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Bulloch Commissioners to Consider Opioid Lawsuit Settlement at Tuesday’s Meeting

The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners will convene for their second monthly meeting Tuesday morning and among the action items is consideration of the adoption of a Resolution approving certain stipulations to the National Opioid Litigation.

The Commissioners voted in March 2018 to join the lawsuit and amended their suit with the other class action litigants in 2019. The negotiations have been underway since October 2019, including discussions on how to allocate funds between the State of Georgia and its local governing entities. 

According to Tuesday’s meeting agenda, the law firm representing the counties has urged commissioners to consider the settlement as several defendants in the national opioid litigation have reached a settlement framework that the State of Georgia and local government entities have the option to join. 

Specifically, attorneys say McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, Johnson & Johnson, and Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. have agreed to settle with certain states and local government entities for a collective $26 billion. In order for the settlements to become effective, enough states and local government entities must agree to participate in the settlements. 

Under the agreement, 70% of the funds awarded must be used to fund future abatements, or lessening the impacts of the opioid crisis on the respective communities. Of the funds allocated to the state of Georgia, 25% of the funds will go to local governments. It is not known at this time how much money the State of Georgia will receive, as the total dispersal will rely on how many states and local governing entities opt-in to the settlement agreement for a cut of the $26 billion. 

The agreement would resolve the claims of thousands of local governments and states across the country that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts.

Under the settlement agreement:

  • The three distributors collectively will pay up to $21 billion over 17 years.
  • Johnson & Johnson will pay up to $5 billion over nine years with up to $3.7 billion paid during the first three years.
  • The total funding distributed will be determined by the overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments.
  • The substantial majority of the money is to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention.
  • Each state’s share of the funding has been determined by agreement among the states using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state – the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder, and the number of opioids prescribed – and the population of the state.

The agreement also requires significant industry changes designed to help prevent this type of crisis from happening again. The agreement will result in court orders requiring Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen to:

  • Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
  • Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
  • Terminate customer pharmacies’ ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators, when they show certain signs of diversion.
  • Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
  • Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
  • Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.

The 10-year agreement will also result in court orders requiring Johnson & Johnson to:

  • Stop selling opioids.
  • Not fund or provide grants to third parties for promoting opioids.
  • Not lobby on activities related to opioids.
  • Share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.

Attorneys listed a number of reasons for commissioners to consider when voting on the matter, including:

  • Maximizing recovery;
  • Not wanting to be “on the outside looking in;”
  • Reducing the workload
  • Attorneys fees and costs. Under the settlement agreement, fees for attorneys are capped at 15% of the settlement.

Thus far, the settlement proposal has the support of the Plaintiffs Executive Committee, and the judge overseeing the case. Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and attorneys representing other litigate cities, counties, sheriffs, and hospital authorities have also expressed their support for the agreement. 

Bulloch County staff have reviewed the letter and proposal, including county attorney Jeff Akins and county manager Tom Couch, and recommended adoption of the resolution.

You can read the full letter from the attorneys, Blasingame-Burch-Garrard & Ashley P.C., below.

Commissioners will meet Tuesday, November 16, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. at the county annex. 


Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of The Georgia Virtue. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta, a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast,' and she has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers." Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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