Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum today announced an imminent agreement with Oregon’s cities and counties for the allocation of Oregon’s approximately $329 million share of an historic $26 billion national settlement with the three largest distributors of opioids (McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health), and the drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. These companies have fueled the opioid crisis that continues to ravage Oregon families and communities.
The agreement still needs to be approved by Oregon’s city councils and county commissions to become final. In order for Oregon to receive its full share of the national opioid settlement, announced last July, participation by the state and all of the counties and cities is required.
The Oregon Department of Justice (DOJ) played a significant role in negotiating the national settlement. Oregon has long been a trailblazer in holding accountable those responsible for the opioid crisis. For 15 years, DOJ’s legal team, led by Sr. Assistant Attorney General David Hart, has been a leader in major multi-state litigation and settlements that have involved the pharmaceutical industry.
As part of the agreement (which still needs to be finalized) 45% of Oregon’s share of the settlement funds will go into a “Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Fund” overseen by a board consisting of health policy experts and equal representation from state and local governments. A portion of these funds will be used for development of a unified and evidence-based state system for collecting, analyzing andpublishing data about the availability and efficacy of substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services across the state. The funds will also be used to address treatment and prevention of substance use disorder throughout Oregon, focused on statewide and regional programs and services.
The remaining 55% of Oregon’s share of settlement funds will go directly to Oregon cities and counties to fund prevention, treatment and recovery services at the local level.
“The national settlement—reached after several years of painstaking negotiations between state Attorneys General and representatives of the pharmaceutical industry‘s major manufacturers and distributors—is incredibly important to Oregon. Every dollar we receive must be used judiciously and wisely. For starters, it will provide us with the ability to increase access to lifesaving treatment and recovery services and will support individuals and families who continue to suffer from substance use disorder,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.
“I want to thank the leaders of Oregon’s counties and cities for engaging with us over the past year to help maximize Oregon’s piece of the national settlement and get money flowing to serve those who need it most,” Rosenblum added. “We can and must put a stop to the tragedies that occur every day in our state as a direct result of untreated substance use disorder, including both alcohol and drugs.”
Highlights of DOJ’s role in Opioid Litigation
In 2007, Oregon DOJ joined 25 other states in a settlement of the first multi-state lawsuit with Purdue Pharma. In 2018, Oregon DOJ again sued Purdue for violating the 2007 agreement, deceptively marketing OxyContin to Oregon seniors and misrepresenting the risks of the drug.
In May 2019, Oregon became one of the first states to sue the owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family. Later in 2019, AG Rosenblum sued the Sacklers once again, alleging their personal responsibility for the deceptive and unlawful promotion of OxyContin. Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of Oregon by rejecting Purdue’s bankruptcy plan that would have prevented states from continuing with their lawsuits against the Sacklers.
In 2015, Oregon was the first state to investigate and settle with Insys Therapeutics for its unlawful promotion of Subsys, a powerful narcotic fentanyl that is typically used for end-stage cancer pain. The 1.1 million settlement helped increase the availability of naloxone (used to reverse overdose), treat opioid use disorder, and train prescribers to decrease prescribing of prescription opioids.
In 2016, Oregon opened an investigation into Endo International, a pharmaceutical company that sold Opana, an extended-release opioid like OxyContin. Last month, AG Rosenblum sued Endo for aggressively promoting the dangerous drug, which is no longer on the market. The lawsuit is ongoing.
McKinsey & Company
AG Rosenblum was also a leader in the multi-state group that settled with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, for its role assisting opioid manufacturers in promoting opioids. In February 2021, the group, including Oregon, settled for $573 million, with Oregon receiving almost $8 million.