TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The U.S. scored a major victory in a lawsuit against a British opioid manufacturer, Thursday. The news comes as new statistics Florida’s opioid crisis may be on the decline.
The latest interim report from the state’s Medical Examiners Commission shows there were nearly 300 fewer opioid deaths in the first half of 2018, compared to the first half of 2017.
“We are actually guardedly optimistic,” said Melanie Brown-Woofter, President of the Florida Council for Community Mental Health.
Brown-Woofter said the drop suggests Florida’s multi-faceted approach to tackling the crisis may be paying off.
“There's increased training with emergency responders, with ED Departments [Emergency Departments] and with medical prescribers, so that prescribing patterns have changed,” said Brown-Woofter.
The report was released just days before the U.S. Government solidified a $1.4 billion settlement with the British opioid manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser.
Florida was part of the lawsuit and could be entitled to a portion of the winnings. $200 million will be dispersed among states involved in the case for Medicaid reimbursement.
Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody Tweeted the recovery "should send a strong message to anyone engaging in illicit conduct to increase drug dependency."
The Attorney General will also have access to additional tools to aid in the state’s current and possible future lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, thanks to a law passed during the 2019 legislative session. The law allows Moody to access to the state's prescription drug monitoring database.
Despite the victories, Florida’s opioid crisis is far from over.
“We're still in the middle of an incredible epidemic and we need to continue the fight using all available resources so that we can eliminate it,” said Brown-Woofter.
The latest numbers suggest 17 Floridians continue to die each day from opioids.
The Commission's report also showed deaths attributed to the potent opioid Fentanyl skyrocketed 65% between the first half of 2017 and 2018.