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Robinson supports county-wide effort for opioid lawsuits

By Elizabeth Perry

Robinson commissioners voted to sign onto the National Opioid Settlement Agreement, a move designed to increase the amount of money granted to Allegheny County in a second wave of lawsuits.

Jack Cambest, solicitor for Robinson Township, said any municipality that has a population in excess of 10,000 residents was asked to sign on in order to increase the pot of money allotted to the county.

In 2021, several opioid manufacturers and distributors settled massive class action lawsuits brought by more than 3,000 states and local governments from across the United States because of deceptive practices used by such companies to mislead people about the highly addictive nature of opioids according to the National Association of Counties.

Many of these lawsuits are still working through the court system.

The settled, first wave suits involved Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health, which totaled $26 billion according to NACo.

As a participant in the second wave, Robinson will not be given control over any of the settlement money, Cambest said, they are simply signing on to benefit the county-wide effort.

The second wave of settlements are from Teva, Allergan, CVS, Walmart and Walgreens–referred to as the manufacturer/pharmacy settlement by Glenn E. Sterner, assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Pitt’s Criminal Justice Research Center worked on the formula which determined how much each county received in settlement money.

“In sum, we do not know how much we will receive in PA for the Wave 2 settlement until all municipalities/counties sign on,” Sterner said.

The amount that will be distributed in the next wave of settlements will depend on the amount of counties and municipalities that sign on to the lawsuit, Sterner said, as there are thresholds set within the settlement documentation regarding the amounts.

The first wave of lawsuits have already been litigated and settled, for which the commonwealth will receive approximately $1.07 billion over the next 18 years.

All 67 counties in Pennsylvania joined the class action lawsuit, including 241 local governments against Cardinal, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Johnson & Johnson according to a statement from the Pennsylvania Attorney General. Allegheny County got the second highest allotment in the first wave of settlements, Lou Takacs, media representative for Allegheny County Controller Corey O'Conner said.

According to the Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Abatement trust, 70% of the funding goes to local counties, 15% is going to litigating counties and 15% is going to the state.

The allocation to each county, the state legislature, and litigating subentities is already decided in that initial settlement, Sterner said.

Counties have already received two payments.

Takacs said Allegheny County received $8 million in 2022 from this first wave of settlements; $6.9 million of which went to the Department of Human Services, $160,000 was given to Prevention Point Pittsburgh and $1.2 million went to the Department of Children Initiatives.

The Department of Health has spent $214,000 so far, all on the drug Narcan, Takacs said. Narcan is the brand name for the drug Naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdose, restoring the breath of a person in the throes of death and blocking opioid receptors, according to the National Institute of Health.

Another $74 million is scheduled to be released over the next 18 years from the original settlement.


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