Attorney General Ellison hails ‘historic and momentous’ passage of opioids bill in Legislature
‘No amount of money can ever make up for the death and destruction the opioid companies caused,’ but overwhelming bipartisan support for the passage of the bill will allow $300M to begin to flow to Minnesota communities for treatment, remediation, and prevention
‘No doubt in my mind this bill will save lives’
May 6, 2022 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today hailed as “historic and momentous” the overwhelming bipartisan support and passage in both houses of the Legislature of the Opioids Settlement Funds Bill (SF 4025/HF 4265), which will allow the State of Minnesota and local communities to begin to receive funding from the settlements that will bring an estimated $300 million to Minnesota over an 18-year period. The legislation next heads to the Governor for his signature.
Attorney General Ellison issued the following statement upon the passage of the bill:
No amount of money can ever make up for the death and destruction the opioid companies caused families and communities in Minnesota and across the country. No dollar amount will ever fully make devastated communities whole for the pain, expense, and tragedy they have suffered. We must never forget that more than 5,000 Minnesotans have lost their lives to the opioid crisis: these are losses we can never restore, and deaths have only accelerated during the pandemic. I have been laser-focused on holding opioid companies accountable for their wreckage.
The passage of this legislation is historic and momentous. Turning this settlement into a bill and ultimately into law guarantees that we are maximizing resources to fight the epidemic through treatment, remediation, and prevention. It means people suffering with addiction can get the help they need. It means babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome can get desperately-needed care. It means first responders will be stocked with life-saving medication and trained with the skills to administer it. Hopefully it means families shattered by the destruction these companies caused can find some measure of comfort. There is no doubt in my mind this bill will save lives.
I want to thank the Legislature for acting so quickly in passing this bill, with special thanks to chief authors Senator Julie Rosen and Representative Liz Olson for their tireless efforts. I also want to thank the Association of Minnesota Counties, the League of Minnesota Cities, and the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities for working hand-in-hand with my office for many months to reach a statewide agreement for allocating these funds and encouraging cities and counties to sign on. I also extend my thanks to the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Department of Health, Governor Walz and his staff, and the Office of Collaboration and Dispute Resolution, which have been with us every step of the way and played a key role in putting the statewide agreement together. My Office convened a panel of public health experts last fall, who spent months working on, among other things, the comprehensive list of approved opioid remediation uses and strategies for spending the settlement dollars. The Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council, established in 2019, also deserves special thanks for all the time and effort its members have dedicated to combatting the opioid crisis.
All Minnesotans owe a true debt of gratitude to Senator Chris Eaton and Representative Dave Baker. Both of them tragically lost their own children to this epidemic, then channeled their grief into moral leadership in order to keep this crisis from ever happening again to any other family or community. This bill is a major step forward toward healing and prevention and would not have been possible without them.
Last but certainly not least – I must thank the many brilliant public servants and my colleagues at the AG’s office. From the start of our investigations six years ago through today they have spent literally thousands of hours leading this work both across Minnesota but also with other AG offices across the country. I and all of the State owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude for an entire generation for this historic settlement that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and soon-to-be law. Thank you!
Attorney General’s Office fights to hold opioid companies accountable
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has investigated and litigated against companies responsible for the opioid crisis for six years. The two related settlements that Attorney General Ellison’s office reached with manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal, and McKesson are the largest that Minnesota and any state has reached to date with any opioid companies.
- On July 21, 2021, Attorney General Ellison announced the settlements with Johnson & Johnson and distributors that is worth $26 billion to states and localities across the country and approximately $300 million to Minnesota. Among the non-monetary terms of the settlements is a requirement that Johnson & Johnson publicly disclose company data.
- On December 6, 2021, Attorney General Ellison announced that the State and local units of government had reached an agreement to allocate 75 percent of funds received from the Johnson + Johnson and distributors settlements directly to cities and counties and 25 percent to the State of Minnesota, for spending on opioid treatment, abatement, and prevention. The settlements required the states to settle on an allocation model and required significant participation from local governments for a state to maximize its monetary share of the settlements. In response, in September 2021, Attorney General Ellison convened an advisory panel on the distribution and allocation of opioid settlement funds. The panel, composed of local, state, and community stakeholders with experience and expertise in public health and delivery of services to individuals and families impacted by the opioid epidemic, reached a consensus on the state/local allocation agreement.
- On February 25, 2022, Attorney General Ellison announced that the Johnson & Johnson and distributors’ settlements had received final approval and that Minnesota would receive its maximum share under the settlements because it had achieved maximum participation by local units of government. More than 230 local units of government in Minnesota, including all 87 counties and all cities with a population of 10,000 or more, signed onto the settlements.
In the last three years, the Attorney General’s Office has also held accountable the following opioid companies for their roles in the devastating opioid epidemic.
- Purdue Pharma. In July 2021, Minnesota reached a tentative resolution of its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family that controlled Purdue in a multistate agreement that will make public tens of millions of documents related to Purdue’s role in the deadly opioid crisis, particularly as the manufacturer and marketer of the highly addictive blockbuster drug Oxycontin. It also requires the Sacklers personally to pay billions of dollars for prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in communities across the country, in one of the largest amounts that individuals have paid to resolve a law enforcement action in U.S. history. The settlement is part of a bankruptcy plan that is currently on appeal.
- McKinsey. In February 2021, Minnesota settled an investigation against the international consultancy McKinsey related to the firm’s role in helping Purdue “turbocharge” opioid sales. As a result of that settlement, McKinsey will pay almost $8 million to Minnesota to fund abatement efforts. The settlement also requires McKinsey to publicly disclose documents detailing its work for opioid companies.
- Mallinckrodt. In October 2020, Minnesota was part of a multistate settlement with opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt that requires Mallinckrodt to put $1.75 billion into a trust that will be disbursed over a period of seven years to all the states and jurisdictions once it emerges from bankruptcy. In addition, MNK will stop marketing its opioids and will put systems in place to prevent opioid misuse. Significantly, MNK will also publicly disclose internal documents that show how it misrepresented the risks and benefits of opioids and failed to curtail problematic orders for its opioid products, among other things.
- Insys. In January 2020, Minnesota was part of a multistate plan that liquidated opioid manufacturer Insys Theraputics, Inc. in federal bankruptcy court. Along with Purdue Pharma, Insys was one of two manufacturers of highly addictive opioids that the Attorney General’s Office directly sued. The plan requires public disclosure of millions of Insys’s internal documents related to its marketing of the opioid Subsys, and provides monetary relief to states, local governments, and tribes.
Attorney General Ellison’s office maintains a page on its website with detailed information about the State’s settlements with opioid companies.