"Where we are now is step one."
Those were the words of attorney Joseph Rice, who is part of an ongoing multi-state settlement with some of the largest opioid distributors.
"The settlement agreement is going to go out to the Attorney Generals," added Rice.
Rice is an attorney with Motley Rice, a firm serving multiple state and local governments, all of whom have sued the drug industry, opioid distributors Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen. Drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is also under pressure. These companies are under scrutiny for allegedly participating in illegal promotional activities which ultimately led to an opioid issue. The issue stemmed while they were distributing drugs that were not warranted for authentic medical purposes.
Attorney General Brian Frosh had some words on what could end up being a $26 billion multi-state settlement. "We know that the epidemic that we face with respect to opioids is growing in strength and we need to use this money to stop it," he said to WJZ. "The manufacturers, the distributors knew what they were doing ... it was purposeful and they left a trail of addiction and death in their wake.
Along with Rice, Frosh met with a team of attorneys to discuss what must be done. They are hoping changes will be made from this process for the betterment of the drug industry. This past year saw a 30% increase in deaths due to opioid overdose, with 93,000 occurring in the U.S and over 2,500 in Maryland.
So far, the state of Maryland could obtain up to $485 million in the settlement. They are one of many local governments and states, with the former having 150 days to sign onto a settlement agreement while the latter must do so in 30 days. The deal is part of the settlement that will clean up any claims against the distributors and Johnson & Johnson. Payments could potentially be made.
So far, the agreement is set at 10 years during which multiple changes to these distributors would ensue. Among those changes include the three distributors prohibiting shipping of and reporting suspicious opioid orders, reporting pharmacies to state regulators who divert from their ability to receive shipments, and making a clearinghouse for the distributors and state regulators detailing their drug activities others.
Under this agreement, drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson would no longer be able to sell opioids nor lobby any kind of event or activity that has to do with opioids. Johnson & Johnson would also not be able to give any money or grants to third parties that deal with opioids.
Overall, the multi-billion settlement would aim towards reducing opioid overdoses and supporting treatments and prevention.
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