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This file photo from Sept. 11, 2019 shows medications in a locked storage area that are slated for destruction at the police headquarters in Barberton, Ohio. The nation's three biggest drug distributors and a major drugmaker reached a $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties over the deadly havoc wreaked by opioids, just hours before the first federal trial over the crisis was about to begin Monday.
This file photo from Sept. 11, 2019 shows medications in a locked storage area that are slated for destruction at the police headquarters in Barberton, Ohio. The nation's three biggest drug distributors and a major drugmaker reached a $260 million settlement with two Ohio counties over the deadly havoc wreaked by opioids, just hours before the first federal trial over the crisis was about to begin Monday. (Keith Srakocic/AP)

Apparently, drug distributors and manufacturers are about to agree on settlement terms with two Ohio counties as a prelude to a multi-billion-dollar nationwide settlement of all opioid claims (“$260 million deal averts 1st federal opioid trial,” Oct. 22). I remember the 1998 tobacco settlement in which about $260 billion went to the states, ostensibly for tobacco prevention and treatment, but in reality often was used to fill state budget gaps. This year, states will spend only 2.4% of tobacco settlement and tobacco tax dollars on prevention and cessation programs.

Maryland received $2.3 billion from the settlement with annual payments of $130 to $150 million. It has a Cigarette Restitution Fund but spends only a small fraction to prevent young people from smoking and to help smokers quit. Maryland has cut adult smoking rates significantly but annual healthcare costs directly related to smoking are estimated at $2.71 billion. We need to do better.

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Let’s hope that opioid settlement dollars will be used for substance abuse education, prevention and treatment and not as a backdoor to fill state and local budget deficits.

Dr. Beryl Rosenstein, Pikesville

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