Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller announces how he would like to spend any opioid settlement funds awarded to the state.
Iowa Attorney General (AG) Tom Miller wants any funds received from settlements with opioid manufacturers and distributors in multistate litigation taking place in Cleveland, Ohio, under the direction of Judge Dan Polster to be allocated toward “treatment, recovery, and abatement efforts” to address addiction that claimed more than 200 lives in Iowa in 2020.
“My goal has always been to use this additional money in the best possible way to deal with this enormous crisis epidemic that has harmed so many people and was totally unnecessary,” Miller said.
The attorney general’s office is negotiating with Iowa’s public health officials and Iowa county attorneys. Discussions with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) officials have revolved around spending approximately $3.5 million for telehealth training for physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants centered around federally approved medication-assisted treatment.
The AG said he believes things are progressing to the point where Iowa will begin receiving “$15 to $20 million sometime in 2022” as part of an effort to stop the opioid crisis, negotiating a settlement with drug companies that allegedly helped create it with deceptive claims and marketing campaigns.
“There is still a lot of things to be done but it’s hopefully crossing the Rubicon,” he said, adding that his office has been working with officials in the state Department of Public Health, counties, the UIHC, as well as others to define a strategy to identify which addictions are most prevalent in Iowa and come up with treat these.
“One of the things we should do with the money is just find out as best we can the degree and the source and the type of addictions in Iowa. That’s something that I would advocate,” he said. “We want to make sure that the benefits from the additional money are spread out throughout the state, that everybody in the state has a chance to benefit from this. We hope that this can be a model for dealing with an addiction.”
Opioid-related deaths increased by 35 percent in Iowa in 2020, and roughly 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the United States from 1999 to 2019, in general, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has identified three waves of the opioid crisis, overall.
“We believe that there are a number of people who could quit completely through treatment and that’s the optimum, that’s what we want,” Miller said, adding, “But we think there are many others who can’t, and we think the (medication assisted treatment) is a very viable alternative and we’re going to work towards that.”
Miller played a major role in the $26 billion agreement with the three major opioid distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, as well as and Johnson & Johnson and the $4.3 billion settlement with the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma. The funds from these settlements will ultimately provide some solace and relief to communities devastated by the crisis, but there is still much work to be done.