As overdoses rise, Oregon’s $425 million opioid payment will fund prevention and treatment

Nearly $425 million from two National Opioid Colonies will be a boon to Oregon’s addiction prevention and treatment programs.

Janssen Pharmaceutical Company, the US subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, announced earlier this year that it would pay up to $5 billion in a nationwide settlement, which will see states and counties get funds to use for the prevention of opioid abuse and addiction. treatment.

Johnson & Johnson is one of four big pharma companies to shell out nearly $26 billion to resolve legal claims alleging the companies helped fuel the opioid plague in the United States. The other companies involved in the legal settlement are drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health.

The current $26 billion settlement came after a jury ruled in 2021 that CVS, Walgreens and Walmart were responsible for fueling Ohio’s opioid crisis. In March, the Oregon Department of Justice announced that the state would receive $329 million in the Janssen case and an additional $97 million as part of a settlement with Purdue Pharma.

While counties, cities and the state of Oregon will receive a portion of the funds, special districts including fire districts, a hospital district and the three largest school districts in the state are also expected to receive funds through grants.

Multnomah County is expected to receive more than $3.48 million this year and the City of Portland more than $2 million, with a release of claims against Janssen.

The settlement agreement prioritizes funding for education and prevention efforts, including expanded distribution and training on how to administer naloxone or any other court-approved opioid overdose reversal medication. FDA. Drug treatment for addiction is also a funding priority. The training should go to schools, first responders, law enforcement, youth-focused programs, community support groups and families, depending on the terms of the settlement.

Funding for drug prevention programs, especially those for adolescents and young people, is mentioned several times in the Janssen agreement.

In an effort to expedite the distribution of funds, the school boards of Beaverton, Salem-Keizer and Portland Public Schools have each approved a release of claims as part of the settlement agreement.

According to a staff memo to the PPS school board, 55% of Oregon’s settlement funds will go to cities and counties. The settlement with Janssen “contains a provision that if certain special districts … all sign such releases, $45 million of the funds will be paid by the defendants in the first year instead of the money being paid over four years…”

It’s unclear exactly how each county and special district will use the funds. Members of the Portland School Board did not discuss the settlement, but approved it Aug. 9 as part of a set of resolutions for board authorization.

The school district already makes the overdose prevention drug naloxone available in several of its schools. The drug comes in cartridge form as an injectable or nasal inhaler and is often used to prevent a fatal opioid overdose.

PPS has also strengthened its student counseling services in recent years, offering substance abuse counseling and help, student support staff told Pamplin Media Group earlier this year.

“All settlement funds will support opioid abuse treatment and prevention programs,” PPS spokesperson Sydney Kelly said Aug. 15. “PPS looks forward to utilizing these resources which are sure to have a positive impact on our community.”

Overdose deaths on the rise in Oregon

Making substance abuse prevention and treatment programs available to adolescents has become a priority for schools and government agencies, as the use of opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl has led to addiction. and the deaths of some Portland-area students. Health authorities and law enforcement have warned of counterfeit pills sold as oxycodone that actually contain fentanyl.

State health data shows a sharp increase in accidental overdose deaths in Oregon during the pandemic.

“Oregon has increased significantly from a monthly average of 42 deaths in 2019 to 55 deaths in 2020 and over 80 deaths in 2021. The increase is primarily due to increased fentanyl and methamphetamine overdoses “, states a May 2022 Oregon Communicable Disease Summary.

On August 16, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and the Multnomah County Health Department warned of a seizure of weapons, cash, heroin, methamphetamine and large amounts of “fentanyl rainbow”, which is more powerful than squeezed pills. Authorities believe the rainbow-colored fentanyl may target younger users.

“It only takes 2 milligrams of fentanyl – about the weight of a few grains of salt – to cause a fatal overdose,” the health department said in a joint drug trafficking news release.

The Beaverton School District is hosting a health information campaign on fentanyl, complete with a video featuring the family of Cal Epstein, a Beaverton student who accidentally overdosed on fentanyl and died.

Public health agencies have warned of an increase in the number of students taking fentanyl-containing pills or buying fentanyl disguised as oxycodone, unknowingly.

“He made a mistake,” Jennifer Epstein, Cal’s mother, said in a video used as part of the school district’s “Fake & Fatal” campaign. “Before, kids made mistakes and learned from them. With fentanyl, if you make a mistake, you die.”

The National Opioid Settlement website says more companies could face massive lawsuits.

“Litigation continues in state and federal courts across the nation against other companies in the opioid supply chain,” the news site said.

In a statement from Johnson & Johnson in February, the company said it was no longer selling prescription opioid drugs in the United States as part of “ongoing efforts to focus on transformational innovation and meet unmet needs.” satisfied with the patients”.

Amid massive payouts from drugmakers nationwide, Johnson & Johnson has held firm in its denial of guilt for the nation’s opioid crisis.

“We strongly believe that the claims against us are unfounded,” the company said on its website, noting that legal claims against the drug company “generally consisted of vague claims with little connection to us or our drugs.” .

“We know that opioid abuse is a serious public health issue, and we remain committed to being part of meaningful solutions at the community level. We also know that we have responsibly provided the treatment options needed by physicians to their patients with serious long-term pain,” the company continued. “Our Schedule II drugs had low rates of abuse, and we worked appropriately and responsibly with regulators to prevent the diversion and abuse of our opioid drugs.”

Courtney Vaughn is a reporter for The Portland Tribune and can be reached at [email protected]. This article is used with permission from Pamlin Media Group. Learn more about Oregon’s largest source of independent local news at pamplinmedia.com.