The Public Health Value of Opioid Litigation


Opioid litigation continues a growing public health litigation trend in which governments seek to hold companies responsible for population harms related to their products. The litigation can serve to address gaps in regulatory and legislative policymaking and in market self-regulation pervasive in the prescription opioid domain. Moreover, prior opioid settlements have satisfied civil tort litigation objectives of obtaining compensation for injured parties, deterring harmful behavior, and holding certain opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies accountable for their actions. In this way, opioid litigation represents progress over prior public health litigation campaigns involving tobacco, lead paint, and asbestos, which had more limited tort litigation effects. Although opioid litigation is not a comprehensive solution to the opioid crisis, it can complement other strategies and infuse much needed money, behavior changes, and public accountability for prescription opioid and related harms.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation external publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND’s publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.

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