Thu, Nov 17, 2022 2:51 PM
By Anthony Hennen, The Center Square
Pennsylvania is set to receive a $120 million settlement from Walmart to fund treatment services related to opioid addiction.
The money, part of a $3 billion nationwide settlement, was announced earlier this week by the Pennsylvania attorney general. While Pennsylvania has reached an agreement with the corporation, the settlement will not be finalized until 43 states agree, as well as local governments. Officials expect enough states to sign on before the end of the year, and local governments in the first quarter of 2023.
The money will “help fund treatment resources in impacted communities,” the attorney general noted, and Walmart will be required to change its handling and prescribing of opioids.
“Too many families have lost loved ones to the opioid epidemic, and too many people have lost years of their lives to addiction,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who last week won election as governor. “My office is determined to hold accountable the companies that created and fueled this crisis. Companies like Walmart need to step up and help by ensuring Pennsylvanians get the treatment and recovery resources they need.”
Opioid use has become more deadly in Pennsylvania with fentanyl dominating the market, as The Center Square previously reported. However, overprescribing opioids has not been driving overdose deaths. Some experts argue that limiting prescriptions drove people to the black market, resulting in more opioid-related deaths, as The Center Square previously reported.
Pennsylvania had more than 5,400 overdose deaths in 2021. Preliminary data from the CDC show a slight drop in deaths over the last year, to 5,100 deaths, but experts are wary of an actual decline.
The settlement is not the first influx of cash the commonwealth has received related to opioids. In September, details were finalized for Pennsylvania to receive $1 billion from pharmaceutical distributors Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen, along with opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.
The state created the Pennsylvania Opioid Misuse and Addiction Abatement Trust to distribute, monitor, and advise the state and counties on how to spend the money. The majority, 70%, will go to county governments; 15% is going to the General Assembly, and 15% to other uses by counties, district attorneys, cities, and special districts.
The Walmart settlement will also go into the opioid trust, following the same formula.
“We anticipated this event and it would be our intention that the money from this will be added to all the other moneys that are being received and paid out accordingly by the trust,” said Tom VanKirk, chairman of the opioid trust and a former chief legal officer for Highmark Health.
Previously, $40 million had been sent to county governments from the Trust and VanKirk expected about $80 million to be paid out before the end of the year.
“We’re very pleased that settlements continue to be reached,” VanKirk said. “The more that we can settle, the more money we have to pay out.”
Another settlement is in the works with CVS and Walgreens, estimated to be about $10 billion nationally. Like the previous settlement, any money received by Pennsylvania will go into the trust and distributed according to the established formula and rules for local governments.