Big pharma settlement may benefit Minnesota cities

In 2019, fatal opioid overdoses rose to 427, the highest number since the department of health began tracking data in 2000.

In early September, Pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three large pharmaceutical distributors, McKesson Corp, AmerisourceBergen Corp and Cardinal Health Inc, decided to proceed with a $26 billion settlement to resolve the claims in over 3,000 opioid crisis-related suits across the U.S.

Forty-two states joined the settlement, including Minnesota. Participating states are due to receive 85 percent of the settlement and local governments are due to receive 15 percent, according to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office.

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities met with Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison to determine the details of the settlement and if it could be used for battling the opioid epidemic in Minnesota cities.

“Under this settlement, the total amount of money that Minnesota will receive depends on the number of cities and counties with populations over 10,000 that agree to participate in the settlement and waive their rights to pursue litigation against these particular defendants. Cities under 10,000 may still benefit from this settlement as well because the money that comes to the state will be available for grants for cities of any size,” according to CGMC.

Notice of participation was sent to Minnesota’s political subdivisions on Sept. 28, and subdivisions will need to dedicate to participate by Jan. 2, 2022. The first payments from the distributors will be released April 2, 2022, and the first payments from Johnson & Johnson will be released July 1, 2022.

Minnesota reported an 18 percent increase in nonfatal drug overdoses in 2020 compared to 2019. Opioids and stimulants were involved in 57 percent of emergency department visits for nonfatal overdoses, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. In Greater Minnesota, the rate of nonfatal drug overdoses increased 10 percent over the same time frame.

“The report on nonfatal overdoses in Minnesota is a reminder that so many lives are tragically impacted by substance use,” Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest public health issue in the world for almost two years now, but the other pressing public health issues have not gone away. The opioid epidemic continues to be pervasive and requires continuing, comprehensive drug overdose prevention and response efforts.”

In 2019, fatal opioid overdoses rose to 427, the highest number since the department of health began tracking data in 2000. Of those deaths, synthetic opioids were the primary killer, accounting for 55.83 percent of fatal overdoses.

Wilkin County, Minnesota, offered a free naloxone training Wednesday, Oct. 6, where participants were trained on how to administer naloxone and overdose warning signs.

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