Flint, MI– The city of Flint will be joining a $26 billion national settlement against a few of the biggest pharmaceutical distributors in the country. 

On Dec. 13, the Flint City Council voted to approve the city joining the settlement. If there is enough participation in the settlement, Flint stands to receive $8.8 million. 

“This is a lot of money that’s going to benefit the community…there will be money that will go directly to attack the issue of improper opioid use in the community,” said City Attorney Angela Wheeler at the meeting.

The settlement was announced in July of 2021, and would resolve the claims of both state and local governments across the country against Johnson & Johnson, and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. 

The proposed settlement would require reforms of the four companies, in addition to giving money to participating municipalities to be used for abatement of the opioid epidemic.

The proposed national settlement states that the three distributors will, all together, pay a maximum of $21 billion over 18 years. Johnson & Johnson will pay a maximum of $5 billion over no more than nine years. Approximately, $22.8 billion of the settlement proceeds will be payable to state and local subdivisions. 

According to the settlement site, the funding is to be used for abatement of the opioid epidemic, including “a wide range of intervention, treatment, education, and recovery services so that state and local governments can decide what will best serve their communities.” A list of the possible opioid remediation uses can be found here.

During the council meeting, Wheeler said that the city has spent a lot of money dealing with the effects of opioid addiction. 

“The city has spent a lot of money, especially with fire and police, when it comes to administering the Narcan, and other types of things that folks who have overdosed have needed,” she said. “So a lot of things were taken away from city resources, and this will be coming back in, so it is a positive thing for the city.”

The Michigan Opioids Task Force released its 2020 Annual Report which stated that opioid overdoses killed 1,768 Michiganders in 2019. According to the report, in 2019, Genesee County had the second-highest rate of overdoses, with 35.4 per 100,000 residents. 

According to the University of Michigan’s System for Opioid Overdose Surveillance, there have been 201 fatal overdoses in Genesee County this year alone.

In addition to giving funding to the participating municipalities, the settlement will also require the pharmaceutical distributors to make some changes in how they operate.

It will require the establishment of an independent clearinghouse, which is an online database, to provide state regulators with data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, and use data-driven systems to detect suspicious orders from pharmacies. Suspicious orders are to be reported, and not sold, or shipped. 

Johnson & Johnson will be required to stop selling opioids, stop funding third parties for promoting opioids, and stop lobbying on activities related to opioids.

But this settlement will only take effect if enough municipalities choose to participate.

According to the official settlement website, “the Distributors and J&J on the one hand, and the states and subdivisions on the other, each have options to walk away if they are not satisfied with levels of participation. “

Amy Diaz

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...