created a costly opioid epidemic.

As of July 2021, there have been over 2,600 opioid-related lawsuits filed since the opioid crisis became a public health issue. In Ohio, two counties had pending lawsuits. Otherwise, over 150 Ohio municipalities had consolidated their lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. The consolidated legal agreement (One Ohio) stipulates that any potential revenue from the lawsuit is to be divided.

On a related topic, the state of Ohio agreed to an out-of-court settlement with the consulting company McKinsey & Co. The settlement will direct $24 million to local communities in Ohio. McKinsey & Co worked with Purdue Pharma as well as other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

The $24 million agreement is part of a larger nationwide $573 million settlement that includes 47 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The agreement is for McKinsey’s role in the overall opioid addiction crisis. As part of the settlement, the company will also have to disclose internal documents that display their work with corporations that make and supply prescription opioids.

OxyContin-manufacture Purdue Pharma plead guilty to federal charges of illegal drug marketing practices in 2007 and 2020. Due to financial pressures from additional lawsuits, the drugmaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2019

Even larger commercial entities like Walmart are now involved in the opioid epidemic aftermath. Since 1978, Walmart has slowly grown their pharmacy-related services. Currently, the company has over 5,000 retail pharmacies connected to their shopping centers and in recent years has expanded its retail healthcare offerings.

In June 2021, an opioid-related multidistrict litigation (MDL) mentioned that the court had the right to depose the Walmart CFO. This means that the CFO could possibly have to answer questions while under oath as part of larger opioid lawsuit. The MDL involving Walmart consolidates over 3,300 opioid cases that are against drugmakers, distributors and pharmacies.

The Economic Cost of the Epidemic:

News sources have reported that the opioid epidemic has cost the state of Ohio over $72 billion in 2017. The only other state where it was more costly is West Virginia. The definition of economic cost includes expenses such as healthcare, criminal justice system, lost productivity, etc.

At a national level, the CDC has estimated the cost at more than one trillion dollars in 2017. Sadly, data from the Ohio Department of Health indicates that 2020 was the worst year on record for lethal overdoses from opioid drugs. In this year, over 5,000 people in Ohio died from drug overdoses.

Federal and state money has been made available to combat the epidemic. In recent years, the state of Ohio has allocated grant money in order to fund expanded drug recovery programs. This includes funding for the expansion of specialized court programs that focus on recovery from substance use disorder.

In December 2020, Ohio was allocated over $76.5 million in funding to fight opioid addiction. Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) has stated that over $58 million of the funding will go directly to community efforts that focus on addiction prevention and substance use recovery. This is all good news, but these established trend lines are difficult to change.

Ohio has designed additional programs in 2021 that partially focused on alleviating the suffering and financial cost of addiction. The OhioRISE program is intended to improve the state’s ability to provide supports and services for young people with complex behavioral health requirements. This includes youth with addiction treatment needs who are in foster care.

The main purpose of the OhioRISE program is to develop better coordination of care for Ohio youth who may need behavioral health, community-based treatment services. It should be noted that almost 40 percent of children tracked in the Ohio Medicaid system have a family member with a previous history of substance use disorder or other behavioral health conditions.

About Advanced Billing & Consulting Services:

ABCS provides a variety of administrative solutions for healthcare professionals, including medical billing, insurance credentialing and digital marketing services.

As an Ohio-based company, they also provide software tools, EVV and billing services for Medicaid waiver provider agencies that provide supports for the Ohio I-DD community.

To learn more, email or call them at 614-890-9822.

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