County signs on to opioid pharma settlement

The final status of a $26 billion settlement with several of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies is still up in the air.

But county officials last week agreed to sign on to the deal that could bring an estimated $970,000 to Warren County for drug treatment and education efforts.

There are seven companies involved in these discussions, highlighted by Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson.

A proposed order in the case indicates that in excess of $1 billion will come to Pennsylvania over as many as 18 years. The funding would initially go to the Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Addiction Abatement Trust.

Funding will be awarded annually and should be spent equitably across the county in a way that most effectively abates the effects of the opioid misuse and addiction within the judgment of the county commissioners, county executive and county council.

An exhibit to the order said county shares were developed based on a four metric formula — overdose deaths, related hospitalizations, naloxone administration and what’s called adjusted “morphine milligram equivalents.”

Warren County Solicitor Nathaniel Schmidt explained that the county was presented with a plan several months ago that detailed funds to be received over a three-year period.

However, he cautioned that there have been “multiple timelines related to this settlement” and “it’s not completely finalized.”

How only do the counties need to sign on but Schmidt said a federal judge indicated he would not approve a portion of the settlement.

He advised that the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania is encouraging counties to sign on.

“That’s what ultimately (is) my recommendation,” he said. “Have the county sign this resolution, approve the terms of the agreement (and) want and see how the appellate litigation settles out.”

He told the commissioners that the county, under the terms of the agreement, is due to receive $970,000 over a three year period and said the funds “have a designated set of purposes. (They are) essentially forward looking” for treatment and prevention and “not necessarily remediation of past harms.”

Schmidt advised that there “remains a significant possibility the settlement won’t be approved” but called the county’s action a calculated risk that the terms will be approved on appeal.

“This is a proper development given the circumstances,” Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said. “(We) could utilize this funding for a positive purpose with a very difficult situation.”


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