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The Economist: $2.5B to ease the opioid crisis in the WVa community


A forensic economist has testified that a 15-year plan to reduce the opioid crisis in the West Virginia community would cost local officials $2.5 billion.

HUNTINGTON, WA – A 15-year plan to reduce the opioid crisis in the West Virginia community will cost local officials $2.5 billion, a forensic economist has testified.

George Barrett testified Tuesday that Caballe County and the city of Huntington would need to spend $144 million to implement the plan and that the annual cost would increase to $197 million by the 15th year, The Herald-Dispatch reported. Governments have combined annual budgets of less than $87 million.

The testimony came in the seventh week of a historic civil trial against three large opioid distributors. In a lawsuit filed by Cabell County and the City of Huntington, drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Drug Co., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp. He has been accused of fueling the American crisis. The plaintiffs argue that the companies created a “public nuisance” by flooding the area with tens of millions of opioid doses over eight years and ignored signs that the small community along the Ohio River was being ravaged by drug addiction.

In turn, the companies say that poor communication and pill quotas set by federal agents are to blame, along with an increase in prescriptions written by doctors.

This week’s testimony has focused on the drug waiver scheme and its cost.

Barrett’s findings were based on a report by pharmacoepidemiologist Caleb Alexander of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Alexander came up with a reduction plan for the community he said could reduce the number of people with overdoses, overdose deaths and opioid use disorders by half.

McKesson’s attorney, Timothy Hester, questioned Barrett’s competence in coming up with the estimate, which he called inflated.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department spent about $225,000 on its harm reduction program in 2019, but the reduction plan calls for the program to expand.

Hester also noted that most medical claims are paid for through Medicaid, and not by city and county officials. He asked the judge to testify, but the judge did not immediately rule.

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