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RI Wins $90M Opioid Distributor Settlement


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and Governor Daniel J. McKee, have announced Rhode Island will join the national opioid settlement with three major opioid distributors to provide more than $90 million in funding for state and local efforts to address Rhode Island’s opioid crisis.

Under the terms of this state-specific deal, the Attorney General has ensured that the State and its cities and towns will receive these funds whether or not the national settlement takes effect next July. This settlement also provides for accelerated payments, with the first payment to arrive within two weeks – about six months earlier than it would under the national deal. Payments will be spread out over 18 years.

“No amount of money will ever be enough to undo the harm suffered by Rhode Islanders throughout the ongoing opioid epidemic. But through this settlement, we can bring in much-needed funding to the state and municipalities to respond to the challenges brought on by this epidemic, which have grown particularly acute during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Attorney General Neronha. “We’ve already seen the kind of powerful benefits funding like this can bring to our state.  For example, last summer our Office committed $1 million from a separate opioid settlement to address a critical and immediate need in Rhode Island’s naloxone supply. I am grateful to have been able to work with our cities and towns to arrive at an agreement and ensure that these funds can get to work to support treatment and recovery efforts throughout our state.”

The settlement resolves Rhode Island’s litigation against the country’s three largest pharmaceutical distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health, and AmerisourceBergen — for the companies’ roles in the opioid epidemic. This settlement follows a deal reached by the same distributors and 45 other states in July 2021, but Rhode Island’s settlement ensures the state’s recovery will hold regardless of whether the global settlement proceeds and guarantees that Rhode Island will receive money sooner.

Rhode Island’s deal also secures millions of dollars in additional funds from the distributors to compensate the state for its substantial investment in the litigation of the case against them.

Together with settlements secured by Attorney General Neronha against opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson for $21 million and consulting firm McKinsey & Co. for $2.5 million, Rhode Island’s opioid litigation recoveries total more than $114 million over the next 18 years.

“The opioid crisis is one of the most devastating issues that impacts all 39 of our cities and towns. Today’s announcement is a powerful example of what can happen when our local communities and the State work together to tackle an issue head on,” said Governor Dan McKee. “As former Mayor, I understand that our cities and towns are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. As Governor, I am committed to working with our local leaders, the Attorney General and others to not only hold big drug manufacturers accountable, but to ensure our communities have the treatment and recovery recourses they need.”

“We congratulate the Attorney General and his team for this tremendous outcome.  This settlement will have a profound and immediate benefit for our communities.  The combination of foresight, persistence and hard work by the Attorney General has ensured that services, support and critical treatment for the many Rhode Islanders harmed by the opioid crisis will be funded for years to come,” said Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi.

Attorney General Neronha also announced an agreement with all Rhode Island’s cities and towns to share and use these opioid litigation recoveries to fight the opioid crisis. The agreement provides all 39 Rhode Island cities and towns with direct funding from the settlements, while ensuring that the majority of the funds will go toward coordinated, holistic approaches to address the opioid epidemic statewide, guided by input from municipal leaders, public health experts, and community representatives.

Payments from the settlement agreements to the municipalities and State will commence almost immediately, with the first payment expected within weeks and the second payment to occur in July 2022. Expedited payments are important since Rhode Islanders are still suffering from substance use disorders and more resources are needed to respond to the crisis. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, 384 Rhode Islanders died in 2020 after accidentally overdosing on drugs – the highest year on record – and there were 361 overdose fatalities last year.

Settlement with Opioid Distributors

The distributor settlement provides for over $90 million, paid over 18 years, to Rhode Island and all 39 cities and towns in the state, to be used exclusively for opioid abatement. The Office negotiated the settlement over the last several months, working closely with Rhode Island’s Governor, House and Senate leadership, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the state’s cities and towns.

Rhode Island’s recovery was determined using a formula developed for the global agreement, that takes into account the population of the state and the impact of the crisis on the state.

Rhode Island’s opioid recoveries to date include:

  • $90,833,000 from McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen over the next 18 years. Additional funds may be ordered by the Court to satisfy the State’s litigation costs in the case against them.
  • $21,078,000 from Johnson & Johnson over the next nine years.
  • $2,592,000 from McKinsey & Co. over the next five years.

The abatement funds secured by both the distributor settlement and the Johnson & Johnson settlement will be allocated based on the State’s agreement with Rhode Island’s cities and towns.

In addition to the funds, Rhode Island’s settlements include important agreements to strengthen controls and safeguards over opioid distribution and create greater transparency. For example, McKinsey & Co. will implement new ethics rules, stop advising companies on potentially dangerous scheduled drugs, and turn over thousands of internal documents for public portal. The distributors will create red flag systems for suspicious orders, report these orders to the Attorney General and Department of Health, report customers they have blocked, and implement monitoring and oversight.

Agreement Between State and 39 Municipalities to Share and Use Funds to Fight Opioid Crisis

Rhode Island’s newly announced agreement with all of the state’s cities and towns ensures that all the funds will be directed to opioid abatement – including expanding access to opioid use disorder prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery. Under the agreement:

  • 20% of the funds secured for abatement will go directly to all cities and towns based on a population-driven formula to be used solely for opioid abatement purposes.
  • 80% of the funds secured for abatement will be overseen by the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and allocated to opioid abatement programs throughout the state.  In making these allocations, the Secretary of EOHHS will be informed by recommendations of an Advisory Committee, all subject to the state appropriations process.

The Advisory Committee, as required by the national settlement agreement, will be comprised of an equal number of state and municipal representatives, as well as expert and community representatives and will work closely with key organizations coordinating the state’s response to the crisis, including the Governor’s Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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