Joe Schrank: J&J opioid settlement is 'slap on the wrist'

Joe Schrank, director of The Heavenly Center for addiction treatment, called the $26 billion settlement that pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and drug distributors paid for their alleged involvement in the opioid epidemic a "slap on the wrist."

A group of U.S. state attorneys general last week announced that J&J and three drug distributors — Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen — would pay $26 billion over 18 years without admitting to any wrongdoing.

"Sounds like a lot of money, it's actually not right," Schrank said during an appearance on Hill.TV's "Rising."

"So $26 billion over 18 years — it's really kind of a slap on the wrist for these pharmaceutical companies that make massive, incredible amounts of money."

"It's actually a slap in the face of every grieving family that's lost somebody to an overdose. We're in a peak — we're in a fever pitch of overdose. We've had 90,000 overdose deaths in 2020. That's the highest on record, this isn't really going anywhere," Schrank said.

He argued that the settlement wouldn't even cover the cost of foster care for the children who have lost their parents due to opioid addiction.

He opined that instead of thinking of how to pay for treatment for drug addication, more attention should be paid to the issue of drug policy in general and how it can integrated with public health policy.

"I think it offers a chance to have a larger question about drug policy in general, because we don't do a very good job of it. If we did, we wouldn't have the body count that we do," he said.