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Johnson & Johnson

July 20, 2021 - 5:07pm

Update: July 24, 9:30 a.m.

Comment from Anne Constantino, president and CEO of Horizon Health Services, which has an office in Batavia:

“We are grateful to the Attorney General for her success in this settlement that will absolutely deliver much needed resources in our efforts to prevent, combat and treat the serious public health crisis of addiction.”

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The executive director of a local substance use prevention and treatment agency is hailing today’s announcement that four major pharmaceutical distributors are close to an agreement to pay out $26 billion to states and municipalities for their roles in perpetuating the nation’s opioid epidemic.

“Yes, this is welcome news and I’m just hoping the money ends up going to assist individuals and families struggling with opioid addiction,” said John Bennett, executive director of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “It definitely is needed to stabilize the treatment system that has been impacted negatively by the recent pandemic.”

According to multiple media outlets, Johnson & Johnson, Cardinal Health, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen are near a deal that would resolve multiple legal challenges as well as pay for prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the United States.

Genesee County Attorney Kevin Earl said it will be awhile before it is known how much money will be allocated locally.

The New York City law firm of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC is representing Genesee County as well as several other counties, Earl said.

“Most of the particulars are up in the air right now,” Earl said. “The county has retained this law firm to represent us in the litigation and they have advised us of the settlement with three of the distributors and Johnson & Johnson, but it’s too early to tell what Genesee County or any other participant in the litigation will get.”

A published report in today’s online edition of The New York Times indicates that the pact has yet to be finalized and “could still fall apart or have significant changes.”

The Times’ story also included the following:

-- According to lawyers familiar with negotiations, Johnson & Johnson, which made an opioid painkiller and a fentanyl patch and supplied opium-based ingredients to other drug manufacturers, would pay $3.7 billion in the first three years and $1.3 billion over the next six years. It had already shut down its supply business and discontinued its opioids, and agreed to refrain from selling opioids.

-- The distributors as well as several manufacturers are in the midst of a trial in a case brought by the State of New York and two of its counties. This morning, Letitia James, the attorney general for New York, announced a $1.1 billion deal with the distributors to settle that case. That money would be a part of the overall $26 billion settlement, but so far, it is the only deal that has been formally agreed to. Payments to New York State could begin in two months, Ms. James said.

Genesee County Manager Matt Landers said he was “fairly certain” that the money awarded to the county is for specific purposes, unlike the tobacco settlement, which gave counties more leeway to use the money for general operations.

“This money would have to go towards specifically combatting opioids,” he said. “So, it would lead to us partnering with agencies in the community to help deliver these services – agencies such as GCASA and others.”

Marcus Molinaro, president of the New York State County Executives Association, said in a press release that the settlement “comes at a crucial moment as counties across the state and nation grapple with a startling resurgence in overdose deaths.”

“No amount of money can bring back the lives lost to the opioid epidemic, but it can honor those lost by investing in prevention, education and treatment services to save lives,” he said.

“New York’s county executives were proud to work in collaboration with Attorney General Letitia James to pass legislation creating an Opioid Settlement Fund to ensure those most responsible for plunging us into this crisis, and not local taxpayers, pay for treatment, recovery, and abatement efforts critical to defeating this deadly scourge.”

April 5, 2021 - 9:15pm

Starting Tuesday, all New York residents 16 years of age and older will be eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine – a major breakthrough coming a full year after the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.

But, according to Paul Pettit, public health director of Genesee and Orleans counties, this development doesn’t negate the fact that less than a third of Genesee County citizens has been vaccinated.

“Only 31 percent of the county (has received the vaccine),” Pettit said at this afternoon’s Genesee County Legislature Human Services Committee meeting at the Old County Courthouse. “We’re lagging behind the rest of New York State and the Finger Lakes Region, but we’re closing that gap.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that beginning tomorrow, 16- and 17-year-olds can only get the Pfizer vaccine, while those 18 and older will be eligible to take the Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson or Moderna shot.

Pettit said he expects Tuesday to be a “big day” with the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (for those 18 and over) scheduled to be administered from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Genesee Community College. As of 8:30 this evening, 18 appointments were available.

For more information, go to the GO Health website at G O Health COVID-19 Vaccination Schedule and Guidance – Orleans County Government (orleanscountyny.com).

The health director also said that the virus’ positivity rate in the county is “picking up a little bit, which is not unexpected.” He said the rate is at 2 percent in the Finger Lakes Region, up from 1.5 percent a couple of weeks ago.

He also noted that other strains of the coronavirus have been identified in Western New York – leading to more infections – and officials are seeing an increase in those in their 30s and 40s.

“Again, not unexpected as we have concentrated on vaccinating seniors,” Pettit said. “Once we focus on them (younger people), we will see those numbers go down. But there are still a lot of unvaccinated people.”

He continues to urge folks to wear face coverings and practice social distancing.

“Keep vigilant … stay the course,” he said, adding that all three vaccines have been proven to be effective in preventing the virus, reducing symptoms for those who do get it and, “most importantly, the vaccine prevents death.”

When asked about the Excelsior Pass, an app that enables people to prove that they have been vaccinated, Pettit said determining its expiration date is a work in progress – and is subject to statistical measurements.

“We’re not sure of how long the vaccine holds up and we only have eight months of data,” he said.

Pettit said that current recommendations call for a booster shot a year after the first vaccination, but that doesn’t consider new variants and strains.

“There will be a booster shot at some point,” he predicted.

In related action, the committee forwarded a resolution to the Ways & Means Committee to extend for another six months (through Dec. 31) two temporary positions to assist with the county’s response to the coronavirus – a full-time clerk typist and a full-time COVID-19 response specialist.

“This is necessary since we continue to provide vaccinations and testing,” Pettit said. “Hopefully, this will be the only extension we need.”

In other action, the committee granted permission to apply for a grant to help the health department prevent childhood lead poisoning and for surveillance of blood lead levels in children.

Funding of $1.1 million over five years from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be awarded through cooperative agreements to support primary and secondary prevention strategies for childhood lead poisoning prevention and surveillance.

Strategies include ensuring blood lead testing and reporting; enhancing blood lead surveillance; improving linkages to recommended services; and developing policies for targeted, population-based interventions with a focus on community-based approaches for lead hazard elimination.

Calling it a “big challenge,” Petti said he expects lead poison testing to pick up as COVID subsides. Should the department receive the grant, he said another employee will be hired to assist with the large data component attached to the funding.

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