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News / Health / Clark County Health

Vancouver to join opioid settlement

City could get about $3M in national suit against Big Pharma

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: March 8, 2023, 4:34pm

Vancouver is joining a national settlement against five pharmaceutical giants that could give the city $3 million to curb the opioid epidemic.

The Vancouver City Council voted March 6 to join the state of Washington in a settlement against Teva, Allergan, CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, some of the country’s biggest pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Nearly every U.S. state is participating in the settlement against one or more of the companies.

The pending lawsuit aims to hold the companies accountable for over-distributing opioids and providing little oversight, which contributed to the drastic rise in opioid overdoses nationwide.

Washington will receive roughly $434 million from the settlement, which will be split in half between the state and local jurisdictions.

Vancouver will receive 1.73 percent of half of the state’s $434 million, equal to roughly $3.75 million. According to a city report, “assuming the requisite number of jurisdictions join this settlement, the city could recover approximately $3 million, after attorneys’ fees.”

“By approving this agreement, the city will receive funds that may be used to address the community impacts of the opioid epidemic in Vancouver, which range from substance addiction to mental health to homelessness,” the report states.

In 2021, 80,411 Americans died of opiate use, up from just 21,089 in 2010 and 47,600 in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Last year, The Columbian reported that Clark County saw 61 opioid-related deaths in 2021, up from 39 in 2017 and 36 in 2019.

This settlement comes in a series of recent litigation efforts targeting big pharmaceutical companies. In 2019, Vancouver joined a similar lawsuit that is pending in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Ohio, according to city documents.

Per a memorandum of understanding approved by the Vancouver City Council last year, there are 98 different ways that the city can use the funds to reduce opioid use and deaths.

The categories focus on many aspects of prevention, treatment and recovery. Some of the strategies include training more first responders, supporting mobile treatment units, funding counseling services and expanding telehealth programs for opioid treatment programs.

If the settlement is reached, it is unclear when the funds would be released or how much would be released immediately. An informational page states that the companies will pay states in annual installments, which range in final deadlines between 2028 and 2036.

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Columbian staff writer