MONROE COUNTY MOVES TO SETTLEMENT $26.5 BILLION OPIOID LAW

Monroe County has decided to settle its part in a nationwide class action lawsuit against distributors and a manufacturer of opioid painkillers. According to agenda papers from the December 2021 county commissioners’ meeting, while the overall settlement amount is still being finalized, the current figure is approximately $26.5 billion. Of this amount, Monroe County would receive $206,000 per year, while the five Keys municipalities will receive a total of $22,000 per year, over a period of approximately 17.5 years.

“Overall, the proposed settlement is a good deal for Monroe County,” Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall said. “It will provide approximately $206,000 annually to the county and an additional $22,000 collectively to the five municipalities, over 17.5 years, to be used for substance abuse reduction. Monroe County would receive a slightly larger share than its prorated share based on population.

Another lawsuit filed by the county against three other opioid makers, including the Sackler family’s Purdue Pharma – which made the highly addictive pill OxyContin – is still pending. That lawsuit has been complicated by the fact that all three manufacturers have filed for bankruptcy, Hall told Keys Weekly.

This news follows recent national headlines which stated that the opioid epidemic has resulted in the highest annual death rate from drug abuse on record.

“In the 12 months ending in April, more than 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses,” said a November 17, 2021, New York Times article. “This figure marks the first time that the number of overdose deaths in the United States exceeds 100,000 a year, more than the number of car accidents and firearm deaths combined. … The vast majority (was) caused by synthetic opioids.

Florida and Monroe County are not immune to this trend. According to documents submitted by the county to receive a grant for its prison drug treatment program, “Monroe County (has) drug abuse rates above state and national averages. The Drug Enforcement Agency noted in its 2019 Opioid Report that from 2006 to 2012 there were 30,791,325 prescription pain relievers, enough for 60 pills per person per year, supplied to Monroe County.

Prosecutor Hall explained that around 2018, the county decided to file a lawsuit — along with other cities, counties and states across the country — against manufacturers and distributors of painkillers after reviewing the effect of the coronavirus outbreak. opioids on its employees.

“We were talking about Monroe County Health Plan expenditures to treat opioid addictions, the dollar amount and staff time needed to treat people with opioid problems, including expenditures for Narcan,” a Hall said.

Narcan, the brand name for naloxone, is a nasal spray that can treat a narcotic overdose.

Hall stressed that any money received from a settlement would not be an attempt to claw back money the county had already paid out of pocket to help opioid users. “Instead, it would be future-looking dollars available for treatment programs, things that look to the future as opposed to things that happened in the past,” she said.

Once the settlement money is received, Hall said, the county would also like to hold talks between municipalities to ensure the money is distributed fairly for drug treatment programs in the Keys, since the county gets the lion’s share of settlement in the region.

The defendants in this lawsuit include three national distributors: Amerisource Bergen Corporation, which is in partnership with Walgreens, among other entities; McKesson, which is in partnership with CVS, among others; and Cardinal Health, which is in partnership with CVS, among others. One manufacturer is also included in this lawsuit: Johnson & Johnson, through its parent company Janssen.

Monroe County is also involved in another multidistrict lawsuit, which is still pending in court due to the fact that the three defendants have all declared bankruptcy: manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Insys and Mallinckrodt.

According to Reuters.com, a federal judge has thrown out a $4.5 billion settlement that legally shielded members of the Sackler family – which owns Purdue Pharma – from future opioid lawsuits. In national media coverage, the Sackler surname has become synonymous with their product OxyContin, a painkiller that fueled the fire of the epidemic.

“There cannot be two forms of justice – one for ordinary Americans and one for billionaires,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a December 17, 2021 Reuters.com article. , in response to the rejection of the settlement. “I’m prepared to take this fight all the way to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to secure true accountability for the Sackler family.”

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsey and his staff witnessed the local wreckage of the opioid epidemic. He pointed out that doctors had over-prescribed opioid painkillers to patients, who would then become addicted.

Ramsay expressed concern that opioid users see Narcan as a safety net and therefore feel more comfortable abusing drugs. He pointed out that Narcan is available over the counter in CVS and said drug addicts often use it in pairs. They make a deadly pact to use the drug of their choice one at a time. If one person appears to be overdosing, the other person will revive them with Narcan.

“It encourages people to use drugs at higher volumes,” Ramsay explained. “Last year we had a couple in a caravan with three children. In a garbage trailer. They had Narcan, and they had the same pact. But they were so high that one passed out while the other overdosed. The husband is dead.