The Utah Attorney General's Office says the state will receive hundreds of millions of dollars over nearly two decades as part of a settlement with major opioid distributors.
In a news release Friday, the attorney general's office said the state will receive a total of $266 million over the next 18 years, with half of the money going to the state and the other half going to local communities. The money will be used to bolster services for treatment, recovery and harm reduction, as well as implement other programs to address the opioid epidemic.
The payout to Utah is part of a larger agreement involving 52 states and territories that involves the payout of $26 billion from three major opioid distributors — Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen. A fourth entity involved in the payout is Johnson & Johnson.
All but two of Utah's 29 counties have signed onto the agreement, with Grand and San Juan counties instead opting for trials. County attorneys for the two counties told the Deseret News earlier this month that the agreement benefits more populated counties, as the counties would have only received a few thousand dollars each year if they signed on to the agreement.
The $266 million payout is less than a prior projection released by the attorney general’s office last July, which estimated the state would receive around $309 million over the same 18 years.
Money could be paid out to the state and communities as soon as this year, as the pharmaceutical companies will start sending funds to a national administrator on April 2.
"We need to devote even more resources to the opioid epidemic as soon as possible, and this settlement will let us intensify the fight," Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a prepared statement. "To be clear, this settlement is not about trying to recover money for the loss of life. All the money in the world could not properly recompense the suffering and loss Utahns have endured.
"Instead, this money will help us immediately assist those in the cycle of addiction and prevent many of our own friends and family from ever heading down this tragic path in the future."
In addition to the payout, the three pharmaceutical companies must take steps to create additional oversight of how they distribute opioids. These steps consist of the following, according to the attorney general's office:
- Establish a centralized independent clearinghouse to provide all three distributors and state regulators with aggregated data and analytics about where drugs are going and how often, eliminating blind spots in the current systems used by distributors.
- Use data-driven systems to detect suspicious opioid orders from customer pharmacies.
- Terminate customer pharmacies' ability to receive shipments, and report those companies to state regulators when they show certain signs of diversion.
- Prohibit shipping of and report suspicious opioid orders.
- Prohibit sales staff from influencing decisions related to identifying suspicious opioid orders.
- Require senior corporate officials to engage in regular oversight of anti-diversion efforts.
Johnson & Johnson must stop selling opioids as part of the agreement. The company also must not fund grants to third parties promoting opioids, and it cannot lobby on activities relating to opioids. J&J also must share clinical trial data under the Yale University Open Data Access Project, according to the news release.
Last month, the Utah Opioid Task Force released a spending blueprint for how communities can implement structured processes and best address the issues they face as settlement money begins to pour in.