Historic opioid settlement reached: Could bring $460 million to fight scourge of addiction across state
Representative Patrick Flannery
There is no escaping the opioid epidemic. It knows no boundaries and I am hard pressed to find anyone who does not know someone struggling with an addiction to an opioid. We were making gains, until the COVID-19 pandemic and state government’s shutdown left users isolated, lonely, and craving a crutch to get them through the stressful time. As a result, we saw drug overdose deaths increase by more than 50 percent last year. These were parents, children, family members, and friends.
It is easy to question how someone could become addicted in this day and age. We know drug abuse is bad. After all, billions of dollars have been spent educating and advocating for children and adults to “just say no.” Yet, addiction is rampant. Unfortunately, one of the greatest contributing factors is that some companies have used predatory practices to market and sell these highly addictive drugs – specifically opioids – despite knowing the dangers and laws prohibiting them. As a result, thousands of lawsuits have been filed against manufacturers by state and local governments in courts across the nation. Last week, we learned that three major distributors and one manufacturer have reached an agreement that may resolve many of these lawsuits. While states have 30 days to review the terms of the proposed settlement and sign on, it has the potential to provide critical resources to address the scourge of addiction.
According to the terms of this agreement, the four entities could pay a total of $26 billion to governments. The three distributors would pay up to $21 billion over 18 years. The manufacturer would have nine years to pay up to $5 billion. The formula used to determine each state’s portion of the settlement includes several factors, like the number of deaths, the number of addicted residents related to opioid use, and the number of opioids prescribed. The bottom line for our state, Kentucky could receive $460 million.
While there is still some uncertainty surrounding this settlement, we do know how any settlement money would be allocated. This session we worked with Attorney General Daniel Cameron to craft and pass HB 427. The bill ensures that the settlement monies from any litigation against opioid manufacturers or distributors is used to benefit those most harmed by their practices. It calls for half the proceeds to go to the state and half to localities, and requires the money be used to combat the opioid epidemic.
I want to add that the settlement agreement goes farther than penalizing these companies. It requires significant changes in how they do business. They will begin reporting data about where and how often drugs are being shipped to a centralized clearinghouse – this should help identify and eliminate problems. The settlement also prohibits shipping of suspicious opioid orders and requires they be reported to authorities. In addition, the opioid manufacturer must stop selling opioids and share clinical trial data with an open data access project. The manufacturer is also prohibited from funding grants that promote opioids and lobbying on activities that relate to opioids.
As you can see, this is a significant victory in the war for our people’s mental and physical health. It is not over, but we have made a big gain. I want to recognize Attorney General Daniel Cameron for the work he and his office have done to secure this settlement. They have been aggressive and committed the resources necessary to represent our state.
Now, let’s be clear – this money will not bring back those who have died. It provides little comfort to the child who lost his mother, or the parent who lost their child. However, it provides us with an opportunity to provide hope for many of our people in the future.
As always, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like more information visit the LRC website www.legislature.ky.gov.