Flint, MI– The city of Flint stands to receive $8.8 million if it joins a national opioid settlement against a few of the biggest pharmaceutical distributors in the country.
The $26 billion partial 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.
A resolution related to the city joining this partial settlement will be brought to the Flint City Council in their committee meeting on Dec. 8.
The city’s law department, as well as City Administrator Clyde Edwards, recommended that the council approve the city joining the settlement, and noted that the city of Flint filed its own opioid-related lawsuit in Michigan’s Eastern District Court about two years ago.
On Feb. 18, 2019, the city of Flint filed a complaint against several pharmaceutical companies, including the ones listed in the national settlement, for creating “a hazard to public health and safety,” and to recoup money that was spent due to the companies’ “false, deceptive, and unfair marketing and/or unlawful diversion of prescription opioids.”
In this complaint, the city stated that amidst the “national epidemic of chemical addiction,” Flint had been “uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the plague of opioid addiction.”
“As a direct result of Defendants’ corporate malfeasance, the City’s medical professionals and first responders must now prioritize combating drug overdoses, including opioid overdoses,” the complaint states. “The City’s law-enforcement officers are engaged in a pitched battle against the heroin trade, and against criminal enterprises illegally trading in prescription opioids. The City’s medical professionals must now spend their time and resources combatting the multifaceted harms that drug addiction imposes on families, children, and infants.”
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 189 fatal overdoses in Genesee County this year alone.
The proposed national settlement states that the three distributors will, altogether, 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.
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. “
Attorney General Dana Nessel sent a press release urging the 277 eligible municipalities in Michigan to register for the settlement.
“I encourage all of our state’s eligible municipalities to register for this historic settlement,” Nessel said. “This funding would support ongoing prevention and treatment efforts across the state, and I have long argued that much-needed financial support should be coming from those who created this crisis—not the communities suffering through it. Participation is vital to better equip those communities to address the crisis head on.”