$500M-plus from opioid deal starts heading to Washington

The first settlement payments will begin reaching Washington communities in December.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of Washington state.

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — The first payments from a $518 million settlement with the nation’s three largest opioid distributors will begin reaching Washington communities in December, providing much-needed cash officials can use to hire first responders or direct toward prevention, treatment and other services, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday.

“These significant resources will help Washington fight back against the opioid epidemic that continues to rip holes through the very fabric of our communities and of families, overwhelm our public health resources, and inundate our foster care system with young, innocent victims,” Ferguson told a news conference in Seattle.

Ferguson, a Democrat, rejected a national settlement with the distributors — McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corp. — as well as Johnson & Johnson that nearly every other state has accepted. Under that deal, the states will receive nearly $20 billion over 18 years.

Instead, Washington spent six months in a complex trial against the companies before reaching its own settlement in May, one that’s worth $46 million more than the state would have received under the national deal. Washington is also pursuing a separate lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to go to trial next year.

Over the last two decades, the deaths of more than 500,000 Americans have been linked to overdoses of opioids, including both prescription pain killers and illicit drugs such as heroin. Deaths have recently skyrocketed from the spread of illegally produced fentanyl.

The attorney general argued that the three companies shipped such a vast amount of drugs to Washington that it was obvious they were fueling addiction: Opioid sales in the state rose more than 500% between 1997 and 2011. In 2011, more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed in the state — enough for a 16-day supply for every resident. In 2015, eight of Washington’s 39 counties had more prescriptions than residents.

The companies insisted that they merely supplied opioids that had been prescribed by doctors, and it wasn’t their role to second-guess the prescriptions or interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.

Further, the companies argued, Washington state itself played a large role in the epidemic. In the 1990s, concerned that people in chronic pain were being undertreated, lawmakers passed the Intractable Pain Act, which made it easier to prescribe opioids.

Opioid Suit Money Table
Infogram

Nationally, the opioid industry has agreed to settlements totaling more than $40 billion.

The $518 million from the settlement with distributors is coming to Washington over the next 17 years, with $55 million arriving in the first payment on Dec. 1. Some $476 million of the total will go toward combatting the opioid crisis, such as to substance abuse treatment; expanding access to overdose-reversal drugs; and providing housing, job placement and other services for those struggling with addiction. The rest of the money will go toward litigation costs.

Washington’s settlement required approval from 125 cities and counties, which are receiving $215 million directly and which agreed among themselves how to split the money based on factors such as how many painkillers were shipped to their jurisdictions and how many residents died from overdoses.

While Washington’s most populous county, King County, and its cities will receive $56 million, some smaller communities are receiving more modest amounts. Burien, a south Seattle suburb, is getting just $58,000.

Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon, who is a registered nurse by training, said she expected that her city would pool its money with several other cities in south King County on initiatives that could include better crisis treatment centers for the region.

“Many of the cities are still thinking about what they can be doing,” she said. “Now that all 125 jurisdictions have signed on, it will be a lot easier to coordinate.”

Ferguson also declined to go along with a national bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, and the Sackler family. In March, he and eight other attorneys general won an additional $1.2 billion from the Sacklers to help states, cities and tribes address the harms of the opioid epidemic.

Washington’s share of the bankruptcy payout more than doubled, from $70 million under the original plan to $183 million.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Granite Falls ‘10-foot alligator’ is actually a tegu named ‘Tazz’

Anybody who spots the docile lizard, last seen near Granite Falls, is asked to notify 911, so Tazz can be reunited with owner.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.