Florida to receive $1.6 billion in major opioid settlement

Florida and thirteen other states have reached agreements with four companies over the damage caused by the opioid crisis.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida and 13 states have reached agreements worth a combined $26 billion with four companies over the damage inflicted by the opioid crisis.

The money flowing to Florida will be used to stem the recent spike in overdoses during the pandemic.

Florida will receive $1.6 billion over the next 17 and a half years.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said the settlement is a victory for the state at a time when 21 Floridians are dying every day from opiate overdose.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated our overdose rate in Florida,” said Moody.

In 2020 Florida saw a 37% spike in fatal overdoses, resulting in more than 7,500 deaths.

The litigation targeted three opioid distributors including AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Also included is the opioid manufacturer and marketer Johnson & Johnson.

“And today’s announcement shows that they are willing to be held accountable. They know they need to provide redress to the states that are suffering,” said Moody.

As part of the settlement, the distributors will be subject to new oversite and accountability requirements.

Johnson & Johnson has also agreed to stop selling opioids for 10 years and is banned from lobbying activities related to the drugs.

But the opioid crisis has grown beyond pharmaceutical pain medicines.

In recent years black market opioids like fentanyl have largely taken their place as the leading killers.

“We have to be just as purposeful, directed, focused on our border that is out of control with the fentanyl flooding in and making sure that we’re holding the traffickers accountable in our communities. And we will continue to do that. It’s a multi-front fight: courtrooms, the streets and our border,” said Moody.

Locally, data from Jacksonville Fire Rescue shows opioid-related overdoses rose from 16 incidents in January 2015 to 336 in May 2021.

“The OD problem has been growing year after year for four or five years now, and when you put the pandemic in, people couped up and people really being sick and tired of isolated, it doesn’t help the matters,” said Capt. Eric Prosswimmer with JFRD.

Narcan was used 72 times in January 2015, compared to May of this year when JFRD used the emergency prescription drug to treat overdoses 513 times.

“Statistics are now showing our dosage of Narcan has had to go up, whether it be people’s immunity, or the strength of the opioid taken,” said Prosswimmer.

He said first responders prepare for almost all calls to be overdoses.

Even with the settlement, the state will continue its battle against Perdue Pharmaceuticals.

It’s a battle that has been complicated by the company filing for bankruptcy.

This is the third major victory for Florida in the fight to make drug companies pay for their role in the opioid crisis.

Earlier this year Florida won a lawsuit against McKinsey & Company and in 2019 the state was part of a settlement against a British opioid manufacturer.

Combined all of the opioid settlements to date will bring $1.9 billion to the state.

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Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.