Friday, February 02, 2018

Fish gotta fly, birds gotta swim: more on the opiate crisis

At so many levels, the current opiate crisis, and the way in which various actors are seeking to cope with it, proves rich in intriguing detail.

For starters, it needs to be memorialized that there is a judge in Ohio--like Pennsylvania a fascinating political see-saw state--who's actually trying to do something about this crisis.

Daniel Polster, a Clinton appointee and approaching two decades on the bench, has convened all the parties caught up in the current crisis. Metaphorically locking them all in a room and saying "we'll solve this problem and maybe you get outa this room," he included players not even directly involved in the case, which had been brought against Purdue Pharma and several other opiate producers by the attorneys-general of a whole bunch of states. Known for his proactive pragmatism in problem-solving around multiple disputes brought before him, Polster wants a settlement that will actually save lives instead of just scoring political points.

We find this extraordinarily laudable in today's climate. It sure as hell isn't happening on Capitol Hill. Equally extraordinary in the legal proceedings is the participation of Ohio GOP former senator, career politician, now Ohio AG, and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine.

Unlike his Wisconsin colleague Ron Johnson, who points the crisis finger at Medicaid, DeWine sees the log that Big Pharma has poked into his constituents' collective eye. As Ohio's opiate-related death rate heads toward a new 2018 record of 5000, he sees that pharma executives, led especially by the Sackler family, misled the medical profession for years.

Interestingly, in all the current spate of articles on Polster's efforts--here and here and here--the Sackler name appears not at all, and that of their company, Purdue, appears in very few places.

Instead, accounts now appearing provide the usual bewildering lawyerly jockeying around what an ultimate settlement, with drug producers funding addiction-relief measures (in return no doubt for class relief, freedom from the slammer, and CFOs' ability to take predictable write-offs), might look like. Thus for example when we hear about Purdue it's because its general counsel is castigating DeWine for withdrawing from an AG-driven (40-some-odd of them!) probe of her company. (And this lady is a former US Attorney for southern New York!)

Games people play. DeWine of course remains very interested in getting private sector money to help alleviate this crisis.

It's actually gratifying to see this whole case play out. It hinges obviously on a civic-minded judge willing to take all the heat that'll come his way from banging all these heads together. It also hinges on having less purely ideologically-minded people who, regardless of their party affiliation, are more interested in solving a godawful health crisis than they are in feathering their career plans with support from The Base.

And that goes for The Base from either ideological extreme.

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