Genesee County stands to receive more than $400,000 via a settlement between New York State and the pharmaceutical companies comprising the Johnson & Johnson brand for their role in contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic.
The county’s Human Services Committee today, on the advice of County Attorney Kevin Earl, recommended adoption of a resolution that would enable Genesee to participate in the New York Opioid Sharing Agreement.
The settlement, negotiated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, would provide Genesee County with a sum between $177,000 and $413,000, Earl said, with approximately half of the money to be "front-loaded" as an initial payment representing the first three years – possibly as soon as February 2022.
"It is my understanding that the balance will be paid over the next nine years on the state's remaining 10-year payments," he added.
Earl said the actual amount is on a sliding scale, depending upon the number of municipalities opting in.
He said there is a good chance that the county would get its full share of the settlement funds, which could be as high as $229 million to New York State.
The resolution passed by the HSC (which is subject to approval by the full legislature next week) alleges several causes of action against defendants Johnson & Johnson, and affiliates based on claims that J & J contributed to the opioid epidemic by falsely promoting prescription opioids it manufactured and sold and by falsely promoting the increased use of opioids directly and generally through various “front groups” and failing to implement measures to prevent diversion of prescription opioids in connection with distribution of its products, all of which contributed to a public health crisis in the County of Genesee.
As reported previously on The Batavian (see link below), Genesee County has retained the services of Napoli Shkolnik PLLC of New York City to litigate on its behalf. Earl said this firm and another based in New York City represent the vast majority of municipalities in New York State.
Earl said two other law suits are in the works – one against Pharma, maker of oxycontin, which has filed bankruptcy (reorganization) and the other against the distributors of these powerful drugs.
“That’s three potential bites of the apple (for the county),” he said.
Any funds received in the Johnson & Johnson case would have to be used in areas related to expenses incurred as a result of the opioid epidemic, Earl said, although “there is quite of bit of flexibility” in the guidelines.
Those uses would include treatment/support groups, prevention, training, first responders and research. Allocation of the funds is being coordinated by the NYS Office of Addiction Services and Supports.
Previously: GCASA director: Multimillion dollar deal with opioid distributors would 'stabilize' treatment system