An opiod settlement of $430 million, from McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen, will be paid over 17 years if all of the 25 Washington state counties involved in the suit agree to the settlement. San Juan County Council voted to approve the settlement arrangement on September 13, 2022.
The settlement will be divided among local governments and the state on a 50/50 basis. San Juan County's share equals two-tenths of one percent. That totals $25,000 a year for 17 years. Only towns of 10,000 population are included in the distribution. The Town of Friday Harbor's population is 2,406, so it does not qualify.
San Juan County Prosecutor Randy Gaylord said, "Now it's time for implementation. Finding ways to spend the money on a regional basis to make the best use of this money to deal with the opiod crisis, to address the opiod overuse and prevent it from happening again."
Gaylord told the council that the money is going to be pooled because it is a regional problem. In his experience as county coroner, he knows that people who overdose often get the drugs from the mainland. Distribution is up and down the I-5 corridor.
The scope of the opiod problem was described in allegations listed on Washington state Attorney General Rob Ferguson’s website.
Ferguson’s lawsuit against McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen asserted that the three Fortune 15 companies made billions of dollars feeding the opioid epidemic, shipping huge amounts of oxycodone, fentanyl, hydrocodone and other prescription opioids into the state even when they knew or should have known those drugs were likely to end up in the hands of drug dealers and those suffering from substance use disorder.
Opioid distributors are legally required to monitor the size and frequency of prescription opioid orders to identify suspicious orders that could be diverted into the illegal drug market. Distributors are required to stop these suspicious shipments and report them to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Instead, McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen faced repeated actions from the DEA for continuously failing to stop and report suspicious opioid shipments, paying hundreds of millions in fines for their failure to follow the rules.
Prescriptions and sales of opioids in Washington skyrocketed more than 500% between 1997 and 2011. In 2011, at the peak of overall sales in Washington, more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed in the state — enough for a 16-day supply for every woman, man and child in Washington.
In 2015, there were eight counties with more prescriptions than population, led by Asotin, with nearly 1 ½ prescriptions per person. The other counties were Clallam, Grays Harbor, Columbia, Garfield, Pend Oreille, Lewis and Benton.
In 2008, there were 16 counties with more prescriptions than people.
Ferguson asserted that McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen violated the law by filling thousands of suspicious orders in Washington state without adequately identifying them or reporting them.