The Opioid Settlement: Unintended Consequences for Chronic Pain Patients

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Pain is a constant and often debilitating part of life for millions of Americans. For years, opioids were prescribed as the go-to solution for chronic pain management. While this approach brought much-needed relief to many patients, it also led to a devastating opioid epidemic that has claimed countless lives. In response, pharmaceutical companies have agreed to pay billions in settlements to states and individuals affected by their role in fueling the crisis. But what about those who legitimately need these drugs? The unintended consequences of the opioid settlement on chronic pain patients are far-reaching – and potentially disastrous.

What is the Opioid Settlement?

The opioid settlement is a class action lawsuit that was filed against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. The plaintiffs alleged that the company misled doctors and patients about the risks of addiction and overdose associated with the use of OxyContin.

Purdue Pharma agreed to settle the lawsuit for $24 million. The money will be used to fund a treatment program for people who are addicted to opioids, as well as to pay for research into new pain medications.

However, some chronic pain patients say that the settlement will have unintended consequences for them. They worry that it will make it harder for them to get the pain medication they need, and that they will be stigmatized as drug addicts.

How will the Opioid Settlement affect Chronic Pain Patients?

Chronic pain patients have been caught in the middle of the opioid crisis. They are the ones who need pain relief the most, but are also the ones who are most at risk for addiction and overdose. The recent opioid settlement could potentially make things worse for chronic pain patients.

The settlement, which was between the major opioid manufacturers and distributors and several state and local governments, will create a fund to help pay for treatment and education related to the opioid epidemic. However, a large portion of this fund will go towards law enforcement and litigation costs, rather than treatment.

In addition, the settlement includes provisions that could make it more difficult for chronic pain patients to get the medication they need. For example, one provision requires manufacturers to sell only FDA-approved opioids, which excludes many important formulations that are used to treat chronic pain.

The net effect of these provisions is likely to be increased costs and decreased access to care for chronic pain patients. This could lead to more people self-medicating with illegal drugs or alcohol, or even turning to suicide.

It is essential that policymakers take into account the needs of chronic pain patients when crafting solutions to the opioid crisis. Otherwise, we may end up causing more harm than good.

The Pros and Cons of the Opioid Settlement

It is no secret that the United States is in the midst of an opioid epidemic. In 2016, more than 42,000 people died from overdoses involving opioids, and the number of deaths has only increased in recent years.1 In response to this growing public health crisis, the U.S. government has taken legal action against the companies that make and sell opioids.

In August 2019, Purdue Pharma—the maker of OxyContin—reached a tentative settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that would see the company pay $8 billion in fines and plead guilty to three federal felony charges related to its marketing and sales of opioids.2 If approved by the judge, this would be the largest ever settlement paid by a drug company in a criminal case in U.S. history.3

The proposed settlement has generated a lot of controversy, with some people arguing that it does not go far enough in holding Purdue Pharma accountable for its role in the opioid epidemic, and others arguing that it could have negative consequences for patients who rely on opioids for pain relief. Here, we will take a look at both sides of the debate to help you make up your own mind about the proposed Purdue Pharma settlement.

What can be done to help Chronic Pain Patients?

Chronic pain patients have been left in the lurch by the recent opioid settlement. The $260 billion settlement will go towards funding addiction treatment and research, as well as compensating state and local governments for the cost of the opioid epidemic. However, there is no mention of help for the millions of chronic pain patients who rely on opioids to manage their pain.

Chronic pain patients are already struggling to find doctors who will prescribe them opioids, as more and more physicians are refusing to do so due to the fear of being accused of contributing to the opioid epidemic. The settlement is only going to make this problem worse, as it will further incentivize doctors to avoid prescribing opioids. This leaves chronic pain patients with few options for managing their pain.

There needs to be some sort of relief for chronic pain patients in the opioid settlement. Perhaps a fund could be set aside specifically for helping them access alternative treatments or for providing them with financial assistance. Without some form of assistance, chronic pain patients are going to suffer even more as a result of this settlement.


The opioid settlement has caused a series of unintended consequences for chronic pain patients, who now have to contend with stricter prescribing laws and a lack of access to the medications they need. Despite these challenges, it is possible for doctors and patients to work together in finding solutions that ensure adequate treatment while still minimizing potential risks. Going forward, continued education on opioids as well as enhanced monitoring programs could help ensure that chronic pain sufferers receive the best care possible.

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