Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Johnson County Board of Commissioners agreed to a settlement to receive financial compensation from files claimed against pharmaceutical companies in 2019 for malpractice in the national opioid crisis.
Fourteen counties and six other cities in the State of Kansas are also part of the settlement, Peg Trent, chief legal counsel, said at the Thursday December 16 meeting.
Purdue, Johnson and Johnson, Cardinal, McKesson and Amerisource are the five pharmaceutical companies part of the settlement.
Resolution 109-21 approves joining the Kansas Opioids Memorandum of Understanding between the Kansas Attorney General, the League of Kansas Municipalities and the Kansas Association of Counties. It also approves an agreement releasing Johnson County’s claims to the Kansas Attorney General.
The Opioid Crisis Accountability Act of 2019 was passed by the U.S. Congress to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for dubious marketing and distribution of opioid products and for their role in creating and exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the United States.
Trent said the money will be distributed into two state funds: 75 percent in to Kansas Fights Addiction Fund and 25 percent into Municipalities Fights Addiction Fund. Johnson County is receiving funds through the municipalities fund.
Beginning June 1, 2022 Johnson County will receive $5.5 million and an additional $3.3 million will be received because of a separate settlement with Johnson and Johnson, Trent said.
“Kansas benefits because of your efforts with litigating parties,” she said. “We can move forward with the settlement—it is the best resolution.”
Chris Snyder, attorney, said not much is heard about Purdue because they are currently battling bankruptcy, but the settlement allows the county to take financial compensation from them, too.
“The train left the station with Purdue as engineers, (separate legal action),” he said.
Snyder said they will collect future settlements from McKesson and Amerisource in the next six months to a year.
Charlotte O’Hara, commissioner, said the crisis was all through legal prescriptions from doctors to patients.
“The issue was created by the medical establishment,” she said.
Trent said it was also with marketing of the opioids and the whole industry.
O’Hara said there are multi facets of the medical industry and mentioned Johnson and Johnson as one of the Covid vaccine creators.
“And we have been dependent on them to get through the pandemic,” she said. “We have been asked to trust the same industry—I’m just shocked.”
O’Hara said she wasn’t opposed to the settlement, but was extremely sad at the disaster out result and worried about the same outcome with Covid vaccines.
Jeff Meyers, commissioner, said he wanted to know if the subsequent litigation had an end date.
Snyder said it would be an installment settlement through annuity with no time frame.
Michael Ashcraft, commissioner, said the opioid settlement felt eerily similar to the late 1990s tobacco settlements.
“I am comfortable with the formula, but want to make sure Johnson County is receiving their full measure and not some compromise,” he said. “I don’t want history to repeat itself, and we might want to be out in front of this.”
Snyder said they want to make sure a tobacco settlement didn’t occur because it didn’t flow down.
“I am confident this is appropriate for Kansas,” he said. “A large quantity is going to our county.”
Snyder said from the 25 percent fund smaller amount have been earmarked within the county.
Becky Fast, commissioner, said she wanted to know if it was just the three big pharmaceutical names and if within the 25 percent fund if it was divided by population or need.
Snyder said it was assigned to the Kansas Attorney General who will allocate the funds directly to the county.
“The formulas can become as complicated as you want,” he said. “Johnson County will receive the largest portion of the state.”
Ashcraft said he wanted to know if the Sackler family was in bankruptcy or just the Purdue Company.
Snyder said there were certain rules that didn’t allow them to go after individuals, but the Sackler family was putting their personal finances into the settlement for Purdue and are being pursued to the fullest extent.
The first wave of the opioid crisis began with increased prescriptions in the 1990s which involved overdose deaths increasing in 1999. The second wave began in 2010 with rapid increases of overdose deaths from heroin.
Purdue Pharma created Oxycontin in 1996 for non-cancer patients suffering from chronic pain. The medicine came in 10mg, 20mg, 40mg and 80mg doses. A 160mg dose was created July 2000.
Prescription and illegal use of the drug have been linked to over 500,000 deaths in the U.S.
The settlement is for over $26 billion and local government’s give up their right to sue.
The plan has the Sackler family members give up ownership of Purdue. The transformed company would continue to make OxyContin with profits going to fight the opioid crisis. Low or no cost drugs will also be developed to reverse overdoses and treat addictions. Sackler families are expected to contribute $4.5 billion in cash and assets.
Government entities are obligated to use the settlement to fight the crisis and not fill personal budgets.
As part of the settlement the Sackler family would not be pursued for future criminal and civil litigation. Over the toll of opioids.
Later on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon of New York rejected the settlement over the provision protecting the Sackler family from personal litigation.