ALISO VIEJO, Calif.—The Aliso Viejo City Council unanimously approved to opt into a $26 billion settlement agreement with opioid painkiller distributors and manufacturers on Dec. 1, receiving an estimated total of $226,000 over 18 years.
The council approved the item without a discussion, Mitzi Ortiz, director of government services for Aliso Viejo, told The Epoch Times.
Earlier this year, opioid manufacturer Janssen (owned by Johnson & Johnson) and the “big three” distributors—McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health—resolved their liabilities in over 3,000 opioid crisis-related suits nationwide through a settlement offer.
Broken into two separate deals, the distributors pay $21 billion over 18 years, and Janssen spends $5 billion over seven years in the litigation brought by states and cities across the United States.
Aliso Viejo joins over 80 other cities and counties in California to recover monetary damages.
California is one of 41 states in the settlement.
“Nothing can undo the devastating loss of life caused by the opioid epidemic or stop the grief it has caused for its victims and their families,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a July 21 statement. “But this proposed settlement represents one step in the process of healing our communities.”
According to the city report, the settlement allocates 85 percent of the funds to California cities and counties involved, estimating up to $2.34 billion.
Of the estimated $2.34 billion settlement for California, the State allocates the money into three separate funds:
—Fifteen percent goes to the Plaintiffs in the litigation, funding future opioid remediation and past opioid-related expenses reimbursement.
—Fifteen percent goes to the State for future opioid remediation.
—Seventy percent goes to counties and cities for opioid abatement or remediation, including services for treatment, support, criminal justice needs, pregnant or parenting women and their families, babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, over-prescribing prevention, misuse, and death prevention. The allocation also provides leadership, planning, and coordination of programs with training and research conducted.
Bonta’s office and coalition partners seek to hold the “bad actors” accountable who fueled the opioid public health crisis.
According to the attorney general’s statement, to help prevent another crisis from reoccurring, the settlement establishes a centralized clearinghouse for data and analytics about the distribution of the location and frequency of the drug, detects suspicious orders from customer pharmacies, and prevents them from receiving shipments.
The settlement also orders Johnson & Johnson to stop selling opioids for 10 years and funding or providing grants to third parties who promote opioids. Additionally, lobbyists cannot engage in activities related to opioids or share clinical trials under the Yale University Open Data Access Project.
According to the Aliso Viejo city staff report, the funds to individual counties are allocated based on opioid deaths per capita, incidents of an opioid use disorder, and opioid dosage. Each county must also prepare annual reports of certified funds received, deposits, and expenditures until fully expended and for the following year after that.
According to the California Overdose Surveillance Dashboard, regarding any opioid overdose-related incident, Orange County experienced 503 deaths, 1,090 emergency department visits, and 246 hospitalizations last year. In addition, nearly 1.1 million residents obtained some form of opioid prescription.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports, as of April 2021, an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States within 12 months—a 28 percent increase from the previous year.
Synthetic opioids (fentanyl) and semi-synthetic opioids (pain medication) deaths increased over the last year.
The deadline for other cities to join the settlement deal ends Jan. 2, 2022. Otherwise, the funds flow back to the State. However, cities still can pursue their actions against the distributors and Janssen.
A spokesperson from the City of Aliso Viejo did not respond to a request for comment by press time.