Major Opioid Settlement “Opt-In” Deadline Extended to January 26

The pending multi-governmental settlement with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and three major medical distributors has been delayed. Maryland counties will have until January 26 (previously January 2) to decide whether to opt into the terms. A revised intrastate agreement governing the state/local distribution and uses of these funds should be available in the days ahead.

The pending settlement between a multitude of state and local government plaintiffs and several players in the opioid business continues, but with a modest extension in the time for each government – including Maryland counties – to opt into the settlement (and effectively cede their ability to continue to litigate the matter with these defendants.

From the National Opioids Settlement website comes this announcement, detailing the extension and reasoning:

EXTENSION NOTICE

Defendants have entered an agreement to extend the sign-up period for Subdivisions under the Distributor and J&J Settlement Agreement until January 26, 2022, in light of several considerations:

  1. The uprise in Covid has made many public entities cancel their December meetings or do them by Zoom versus in-person. This has limited the speed with which Subdivisions have been able to sign on.
  2. There has been a significant increase in the number of States that have signed on and reached State allocation agreements.
  3. Many Subdivisions were not moving forward because they didn’t have an agreement with their State, and the extension provides more time to address the settlements in light of newly-reached or pending State allocation agreements.

The date for Defendants to decide whether they are going forward with the Settlement will be February 1, 2022.

MACo, MML, and the Office of the Attorney General have been in active negotiations in recent weeks regarding the structure for uses of the eventual receipts from this settlement. A series of revisions to these terms (as originally outlined in a draft memorandum of understanding sent to counties several weeks ago) will be added, to reflect and respond to concerns raised by local governments. The revised MOU should be available to county governments very soon to help enable this opt-in decision.

Cecil County’s David Trolio, Director of Community Services, details impacts of the opioid epidemic (Photo Credit: Natasha Mehu)

Some specifics of the state/county/municipal spending distribution envisioned under the pending MOU will require legislative codification in the General Assembly session ahead.

These negotiations and accommodations were a central part of the MACo Winter Conference session, “Righting a Wrong.”

Note: this settlement with J&J and three distributors is a separate legal matter than a similar evolving potential settlement with Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the makers of the opioid drug OxyContin, and its owners the Sackler family. Recent headlines have noted various court rulings regarding the specifics of that different matter, which has been complicated by family bankruptcy protections unique to that particular company.

More information on this settlement, including a registration portal to participate, are available on the National Opioids Settlement website.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties
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