Delaware will spend $100 million opioid windfall on treatment, prevention

Charlie Megginson Government, Headlines

Delaware’s share of the opiod settlement will flow into the state over 17 years. Photo by Tanya Nova/Pexels

 

Most of the $100 million Delaware is getting in an opioid lawsuit settlement will be spent on treatment and prevention of drug abuse.

Attorney General Kathleen Jennings talked Thursday in a press conference about how the state will deal with its share of a $26 billion settlement with Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, who were accused of creating and accelerating the opioid crisis.

Delaware will get $20 million of that settlement in the first year, with the rest coming over 17 years.

“Claims against other defendants – including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Walgreens – remain ongoing,” a press release said.

Jennings and other state attorneys general had refused an earlier settlement offer, which would have been $4 billion less than the final agreement.

“No amount of money can make whole the families who have paid the true costs of the opioid epidemic,” Jennings said. “Delawareans from Selbyville and Seaford to Middletown and Claymont have suffered enormously, all because the world’s largest drug dealers were insatiable in their pursuit of profit.”

Senate Bill 166, passed last month by the General Assembly, would establish the Prescription Opioid Settlement Fund and Prescription Opioid Settlement Distribution Commission to  “receive opioid settlement money and ensure that settlement dollars are spent repairing the harm done by the opioid crisis.”

Jennings said the question now is not whether or not “big pharma” will pay its debts to our communities, but how the state will handle the significant settlements Delaware has already received and will continue to receive.

“This legislation answers that question by setting up the guardrails Delawareans need and deserve and ensuring that these funds go exactly where they are intended to go: into the fight against addiction,” Jennings said.

The AG’s press release said money from settlements will be placed in a fund that could only be used to remediate the past harm caused by opioids, reduce the present and future harm caused by opioids, and must be in keeping with the specific terms of individual settlements.

Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 17 years. Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.

Each state’s share of the funding has been determined by agreement among the states.

The agreement with the drug companies also requires significant industry changes designed to help prevent this type of crisis from happening again. The agreement will result in court orders requiring Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen to:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

The 10-year agreement will also result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

Last year, nationwide opioid overdose deaths rose to a record 93,000, a nearly 30 percent increase over the prior year. In recent years, Delaware has experienced the second-worst rate of overdose deaths in America, after West Virginia.

From 2006 to 2012 alone, opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies shipped 276 million prescription opioids – more than 100,000 a day, with the potency of 5.5 tons of morphine into Delaware.

In that period, more than 2 million prescription pills were shipped into Selbyville, a community which is home to only about 2,000 residents.

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