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For the past several years, American attention has been fixated on fighting opioid overdoses, revealing communities in economic and social distress. Now, two of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains, CVS and Walgreens
WBA
announced agreements to pay about $5 billion each to settle lawsuits nationwide over the toll of opioids. This crisis has cost the U.S. economy $29 billion in lost productivity, $35 billion in healthcare costs, and $14.8 billion in criminal justice costs. Unfortunately, the related plagues of drug abuse and death have stalked African-American communities for decades, garnering little to no attention, leaving one to question just how vulnerable they are economically.

The Breakdown You Need To Know:

CultureBanx reported the disparities in attention, resources and long-term strategies have led to a tale of two opioid crises. Especially in the Black community, where opioid use has been criminalized and largely ignored. The dangers of misusing prescription drugs comes from the opioid crisis, and in 2020 17% of opioid overdose were by African Americans. Washington DC has the highest African American opioid overdose rate at 82.5%, according to KFF.

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The drug industry has played a role in an overdose crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades. In recent years, opioid deaths have soared to record levels around 80,000 a year. Unfortunately, the government bears less than one-third of the financial costs, with the rest falling on individuals and the private sector.

Under the tentative plans, CVS would pay $4.9 billion to local governments and about $130 million to Native American tribes over a decade. Walgreens would pay $4.8 billion to governments and $155 million to tribes over 15 years. The exact amount depends on how many governments join the deals.

Prescribing Settlements:

Most of the nation’s opioid overdose deaths initially involved prescription drugs, according to NPR. The proposed pacts bring a nationwide tally of finalized and completed settlements between companies and governments to more than $50 billion.

The opioid crisis not only increases costs and lowers productivity throughout the economy, it also prematurely ends lives, which have value beyond their effect on economic output. Unfortunately, the biggest cost burden fell on families due to lost earnings of those who died.

Those mortality costs alone came to more than $72 billion in 2018, according to a report by the Society of Actuaries. Since the average Black family makes less than $40,000 a year, dealing with lost income can put them in a dire financial and economic place. Additionally, A U.S. News analysis using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found between 2014 and 2017, the fatal opioid overdose rate among blacks rose by 130%, more than twice the 61.5% surge for whites over that period.

What’s Next:

Neither CVS or Walgreens is admitting wrongdoing. A lawyer said Walmart
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is in discussions for a deal, though the company has not publicly commented on this..

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