Virginia expected to receive $530 million from opioid distributors, manufacturer

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 3:12 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 21, 2021 at 11:19 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia is expected to receive more than half a billion dollars from opioid distributors and manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, as part of a multi-billion-dollar settlement.

As part of the settlement, opioid distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal, and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson, will pay $26 billion that will go towards prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in communities across the country.

This comes following a multi-year investigation into “the role opioid manufacturers and distributors played in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis in Virginia and across the country.

“It’s going to be really important to make sure that this money gets into the hands of those who can deliver services to those who are battling addiction right now,” said Attorney General Mark Herring.

Virginia is expected to receive about $530 million, most of which will go towards the Commonwealth’s opioid abatement authority.

“The roots of the opioid crisis began in the marketing offices and board rooms of pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and ran straight into the homes and medicine cabinets of Virginians. Distributors like McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal spread billions of doses of highly addictive opioids throughout our communities, helping to fuel a crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and upended the lives of Virginians in every corner of our Commonwealth,” said Herring. “No dollar amount will ever be able to bring back the Virginians we have lost to this devastating epidemic, but we can at least dedicate our time and resources to preventing further loss through prevention, treatment, and recovery. Throughout my time as attorney general, one of my top priorities has been to go after the pharmaceutical and marketing companies that created and prolonged the deadly opioid crisis, and I will not stop until all those involved are held accountable.”

The distributors have also agreed to start an independent clearinghouse to track and monitor the number of opioids sent to health care providers and localities.

“We know that no amount of money will bring those Virginians back, no amount will make up for the amount of harm that was caused, but this is a big step in holding those who are culpable to account,” Herring said.

At this time, Herring says the details are still being worked out as to when that money will come and how it will be allocated, but Julie Karr, the Opioid Coordinator for the Richmond-Henrico Health District says the funds will go a long way towards improving the district’s treatment efforts.

“The pandemic has been something of a catalyst for an even higher number of overdoses in the city, where we’ve seen almost a 100 percent increase of fatal overdoes in the past year,” Karr said. “What we do know from the conversations that we’re having with our community partners is that there’s always a need to bolster the comprehensive harm reduction (CHR) that happens throughout the state.”

Karr says that CHR is an evidence-based, non-judgmental approach to supporting and directing resources to people who are on drugs.

“An effect of harm reduction is that people are five times more likely to go into treatment and recovery services when they enter through that pathway,” Karr said.

In a press release from Herring’s office, an independent, third-party monitor will ensure that each distributor is complying with the terms of the proposed agreement.

Under the terms of the proposed agreement, Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen will:

  • 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.

For Johnson & Johnson, under the terms of the proposed agreement, the company will pay up to $5 billion over a nine-year period with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years. Virginia is expected to receive up to approximately $100 million as its share of the agreement.

Additionally, Johnson & Johnson will:

  • 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.

Copyright 2021 WWBT. All rights reserved.

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