DAVIDSON COUNTY — Davidson County Board of Commissioners were brought up to speed Thursday on pending litigation the county is part of against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Davidson County Attorney Chuck Frye explained to commissioners that the state’s Department of Justice and its Association of County Commissioners collaborated to define a settlement fund allocation model. Its goal, he said, was to ensure resources reach communities as quickly, effectively and directly as possible.

“Probably the most important piece is that there is the expectation that a national settlement agreement will be forthcoming,” Frye said. “This will be a settlement with the ‘big three’ drug distributors and an anticipated resolution of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case.”

In North Carolina, 76 counties and eight municipalities have filed lawsuits in federal court to hold accountable several companies involved in manufacturing, marketing, promoting and distributing prescription opioid drugs. Those cases, along with thousands of others across the country were consolidated into multi-district litigation.

In September 2018, the board decided to retain representation from Wisconsin-based Crueger Dickinson in its litigation. This followed a presentation in which commissioners heard that pharmaceutical companies made roughly $10 billion in sales in 2015, representing more than a 40% increase from the $6 billion it made in 2006.

In 2016, researchers from the CDC estimated the annual economic burden of prescription opioid abuse in the U.S. at $78.4 billion.

According to the allocation model established by a committee of North Carolina county managers, attorneys and commissioners, 80% of the opioid settlement funds will go to local governments listed in the agreement. Of the remaining funds, 15% will go to the state and 5% will be used for the county incentive fund to bring other counties into the fold.

“The committee is really wanting to reach out in August during the NCACC conference and hold some meetings with the additional counties and commissioners there to dispel any rumors or myths,” Commissioner Chris Elliott said, adding that he had spoken with a member on the committee. “It’s almost to a point in time where you either sign up or get left behind.”

The settlement, according to the office of Attorney General Josh Stein, would be with five companies, including the “big three” drug distributors Cardinal, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen, as well as opioid manufacturers Johnson & Johnson and Purdue Pharma. A total of $850 million could be distributed across the state for opioid remediation over the span of 18 years, front loaded to bring the most of the money in the first three years.

Conversation in Davidson County about joining the suit began in earnest in 2017, when Frye began to bring information to the attention of commissioners regarding the issue. Frye said that more than 67% of the county’s foster care placements are considered a product of parental substance abuse. The attorney cautioned that joining the suit offers no guarantees, but could defray costs sustained by the county.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578 or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3578 or at kennedy@tvilletimes.com.