At the beginning of April, the Carver County Board of Commissioners opted in to new settlements with certain opioid manufacturers and three major national pharmacies.
These settlements – with manufacturers Allergan and Teva and pharmacies CVS, Walgreens and Walmart – are a continuation of efforts the county and state have been engaged in since 2021 to hold key players of the opioid epidemic accountable.
In 2021, the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, along with a number of other states, entered into a $26 billion agreement with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three major distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.
According to the Minnesota Attorney General’s office and the Minnesota Department of Health, opioid overdose deaths increased dramatically over the pandemic, reaching an all-time high in 2021 with 978 opioid-involved deaths.
In a 2021 statement, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said, “There is no amount of money that can ever make up for the death and destruction these companies cause in the pure pursuit of profit. No amount of money can bring back the nearly 5,000 lives we lost in Minnesota or fully restore the communities devastated in every part of our state.” He continued, “But it is still critically important to hold these companies financially accountable for their role in creating and extending the opioid crisis, and this agreement does that and more.”
Last December, after initial settlements with Johnson & Johnson and the above-mentioned distributors, the Minnesota Attorney General’s office joined five additional multistate settlements with Teva and Allergan and pharmacies Walmart, CVS, and Walgreens.
The Attorney General’s office designates the Johnson & Johnson settlement and settlements with distributors as the “first wave,” and new settlements with Teva, Allergan, and participating pharmacies as the “second wave.”
As participants in the settlement the state and county are agreeing to release claims against the participating pharmacies and manufacturers in exchange for regular payments. Payments are to be divided between the state and local government through a 25-75 split, according to the Minnesota Opioids State-Subdivision Memorandum Agreement. The agreement also authorizes local public health officials to allocate funds to best address the needs of their specific communities.
Carver County Health and Human Services has received board approval to hire a part-time employee “to coordinate efforts and lead the implementation of evidence-informed approaches to prevent and address addiction,” according to the April 4 board packet. Other potential uses for the funds include, but are not limited to, increasing access to naloxone and increasing access to a variety of approaches for treatment of opioid use disorder.
As of now, Carver County has received over $500,000 from these settlements but is yet to spend the funds. Payments from first-wave settlements will be made over an 18-year period, with the county receiving an average of $140,000 per year. Moving forward, health and human services will present additional specific recommendations for how to spend settlement payments.