West Virginia may pass on national opioid settlement, with likelihood of continued litigation

A $26 billion opioid settlement with three major prescription drug companies could be unveiled by attorneys general across the country, but West Virginia’s top legal officer may not support the deal.

Governments that opt out would likely continue pursuing litigation on their own, looking to the possibility of a windfall based on the effects of the opioid epidemic rather than a settlement formula based heavily on population.

“As of today, West Virginia is very likely a no on these agreements, but we will continue to review all proposals and advocate for the best interests of West Virginians,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey stated today.

“All of our actions have positioned the state of West Virginia and the local governments to fare very well. We have expressly carved the counties and municipalities out and positioned them and our Office to reach an agreement that is based upon the severity of the harm imposed on West Virginians. I will keep fighting to protect West Virginia and will not allow larger states to dictate how we hold defendants accountable for their actions.”

Multiple national news outlets reported today that distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp would pay a combined $21 billion, while the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson would pay $5 billion.

More than 40 states are expected to support the nationwide settlement.

The distributors are near the end of a federal trial about the effects of the opioid epidemic in Huntington and Cabell County. Because that trial is ongoing, Huntington and Cabell would not be a part of any broader settlement.

New York attorney general Letitia James today announced a $1.1 billion settlement with the three distributors, halting an opioid trial from continuing there.

West Virginia’s attorney general, speaking today on “580 Live” on WCHS Radio, described his objections to a separate multi-billion dollar settlement with Purdue Pharma.

A proposed bankruptcy settlement for Purdue Pharma would put $4.5 billion toward resolving thousands of opioid cases.

Morrisey objected to the way the Purdue Pharma settlement money would be split, saying a formula based on population would be fundamentally unfair to a rural state like West Virginia that has been hit hard by the opioid crisis.

“Overall, most of the way the formula will be distributed will be based on population,” Morrisey said. “We don’t think that’s right.”

He added, “If you have a problem in a community, are you going to try to solve the problem through money on the basis of how many people live there — or are you going to determine what you need to fix the problem based upon the severity of the problem, the intensity of the problem? We think it’s the latter.”

 





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