Haverhill Reaches Settlements Against Big Pharma in Opioid Prescription Lawsuits

File photograph. (Image licensed by Ingram Image.)

After four years of lawsuits, the City of Haverhill has reached settlements with a number of large pharmaceutical companies for their roles in creating a nationwide opioid epidemic.

The settlements are part of a legal action against seven drug manufacturers and three distributors, including Purdue Pharmaceutical, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutical. Speaking to the City Council Tuesday, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said there are two settlements reached thus far.

“The first settlement was with a company called Collegium. They started selling opioids in 2016. So, the alleged improper sales were far less than some of the other defendants. We are going to receive a settlement from them of $75,771.49. The Massachusetts attorney general settled with them as well for $185,000 and those monies will be going into the opioid fund that the state maintains,” he explained.

Cox said in addition to that money, other settlements were reached with Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceutical with funds to be divided 60/40 between the state and the individual communities. He said a total of $525 million will go to the state’s opioid fund with Haverhill receiving just over $1.7 million spread over 18 years. He told councilors he expects to receive the first payment of $192,000 sometime this spring or summer.

Cox told the Council another company, Purdue Pharma, was also part of the city’s lawsuit, but they declared bankruptcy and only the state received any money from them. Additionally, he said. the city is still involved with a separate suit along with 13 other Bay State communities. He explained the case is ongoing in the city of Springfield and the results there will determine if Haverhill and the other cities will receive compensation.

Former City Councilor Colin F. LePage, whose son Christopher died of a drug overdose, spoke to the Council, presenting some sobering statistics pointing out that Haverhill’s opioid crisis is still ongoing.

“For Haverhill, in 2015, we had 30 residents of the City of Haverhill die from an opioid overdose. In 2020, the latest numbers that we have, we had 31. The pharmacies who are producing these prescriptions which are being put out there as this was going to be the panacea. This would solve the problems and we see the aftermath of what that is,” he said during an at times emotional presentation.

Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan asked the solicitor in what ways the money may be used. Cox explained the state has given only broad guidelines thus far, but he expects there will be further guidance when the payments are distributed. He did say the money must be placed in a special account dedicated to opioid prevention and education.

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