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OPIOID LAWSUIT

Danville to get share of opioid lawsuit settlement money — $1M over 18 years

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Danville will receive a small share of a $26 billion settlement of opioid-related claims following a lawsuit filed by state and local governments.

The city will get $1 million over 18 years as a result of the settlement of the claims made by state and local governments against drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (Janssen Pharmaceuticals) and three distribution companies: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.

The three drug distributors will make their combined $21 billion payment over 18 years, while Johnson & Johnson will pay $5 billion over a nine-year span, NPR reported in July.

By a 7-1 vote Dec. 7, Danville City Council passed a resolution agreeing to participate in the settlement.

But Madison Whittle, who voted against approval, was dissatisfied with what he saw as a paltry amount that would not cover the costs of the effects of opioids on the community.

“It’s a $1 million settlement over 18 years,” Whittle said. “I think we should fight it.”

While he understood the legal work that went into the lawsuit and settlement, “I’m just pushing back on a million bucks for 18 years,” he said.

Council member Sherman Saunders was absent.

Vice Mayor Gary Miller pointed out the reasons why the lawsuit was filed and why the city joined it.

The country’s opioid epidemic has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic and caused 100,000 deaths in 2020, he said.

Those were companies “who willingly knew what they were doing,” Miller said. They promoted the highly addictive opioids as non-addictive and short-acting with support from physicians, pharmacies, corporate entities and middle men who made money, he said.

“We entered into this because of the damages it has done to communities across the country,” Miller said. “It’s costing millions for communities, rescue squads, treatment of overdoses, hospitals, mental health.”

Those companies made billions, he said.

The city’s resolution points out that the opioid epidemic has cost thousands of human lives across the country, and “also impacts the city of Danville by adversely impacting the delivery of emergency medical, law enforcement, criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse services, and other services by the city’s various departments and agencies ...”

Also, Danville will continue to be required to allocate taxpayer dollars, resources, staff energy and time to address the damage the opioid epidemic and has caused and continues to cause citizens, the resolution states.

Danville City Attorney Clarke Whitfield would not comment for this story Wednesday.

Localities, including Danville, have until Jan. 2 to agree to join the settlement.

In a July statement, Johnson & Johnson said the settlement “will directly support state and local efforts to make meaningful progress in addressing the opioid crisis,” NPR reported.

J&J denied any wrongdoing in its manufacture and marketing of opioids, describing its actions as “appropriate and responsible,” NPR reported.

However, as part of the agreement, J&J agreed to no longer manufacture opioid medications. The company voluntarily halted sales of prescription opioids last year, NPR reported.

In a joint statement, the three drug distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — said the settlement was expected to resolve “a substantial majority of opioid lawsuits filed by state and local governmental entities,” NPR reported.

They added that while the companies “strongly dispute the allegations in these lawsuits,” the settlement will deliver “meaningful relief to communities across the United States,” NPR reported.

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