Will the opioid settlement come to Midvale?Feb 02, 2022 01:03PM ● By Erin Dixon
Since 1996, the prescribing and dispensing of opioids has skyrocketed, bringing death from illegal use of prescriptions with it. (Image/pixabay)
By Erin Dixon | [email protected]
Over 10 million people misused prescription opioids in 2019 in the United States. Of those people, 1.6 million had an opioid use disorder.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website: “In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rates.
“Increased prescription of opioid medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it became clear that these medications could indeed be highly addictive.”
Companies involved in advertising, selling and distributing opioid medications were aware the medication was highly addictive.
“The first wave began with increased prescribing of opioids in the 1990s, with overdose deaths involving prescription opioids (natural and semi-synthetic opioids and methadone) increasing since at least 1999,” states the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s administration released a statement this year about the opioid epidemic. “These companies failed to protect consumers from the dangers of opioids, even when they claimed to have systems in place to do so,” said Margaret Busse, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce.
Because of this, dozens of entities, from local to state governments, including Native American tribes, sued the opioid companies to help pay for the damages suffered.
Instead of coming to an agreement with each prosecutor separately, the National Prescription Opioid Litigation (NPOL) Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee was formed and included lawyers representing all the 3,000 clients working together for one large agreement.
The settlement agreement has not been finalized, but the settlement as it stands now states that the three distributors will collectively pay up to $21 billion over 18 years to qualifying states, counties and local governments.
Salt Lake County Attorney General Sim Gill said it is premature to assume any city or county in Utah will get money. “This is a major litigation with nuance complexities. Micro-distributions are highly speculative. It is counting chickens that are not hatched, or haven’t even been laid.”
Until the end of January 2022, governments, local and state, were able to register with the National Opioid Settlement (www.nationalopioidsettlement.com) to declare their interest in receiving financial aid from the settlement for their state and county.
Though cities like Midvale and West Jordan registered with the agreement, as Gill stated, there is no guarantee money will come.
Why register? “The participation of non-litigants is to put pressure on the defendants,” Gill said.
Midvale’s City Attorney Lisa Garner said something similar to the Midvale City Council as they discussed whether to participate in the settlement.
“The more subdivisions that join the more the state gets,” Garner said. “In an effort to make sure the state and county get as much as possible, we need to register to participate. There’s no guarantee that the city will receive any funds, it’s just overall better for the community for us to help.”
The Mayor of West Jordan also registered their city. West Jordan City Attorney Rob Wall said that the funds will go primarily to Salt Lake County. “$309 million of the $26 billion, would go to the state,” Wall said. “The remaining balance would go to the counties.”
The money can only be used for the treatment, recovery and prevention of addiction.